“Studio Goddess is Nashville’s first and finest flirty fitness facility” says Nicole Hall owner and founder. But never in a million years did she dream she’d be saying that during her college years. For a woman who graduated with a chemistry degree and thought she was going to medical school, you might even say it took a little Divine intervention to help her find pole. Seventeen years doing either gymnastics or cheer or both gave Nicole a strong drive to be physically active. After cheering in college, and trying traditional workouts, she knew upon graduation she needed something sporty, athletic, and fun to fill her passion for flipping and twirling to keep her fit. She decided to try and find an adult dance class. When she did and online search, the search results were for, you guessed it; Pole Dancing. Feeling not so sure about that she Googled adult gymnastics classes. Yep. Pole Dancing came up again. Still feeling not so sure she tried Googling circus classes and bam! There it was again…pole dancing. She took that as a sign and signed up for a class.
Nicole expected everyone to be an exotic dancer, was certain she’d feel completely out of place and was very nervous. It was a multi-level class so she saw all different kinds of skills and tricks. That’s when the light bulb went off. Almost immediately saw it as a vertical balance beam/vertical ballet bar. She could see it as an apparatus for different types of expression. Of course, she was hooked.
Nicole graduated in 2008 with a chemistry degree when the economy was at its worst. People told her she should go back to school. Fate intervened instead. Finding her passion for pole and love of teaching to be overwhelming, she saw potential in the expansion and exploration of her flirty fitness concept to the Nashville area. She decided to purchase an existing pole business and transform it into her dream fitness program. “At the time that studio had limited poles and was in a very limited space.” Nicole recalls. But she could see more potential – flexibility training, Zumba, core strength training classes and of course pole. She started classes like AcroFlow, Burlesque Booty Ballet, Cardio Chair Cabaret, Fierce Flexibility, and Shake Your Abs, in addition to her Pole classes to appeal to a very conservative Nashville audience who had a hard time seeing pole as anything other than training to be an exotic dancer. In October of 2010 Nicole unleashed Studio Goddess – a name she felt was beautifully suited the experience people have. It took a lot of hard work- including sleeping on an air mattress in a friend’s kitchen and working a full time job while she built the business- but it paid off. Studio Goddess has expanded exponentially, having over 6,000 guests attend classes, parties and workshops in just 3 years.
So what’s the secret behind the huge success? Nicole has created and experience, not just a place to work out. The focus is on teaching safely in a supportive environment. “It’s not about helping people lose weight, it’s about helping people feel better in all areas.” Whether it is in wanting more flexibility or strength or helping people find their confidence and self-esteem again. With her firm belief in a well-rounded experience for her students, she made sure Studio Goddess can offer a variety of classes. Nicole is great with tricks but there is an instructor with a strong ballet background to work with choreography and dance. There is a personal trainer to work with strength training as well as an aerialist.
“It’s a place that is uplifting and emotionally supportive as well as physically – the class may get you in the door but it’s the emotional support and camaraderie that will keep you coming back.” Nicole has succeeded in creating a sanctuary space for pole. “We’re almost like a sorority with no rules for people who have graduated college. It’s a nice safe place where everyone can be vulnerable and no one judges you for being vulnerable.” Based on the feedback from her students and instructors, I’d say she’s succeeded.
“ I came in with a lot of self-doubt and insecurities. I constantly have a goal and I am always surrounded in positivity. I have a class today and even though I have been going there for months I still get excited for every class just like I did when I started. I drive 45 minutes to this studio once a week and it is worth it. I feel like every student has an actual relationship with Nicole because she is so personal. This studio has not only changed my body it has changed my mind set about myself and making sure I keep myself healthy and happy.”
I.M., an instructor says: “The students are amazing and work hard, plus Nicole is continually working on her craft to teach us all new things. Studio Goddess is not only about the pole but about movement and flexibility, toning and strength. I have actually taken classes at other studios in and around the Nashville area prior to taking classes at Studio Goddess and this is by far the most personable, fun, and hard-working pole fitness studio I’ve found. This is the only reason I gladly became a member of the staff.”
Lindsey says: “Nicole is a great instructor and she pushes her students and doesn’t let you get away with not giving your all! I love pole because of the challenge it presents. Pole is not easy and it hurts, but there is nothing as satisfying as landing that move you’ve worked on for months. I am in better shape now than I was when I was dancing 40 hours a week. I owe it all to Nicole and Studio Goddess. She inspires me every day to get my butt to class and push myself farther than I ever thought possible. I really love this place! Coming to class is something I look forward to all day.”
From the unique art work on the walls to the way she teaches, individuality is a must for Nicole! Her personal mantra- Don’t be like me but be yourself and make a difference. People assumed things came easy to her because of her back ground but not everything did. Sure, flexibility was easy but she had almost no upper body strength. Poses on the pole and orientation came easily but because of her background in cheer and gymnastics, the flowing dance piece is still difficult. She considers herself to have a very robotic style. A big part of her passion for individuality comes from her personal journey with pole and finding what fit for her. Nicole encourages her students to listen to their bodies, do what they feel natural doing and thus play to their strengths and essence. “We don’t anyone to look contrived. We don’t want anyone to feel put in a box for looking different. We want people to express themselves because in yourself is where you find true happiness.”
Four years after opening Studio Goddess, Nicole is happy. Sometimes her parents still bug her about medical school but she looks at it this way. She always thought she wanted to go to medical school and become a doctor. Instead she began helping people achieve wellness in an entirely different way. Nicole says the very best thing about being a studio owner is “Seeing the look in her student’s eyes when they accomplish something they haven’t done before. There is a light in their eyes. It’s passion, enthusiasm, optimism and hope. That’s the most rewarding thing that has ever happened to me. “
Like every studio, there are challenges. Nicole is a people pleaser and trying to making everyone happy even though deep down she knows she can’t, is frustrating at times. Living in a very conservative community that has really only recently embraced Yoga, is also hard. The one-sided stigma of Pole Dance is still something she is works all the time to overcome.
Nicole is a natural innovator and works hard to keep things new and fresh. Competing helps a lot with that (she has 6 titles in competitive pole). Nicole is very excited to be one of only 10 ladies nationwide to be chosen to compete in the Pole Classic Competition as well as Teaching her signature class, Shake Your Abs at the 2013 Pole Expo!
She continues to work on her nemesis move- the spatchcock but her favorite thing right now is Chinese Pole. It is really challenging for her. Using the pole as a balance beam with flips and tricks is very similar to her gymnastics training and fits well with her self- proclaimed robotic style. Studio Goddess is launching a licensing program to help make opening a studio an easier process. Nicole loves mentoring and giving back and finds it very rewarding. Studio Goddess has also launched an app for Android and IPhone with tutorial videos that people can watch for free. Nicole also loves traveling and teaching workshops and bringing new class ideas to other studios. She also enjoys helping other small business owners and has proudly mentored five small business owners in growing their businesses.
Be sure to check her and the studio out at http://www.studiogoddess.com/