Hi everyone. I’m Orla Connolly and I became involved in business by accident really. I hadn’t planned on walking this road; I had tried a few avenues of study after leaving school including Performing Arts, Childcare, Interior Design and eventually Food Science. It was during the Food Science course that I had my daughter, and decided to move home to be closer to my mum who was ill. I had terrible back pain after she was born and I was introduced to Pilates by a wonderful teacher, who later became my mentor.
I was totally addicted from the off. I loved how, in times of stress, it brought me back into my body and the present moment. I had begun classes with a fairly weak lower back, and was very poorly aligned in my movement patterns. The pain was quite debilitating, and the only exercise I could manage was gentle walking. But over time my strength, alignment, and more importantly, body awareness increased. Aisling gave me the confidence and assurance that my practice was good enough to consider training as an instructor. I was totally reluctant and couldn’t imagine myself in that role. Eventually, she led me to believe in myself enough to research courses, and with her guidance on which training provider to go for, I booked my place on a course. I loved every bit of the learning experience, and in 2013 I passed all my exams.
I began teaching classes in Bundoran, and grew into it along the way. I met so many wonderful clients and learnt so much about teaching, and the basics of running a small business. I had been renting various spaces around the area, but felt ready to take
I had been renting various spaces around the area, but felt ready to take a premises of my own; a huge jump and really for me I think a little too huge. I found an empty space in Bundoran Retail Park and called it The Studio. It had been an old Hairdressing Academy and was still equipped with sinks etc, so there was a lot of work to be done to turn it into a positive space for clients to find their Zen. I loved the space and thrived on the responsibility of it, but it soon became a bit too much responsibility to manage alongside being mum to my young daughter.
If I’m honest, I felt the emotional and psychological pressure of trying to manage the space and the classes, as well as my own home, was quite heavy for me at the time. I feel that in making a large commitment like that, you need to have a good support system around you. At that stage I just didn’t have it, and was coping with a lot of personal losses and issues. But the knowledge and experience I gained was unmeasurable, and The Studio has taught me to honour the limits in what I take on in life. Life balance and being able to say no is very important in business. ‘Busy’ is not always a positive thing.
In 2015 I was lucky enough to be involved in the making of an RTE documentary about mental health and developing awareness and resilience through Triathlon training and honest discussion. The topic is very close to my heart, so it was a clear yes when they asked me to be a participant. The documentary was a massive time commitment and, although positive, it really took over my life for a full year.
In the same year I also started teaching Pilates to children, and it was so refreshing to see the enthusiasm they held for it. These classes inspired me to devise a Pilates and Mindfulness Programme specifically for children called ‘Triangle Kids’, so I built a plan and entered it into Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition. For knowledge of business in general this was a big help, and they gave a lot of support, both during and after the competition. I was delighted to be selected as a finalist in the Best Idea category in Donegal. If you have an idea and feel stuck with it it’s a great way to get support and put action steps in place.
I am running some classes from Ballyshannon Leisure Centre at the moment; it’s great to be in a position to focus fully on the quality of the classes, and more importantly to be a mum to my lovely little girl Niamh.
I don’t feel like a business woman most of the time, I just feel I am very much doing what I really love. Right now I just feel very grateful for this journey, and more so to the people who have shaped it along the way. My mentor Aisling, and the ladies and men who regularly attend my classes, are such positive interactions in my week; I genuinely love what I do, and how I see them progress in their Pilates practice.For me Pilates and teaching is all about connection, and that is what fuels my lust for life.
I would encourage any woman, young or old, to really find something that they enjoy and totally believe in. Don’t try to be superwoman on your own and honour your personal life alongside whatever you are doing. At the end of the day we live a short life on this earth, so put yourself and your loved ones ahead of any type of pressure to succeed or win.
If you would like to book into one of Orla’s classes, you can contact her by calling 086 0757071 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you would like to follow Orla on Facebook please click this link here.