Like many small business owners, Ceres “C.C.” Opanowski has had an unusual career trajectory. After spending a decade as a paralegal, she jettisoned the corporate lifestyle to become a certified Pilates instructor. Recently, the 35-year-old Opanowski opened her own studio, Rivertown Pilates in Tarrytown, New York where she now works 50 hours a week giving classes and running her own business. Recently, writer Iris Dorbian spoke to Opanowski about her new venture and why a healthy body can contribute to a healthy business.
ID: What prompted you to go into business for yourself?
CO: I had been working with Pilates since 2007 and really fell in love with it. It’s a form of art rather than exercise. As I began to get deeper into it, I thought I would like to teach this. I didn’t really love what I was doing; I just felt myself shifting from being involved with law and wanting to be involved with something that was about my health, my wellness, and my body. When the time was right and I managed to get enough students who were interested in my teaching and the way I taught Pilates, I decided to go out on my own and work for myself.
ID: Do you agree with the sentiment that a healthy body makes for a healthy business? You think there’s a link?
CO: Absolutely. I think when you’re taking care of your body and yourself, that tends to fall all across the board. You’re going to feel better. You’re going to be more likely to have the endurance to build and to grow and to keep the outlook the same as you would for yourself. Being in business, you have to nurture it in order to grow. And you have to do the same thing for your body. It generally follows that if someone is not taking care of him or herself, they’re not taking care of their business and vice versa.
ID: Do you have clients who are small business owners? Do they come to you with health issues they want to work out?
CO: I do. If they have sedentary types of jobs and they’re not moving around, they tend to have lower back issues like sciatica or neck and shoulder tension. Then if you have clients who do move around—such as those in construction or different kinds of hands-on jobs—they come in with a whole set of other issues. I really see a wide spectrum of people come in. But, listen, every industry is going to have something negative—we have body patterns. Our bodies move in a repetitive manner [based on the] regular things we do every day—the way we sit, the way we eat, the way we sit in a car, the way we work. All of these things create imbalances in the body. So yes, people come to me and they have issues: Some of it is caused by work.
ID: Many small business owners tend to be workaholics. How can they prevent burnout and still do what they do effectively without destroying their health?
CO: I think the first thing is [to realize] you didn’t go into business because you wanted to work 100 hours a week and you didn’t want to take a day off or not take care of yourself. Most likely, you said, ‘Hey I want to go into business for myself because I want to golf more.’ That may sound silly, but that’s someone’s passion, just like I said, “Hey I think I’m going to go into Pilates because I like Pilates so much I want to do it all the time.’ In fact, I not only want to do it, but I want to teach others so they can do it too. You got into [your business] for a reason, so keep why you opened your business in your mind. That was your goal and it should be at the forefront. When you’re trying to work too hard or you’re overstressed, you really do have to take care of your body. You can’t expect that your body is going to take care of you if you’re not giving it the right exercise or the right nutrition or the right health benefits.
ID: How has Pilates helped you manage your own small business better?
CO: Pilates helps me keep my head in order when managing the business. The advantage to owning your own space is the ability to work out and get into your "zone" when things get stressful and overwhelming.