To Top

Meet Nicole Martin of Ritual Pilates San Diego

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Martin.

Nicole, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I actually started when I worked for lululemon in San Francisco in 2005. This was when the company was on the newer side and Cow Hollow loved its Scuba Hoodies & Groove pants and I did too. To boot, the company paid for me to go to Pilates and wear their clothes to class; brilliant marketing on their part. I was finishing up undergrad so exercise classes were definitely not a part of my budget. So, I enjoyed my occasional Pilates class on Lulu.

But I REALLY started Pilates about a year later. Tragically, my mom was killed in a car accident. My boyfriend, now husband, and I chose to move to Colorado to live w/ his family while I pulled myself together. Throughout this transition I found myself doing Pilates on my own. It wasn’t intentional I just wanted to move and I wanted to feel something besides grief. It helped a lot and I found myself wanting to do it all the time. So I found a certification program in Denver. It was a small off-the-grid place but little did I know it was the real deal. There’s a TON of Pilates out there and most of it really isn’t Pilates, which is too bad. I got certified and taught in Denver for about 3 years and loved it. I loved all the people I got to connect with and I loved helping them transform their bodies. I often dreamed of having my own studio but really did not have a clue where to start.

My husband’s work took us back to the Bay Area in 2008, this time Oakland. I immediately fell in love w/ the East Bay, however, teaching Pilates there was very different than what I was used to. I couldn’t find the right equipment, the Real equipment I was trained on (Gratz! Don’t do Pilates on anything else). I was so frustrated w/ riding my bike around to 3 different studios to teach on equipment that didn’t work. What I did love about the East Bay was that everyone had their own space. The entrepreneur spirit was very contagious. Even if it was a tiny corner w/ just one piece of equipment, and I thought to myself, “I can totally do this and I want to do this.” I really had no startup funds but I started looking at spaces just to see what the commercial market was like.

I was talking to my husband’s boss one day about my situation and he plainly asked how much I needed to start a studio of my own. I didn’t have an actual number or know how big/small I wanted it to be. This forced me into doing some research and I quickly figured it out. I told him. He loaned me the money. I couldn’t believe his generosity and faith in me! I typically would not have accepted this kind of help but I was desperate and it felt meant to be. This was a huge life lesson for me: You won’t get what you want unless you ask for it. It was a very cut and dry loan for $15,000 w/ market rate interest. I found a 400 sq. ft. space in on 17th and Webster in Oakland. It was the 2nd floor of this cool old building above a Thai restaurant. It was up to my husband and I to transform it from a disgusting space to one people would want to be barefoot and sweat in. We did it in one month and w/ a very limited budget. My equipment costs were about $12,000. My husband is an architect, worked construction before, and he’s extremely innovative; lucky me and he made $3,000 enough. It turned out really cool; we used lots of plywood, mirrors from used closet doors, slate, and auction house furniture. All of my clients, from all 3 studios, followed me on their own. I didn’t solicit my space, it didn’t feel right to the studio owners I had been working for. It was touching and made me even more committed to creating my own space and community. Another huge lesson as an entrepreneur: Relationships are everything.

At that time, Downtown Oakland consisted of me, a few random start-ups, and the homeless. I was there for 4 years and watched it grow like crazy. My business grew as well, so much so that I felt confident in having a kid and going down to part-time. I had a few other instructors teaching to help fill in the gaps. I also found a professional coach to help me navigate managing other people. Working w/ a coach took everything to the next level. She helped me apply and get into a Master’s program that accepts 12 instructors from around the world w/ about 50 applicants. My daughter was 18-months old and it was hard to leave her for a week at a time but after my C-section I was determined to get Pilates back into my body. After the Master’s program was over we found ourselves needing more room and were unable to find anything remotely acceptable in our price range in the East Bay.

