By Sarah Gianelli EBS Senior Editor
BIG SKY – Jolene Callahan, owner and head instructor of Big Sky Fitness Fusion & Pilates, has been working in the health and fitness industry as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor for 20 years. She has been a certified Pilates instructor for eight years, and a gymnastics teacher for 18. At one time, Callahan was a level 10 gymnast, one of the highest levels in the sport. Today she is an avid rock climber, snowboarder, mountain biker and hiker.
Big Sky Fitness Fusion & Pilates is a studio that focuses on functional fitness through a variety of class offerings including barre, yoga, Pilates equipment and mat, spinning, cross training, Power Pump, kickboxing and Zumba. She also offers a children’s preschool and recreation gymnastics program.
As part of this ongoing series, Callahan shared her thoughts with EBS about what it takes to make it as a small business owner in Big Sky.
Explore Big Sky: What has been the key to your success?
Jolene Callahan: Continually progressing my education and knowledge, hard work, dedication to my clients and business and a true passion for health and fitness.
EBS: What are the biggest obstacles to operating a small business in Big Sky?
J.C.: The overhead costs of living in a resort town, seasonal slow times, and finding the balance between work and life.
EBS: How has the business landscape changed since you started out?
J.C.: Our growing community has brought more clientele into the studio, which in turn has created more class offerings, a broader client base and allowed me to employ more instructors.
EBS: What is it about Big Sky that compels you to stick it out through the hard times?
J.C.: I choose to stay because of my clients, friends, family, quality of life and the outdoor recreation. As a Montana native, I know how wonderful Montana and Big Sky are and there is nowhere else I would rather be!
EBS: What is one of the most memorable moments you have had as a business owner in Big Sky?
J.C.: My biggest client success is a lady who came to me after back surgery and told me she was hiking the Inca trail in Peru in a few months. She was having really bad back spasms and her back was not performing correctly. We worked together in the Pilates studio two times per week and she completed the Inca trail with no problems. Over a year later, she is still continuing Pilates and her back is functioning correctly. That is the best reward of my job.
EBS: Why do you think so many new businesses fold relatively quickly?
J.C.: High debt-to-income ratio and lack of employees. As most of us know, Big Sky is a very expensive place to live, and owning a commercial property has a lot of overhead. And more businesses keep starting up, but then there are not enough employees to keep the business going.
EBS: What advice would you give to small business owners just starting out in Big Sky?
J.C.: Be honest, genuine and constantly motivated to make your business a priority. It is such an honor to be a business owner in Big Sky, and all of the dedication, sacrifice and time is worth it.
EBS: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
J.C.: Hard work and dedication is the key to success.
EBS: Where do you see your business in 10 years?
J.C.: I see my business retaining its clientele, gaining new members and still focusing on functional fitness through core training and body awareness. I will continue to educate myself and my instructors so we are always expanding and progressing our knowledge.
Fitness Fusion – by the numbers
• Staff: 8
• Years in business: 12
• Longest serving employees: Wendy Miller and Allison Gilley, 4 years