Niki Carr is the Instagram sensation that is At The Mat. A professionally trained dancer and Pilates Instructor, her daily Instagram videos are thing of beauty in their fluidity, form and instruction. Born and raised in London Ontario, Niki overcame an early life crisis in her career and has since built a successful Pilates business, teaching clients at her home studio in Old East Village. With a phenomenal work ethic she has big plans for her future.
Niki always danced and as a youngster trained every day in modern and ballet. She was introduced to Pilates at the age of 12, loved it and has been practicing it ever since. A safe exercise for young people, it is great for serious dancers because it is low impact and doesn’t involve heavy weights.
She graduated from the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and was accepted into the Company of TDT. However, at the age of 20 and having achieved her ultimate life goal of becoming a professional dancer, she had an early life crisis. Unhappy in Toronto she quit and moved back to London.
Niki experienced a breakdown. Her whole self identity as a dancer was gone. “I had to ask myself who I was and what was I going to do?”
Niki had an interest in Physiotherapy and her parents always wanted her to have a degree. “Seven years of study was daunting so I decided to study Pilates instead.”
She studied for Mat and Reformer Certification back to back and completed exams, teaching assessments and written anatomy. In December 2015 she qualified in Stott Pilates and completed more courses in 2016.
Teaching Pilates in London Ontario
Niki teaches at Create Balance in Hyde Park and has a near full time roster of private clients at her At The Mat home Pilates studio in Old East Village. Her emphasis is on connecting with the body and healing physically and emotionally.
“Pilates forces you to slow down and encourages a mind body connection. Machines force clients to work with them, to slow down and to be mindful in their movement.”
“I believe there is something different about my interpretation of Pilates because of my dance training.” Niki believes in giving quality information to her @at_the_mat Instagram followers and private clients (“there is a lot of bad training and false information out there”). She also tries to combine and encourage a freedom of flow and movement with abandonment into her style.
Dancing with PDA
Niki still loves to dance but now does it in a more casual way through a small artists collective called PDA which stands for Public Displays of Art. She performs with four other professional dancers in London whose mandate is to make art more accessible through pop up performances and improvisation. The group keeps things simple by running as a collective and avoiding any political drama.
Developing a Pilates business
“Getting clients has been really challenging but my main business challenge was being able to afford to buy a Reformer machine to increase the services I could offer.” Niki had to spend money to make money but this investment ultimately helped her increase her client base.
As a business person she has a “fake it ’til you make it” mentality. Like many new entrepreneurs she has had to be resourceful and has sought help and advice from other entrepreneurs in London, Ontario. “Lots of my clients are also business owners so they have really helped me. The business community in London is very supportive.”
Despite being a natural performer, Niki is a self confessed introvert and enjoys time on her own and being her own boss. “I like having the power to control what I want to do but at the same time there is a lot of pressure on just me to generate income so there are advantages and disadvantages of being a self employed entrepreneur.”
All or nothing
Niki has a phenomenal work ethic but freely admits that she is also a perfectionist. “My weekly schedule is very full. Most days I am working 6.30am – 9.30pm teaching clients, creating Instagram content and managing my social media.
I then schedule in family time, PDA time and finally some time to crash out, although my boyfriend still has to tell me to get off my phone sometimes!”
The future for At The Mat
Despite having a large social media following, something that she has curated with precision and immense dedication, Niki has not monetised this aspect of her business. “I want to be genuine and authentic and a real influencer. I think you lose that if you monetise social media.”
Niki is in the process of developing high quality online Pilates Programs and working on her YouTube channel. Follow @at_the_mat on Instagram for updates about another creative entrepreneur doing great things in London Ontario.
For more information about Pilates classes, private lessons, workshops and events At The Mat click here.