We had to move. Moving as an entrepreneur is SCARY! I’d built up an amazing community in the 6 years we were in Oakland and the thought of leaving it broke my heart. But, you can’t share a one bedroom w/ a toddler for long. So, we had to pick a place. We chose San Diego because my husband went to graduate school at the New School of Architecture and I’d lived in San Diego for a minute, so it was familiar. We bought a house w/o seeing it. Yep. And, I chose my studio location based on a feeling I got from the building. I loved the Downtown/Uptown vibe in Oakland so I wanted to stick w/ it. It also lends itself to a pretty awesome 8-3 schedule as I mostly work w/ people who work downtown. This move was led w/ our hearts, completely. But it all had to happen quickly.

About 2 weeks before we moved I suddenly had an idea. It really was out of nowhere: what if I offered Skype sessions to my lovely Oakland clients?! I had 3 takers. They bought a few pieces of equipment to set up at home and they love it. Teaching via Skype has allowed me to transition w/ a lot more ease. Again: Ask for what you want. I wasn’t sure they’d invest in equipment and then pay me the same amount to get a session that wasn’t hands on. But they do and they are all very happy.

I’m currently located in the Spreckels Theater building in Downtown San Diego. I love everything about this building: high ceilings, good windows, nice flooring, built in 1912 and it just feels right. My clients agree. My space is only 500 square feet but every bit is quality. Just like my Gratz equipment. I’m enjoying creating a new community in San Diego. There is so much energy and inspiration in the downtown area and it’s wonderful to be a part of it.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The road could have been tougher, for sure. I’ve been lucky enough to have private loans along the way to help me start-up. So far, relocating from Oakland to San Diego has been my biggest struggle. I feel like a fish out of water. The market is very different here and very saturated. But people are people, Southern California has a stigma and it’s just not true. So far, I’m really enjoying the entrepreneur community here, it’s very inspiring. After a long day w/my 3-year-old daughter I secretly love getting out of bedtime to go to a networking event.

Please tell us about Ritual Pilates San Diego.
Ritual Pilates is a Pilates Studio teaching the original work of Joseph Pilates. I offer small classes, private, and skype sessions. I am proud of the quality that I am able to maintain. People see results, and fast. What sets me apart is what I know about The Method, it’s been passed down via people since the 1940’s and apprenticeships are key. It’s all about the details and the body. I’ve learned from the best and I love sharing it.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Honestly, I’m enjoying the journey. Taking the plunge at younger age would’ve be nice, though, and skipping out on my Graduate school stint. But those experiences gave me the conviction I have to do what I do. So, I really wouldn’t change a thing. Two major life lessons: Ask for what you want. Invest in your relationships.


  • Introductory Package is 3 private sessions for $150
  • 10 sessions for $700
  • $25 full mat work class

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Vintage Pilates, Los Angeles
Clara Rice Photography, Oakland

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in

  • San Diego’s Most Inspiring Stories

    The heart of our mission is to find the amazing souls that breathe life into our communities. In the recent weeks,...

    Local StoriesMarch 27, 2023
  • Hidden Gems: Local Businesses & Creatives You Should Know

    Every day we have a choice. We can support an up and coming podcaster, try a new family-run restaurant, join a...

    Local StoriesMarch 20, 2023
  • Community Member Spotlights

    It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them...

    Partners SeriesMarch 16, 2023
  • Fashion, Selling Online, Charity & Nonprofits

    SDVoyager Podcast Episode 5 We’ve got some incredible guests on on the podcast today.  Lindsey Radoff, Sybil Golin and Madison Pollard...

    Partners SeriesFebruary 15, 2023
  • Portraits of San Diego

    It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them...

    Local StoriesJanuary 13, 2023
  • SDVoyager Holiday Guide

    Discover truly unique gift ideas that will leave your friends and family smiling all season through our Holiday Gift Guide below....

    Local StoriesDecember 8, 2022
  • San Diego’s Most Inspiring Stories

    Every neighborhood in San Diego has its own vibe, style, culture and history, but what consistently amazes us is not what...

    Local StoriesNovember 8, 2021
  • The Folks Solving The Problems You Need Solved

    One of the most important benefits of a thriving small business ecosystem is the myriad of problems and niche issues that...

    Local StoriesOctober 31, 2021
  • Community Member Spotlights

    It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them...

    Local StoriesOctober 11, 2021