Saturday 24 September 2016

My Big Idea: Pregnancy fitness franchise is a labour of love for Ailish

Published 17/12/2015 | 02:30

Ailish Cleary (37), right, with The Bump Rooms business partner Caitriona Quinn
Ailish Cleary (37), right, with The Bump Rooms business partner Caitriona Quinn

Ailish Cleary (37), from Nenagh, is the founder of pregnancy fitness business The Bump Rooms.

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"I started the business in 2009. I am a chartered physiotherapist and was working in the maternity unit of Limerick Hospital at the time. Pregnant women were always being encouraged to exercise, but there was very little guidance given on how to do this beside walking and so on. So I started holding pilates classes specifically for pregnant women.

A few months after I started, I got pregnant myself. That really helped me to figure out exactly what the classes needed. The concept was so popular that I took on a contractor, Caitriona Quinn. Then in 2013 we decided to rebrand and relaunch as business partners, under the name The Bump Rooms.

We now offer classes in Dublin, Limerick and Galway, some of them through our four franchise partners, a total of 11 classes a week. All coaches must be members of the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists. They pay a joining fee and get administrative support, use of the brand and website. We are always looking for new partners, particularly in the South-East (Waterford-Wexford), South-West (Cork-Kerry) and Dublin.

The classes have morphed into a mixture of pilates, strength and conditioning exercises and lots of other disciplines - a combination that work for pregnant women. Each part is chosen to challenge and support the client as their body changes.

At the end of the classes there are always queues of women with questions about aches and pains and what to expect, so we see that as part of the service too. The same questions come up again and again. We have women coming back to us baby after baby - my record is a client who is now on her fifth.

We have also launched an online service. We sell video versions of our classes to women from all over the world, in Norway, the Czech Republic, the US and Australia. Since launching that service in June we have sold about 50 courses, which are five weeks long. They also includes advice videos.

We are really keen to build that side of the business up; there is nothing stopping us creating hundreds of videos as we grow. I got the inspiration from YouTube; one day I decided to post a video of one of my classes online and the response was huge.

I still practice physiotherapy part-time. I really enjoy it and it is good to keep my skills updated. All of The Bump Rooms' physiotherapists also meet up twice a year to share what we have learned. One of the best things about the business is that I can run it part-time and haven't been forced to give up other work that I love. I am raising three kids too!

The technology side of things has been the biggest challenge. Tech doesn't come naturally to us. We are good on social media but things like building a content management system for group emails and creating content for the website was tricky, we had to learn how to do all of it ourselves. We even film and edit our own blogs, though the videos we sell online are done by a professional."

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