3 years ago I decided to change the direction of my life by retraining to become a Pilates teacher, a decision to take my hobby and passion of 15 years and turn it into my profession, with one underlying reason - to be fuelled by something that I loved doing and to help others; to be purpose driven.
During my teacher training I submitted an idea to The Melting Pot's Good Ideas Incubator Programme around using movement to inspire children and young people to accept and love the bodies that they are in.
Towards the end of the programme, a number of alumni were invited to come and speak to us about the success that they had had with their own projects as a result of going through the programme. One of those speakers was Zakia Moulaoui, Founder and CEO of Invisible Cites. For those of you who don’t know, Invisible Cities is an award winning social enterprise that trains people who have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides in their own cities.
Quite simply Zakia blew me away. I’ve heard few people talk so passionately about an idea than Zakia. Driven by a need to make a difference and lift others up in life, she literally took a single idea from a piece of paper, lit it on fire with her passion and dedication to making a difference and made it a reality.
Her energy was radiating, and it was awe inspiring listening to her; Invisible Cities now has operations in 4 other cities in the UK all sown together with that vision of helping others.
I was so inspired by listening to her that after her talk I asked if I could pick her brains a little bit more and speak with her about getting my own idea off the ground. Zakia spent a lovely afternoon with me in Starbucks listening and offering advice as I spoke her through my own journey and tried to explain the difference that I wanted to make with my work.
I will never forget that conversation, the time and advice given, nor the belief and enthusiasm shown towards me or the countless times Zakia has checked in with me following that initial 1:1 chat.
Last summer Zakia and I shared the stage as part of a panel of speakers during Enterprise Nation’s Festival of Female Entrepreneurs. It’s fair to say I had a massive dose of ‘imposter syndrome’, but in her usual way, Zakia made me feel like I belonged on that stage.
So, when I read last week that Invisible Cities were having to suspend all of their tours due to increased social distancing measures, I instantly felt compelled to help because of how Zakia has willingly supported me on my journey. For me, this was my chance to pay her back.
I had noticed the Invisible Cities had launched Children’s Activity Packs and instantly thought it would be a great idea to offer these alongside my Junior Pilates classes.
Junior Pilates was to be launched in time for the Easter Holidays right up until Covid-19 struck! Now they happen virtually via Zoom and instead of waiting until Easter, I rolled them out straight away in a bid to try and help home working mums and dads keep their kids entertained for a short time during their working day.
Again, Zakia’s enthusiasm for my suggestion was instantly through the roof. Together we created the idea of packs in exchange for Ostara Pilates donating a set amount from the sale of each ticket to Invisible Cities.
The packs are educational, teaching children both about their city and the important work of Invisible cities through fun quizzes, puzzles, drawings and other activities that the whole family can get involved in!
Junior Pilates is a 40-minute Pilates movement-based session- delivered through storytelling - that helps children to develop balance, flexibility, strength and those all-important motor skills. Each week there is a different theme for the children to get involved in if they want to (this week it’s Pirates!), it’s a whole lot of fun!
So you see, the business of Pilates and helping to tackle homelessness is not such a weird combination after all; it’s just two businesses, fuelled by purpose and passion, supporting each other at a very difficult time and that was always the reason behind me starting my own business.
You can sign up to Junior Pilates, in partnership with Invisible Cities, below to claim your children's activity pack: