ONELIFE Studio is a wellness center that advocates women’s health, self-care, and overall transformation through elements of Pilates and physiotherapy. Essentially, the brand focuses on a personalized fitness program to enable women to become their strongest. The brand recently celebrated their sixth anniversary last May 23rd and Preview was able to chat with founder Tanya Maria Aguila, who started out with just one small room for classes and with no students. Today, it already has three studios in Manila and is being recognized as the best in the industry. Below, read her inspiring insights on career, self-love, and everything in between as she shares her journey to success and drive to empower other woman.
To backtrack (and for our readers to get a glimpse of your personal background), what were you doing prior to ONELIFE? What were your hobbies and interests?
"Before founding ONELIFE six years ago, I worked in one of the largest multinational fast moving consumer goods companies for 10 years. I did trade marketing for the biggest coffee brand in the world. I was really career-focused throughout all those years and in my free time, I mostly immersed myself in Yoga and travel."
How did the brand come to be and how did it feel like to start your own Pilates studio?
"I jumped into my corporate career fresh out of college when I was just 20 years old and never looked back since. In my last three years in that company, I found myself neglecting my overall health—mental, physical, spiritual, and social—and so I took action.
"I took time for self-care and it was a long process. When I found myself renewed and feeling my best again, that’s when I decided I wanted to share and to motivate others to go and give some time and care back to themselves. When I found myself facing my 10th year working, I realized that I wanted to take a sabbatical from work and I did. During my sabbatical, that’s when I took my Yoga teacher training and the rest was history. I first started off teaching Yoga on the side and when I realized that I was creating an impact, one that I can really see, in my students’ lives, that made me realize that maybe it is indeed time for me to make a career shift. I realized that I wanted to keep creating a different kind of impact to the people around me in the next chapter of my life and career."
What were there challenges you encountered along the way?
"On the outside, starting your own brick and mortar shop sounds like a dream. I looked at many areas and spots, but I wanted the studio to be somewhere near me, and with minimal competition in the area. I wanted to start away from everyone else, in a market that I could create, in a community I could develop. So together with my angels, I chose Little Baguio, in San Juan. ONELIFE started as the only studio in the area at the time, as it really wasn’t a mainstream area. The studio started out with just one small room for classes and no students. But I was hopeful and I worked hard. My entire team pitched in. There was no job too small for any of us. Talk to clients, sell passes, clean the mats, scrub the toilets. It didn’t matter. If it had to be done, any one of us would do it. And it was great. Fast forward to now, my brand now has three studios in Metro Manila: in San Juan, Makati, and Alabang. Together with my team, I have taken on the challenge of revitalizing the Pilates scene in Manila and with our hard work, we are slowly being recognized as the best in the industry.
"There have been many challenges along the way. I tried opening a branch in Makati in 2015, but it did not fare well, and I lost a lot there—time, money, courage. This was a real low point for me and I really wanted to quit but with the support and encouragement of my husband, I decided to take my master in entrepreneurship in Asian Institute of Management and that really help me grow a lot as a leader and as a business owner. They say no grit, no pearl, right? And truly, owning your own studio requires a lot of grit and heartwork.
"Now on our sixth year, I am so optimistic [about] our future. I still believe in what we are doing and I now know mine and my team’s strengths better. I continue to believe that it is not just my dreams that we are working for. I am working for the dreams of our clients to become better versions of themselves—physically, emotionally, mentally, and perhaps spiritually. I am working for the dreams of my team of physical therapist coaches and support staff, who are looking for stability and growth in such a volatile and uncertain industry. Their dreams have become my dreams as well. I want to make ONELIFE a brand that withstands time and that can compete with the very best studios in the world."
I understand that ONELIFE is more than just workout sessions but about holistic wellness—there aren’t a lot of places that do that! Can you tell us more about this?
"I’m sure you've heard it many times: 'Everybody is different.' Yet, oftentimes when it comes to fitness, group programs are usually one-size fits all.â€‹
"In the beginning, ONELIFE also started out as a general group fitness studio. We had Yoga, Pilates, Suspension Training, and we tried many others. But through the years, we realized that the women who would walk through our doors had extremely specific needs.
"Women are faced with physical changes and demands that require a different level of care. These could be anything from having an old injury or condition that requires special focus, or going through physical changes as she gets pregnant or as she gives birth, or setting new goals that demand more intense exercises, or even having a phobia that may impact where or how she works out. With every woman that walked into our doors, we learned more about HER and we became extremely focused on addressing her exact needs.
"Now more than ever, at ONELIFE, we now understand that when it comes to exercise, everyone's abilities and needs are different—most especially when one is a woman. Having been in the industry for six years and counting, we can proudly now say that we KNOW what a woman needs best. And this is why we developed our ONELIFE CARE CIRCLE™, so that generations of women can count on us to meet them at every stage where their bodies are at. Our method combines the very best of Pilates, Physiotherapy, and Functional training delivered to every woman in a highly personalized program centered on her and her goals. From injury rehab, pre/post natal fitness, to optimal health to a complete lifestyle change, the ONELIFE team will be with her every step of the way. The combined expertise of our internationally trained Pilates coaches, our licensed physiotherapists, and our partner doctors, is our commitment to designing [for] every woman the best possible personalized health and fitness strategy to get her the closest to her goals, and to get her to her personal best, always."
What’s your day-to-day schedule like?
"I start my day quite early: [wake] up at 7 a.m., [get] dressed by 7:30 a.m., and off to work by 8 a.m.. I never fail to grab myself a soy latte in a nearby cafe before starting my work as this is my little treat for myself for the day. I then go around the different studio branches and meet with my managers. If there’s an event I need to attend, I squeeze that in my day. I’m on IF so I really don’t eat much throughout the day and save my big meal at dinnertime to be spent with my husband. Before ending my day, I try my best to squeeze in a 3km run on the treadmill and some mat Pilates exercises at home. On stressful days OR on successful days, I treat myself to a glass of Moscato and a face mask while winding down with my favorite shows on Netlix, HBO GO, or Amazon Prime."
I see that you just recently opened your Alabang branch. What is it like to be the boss of ONELIFE, a brand that just keeps growing?
"I’m truly humbled by the constant support my brand receives from our clients and from our fans. It truly is humbling and sometimes I still can’t believe it’s been six years. But because of the number of people (within my team, and within the community we have), there’s really a lot of pressure on me to keep doing my best and to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone so that I can continue to grow and so that I can also inspire my team to keep growing as well. It is a demanding role to support a big team and a community and I always have to remind myself to also take time off for self-care as I am a firm believer that you can’t pour from an empty cup. To be honest, there are days that the anxiety of running a business gets to me, but because of the support I have from my husband and my experience through the years in managing stress (running, wine, travel, shopping, and many more!), thankfully I always get to come out stronger, when I need to be.
"It really is all about grit and gratefulness. And attacking each day with enthusiasm."
What are some challenges you’ve encountered (or frequently encounter) as the head? How do you deal with these things?
"In today’s society, being a founder has been so glamorized that a lot of people only see the tip of the iceberg. They only see the success and all the amazing things that come with it. But a lot forget about the bottom of the iceberg—the long hours, the constant disappointment, the second guessing, the heartaches, the failures, and more.
"For me, the biggest challenge I often encounter is really the anxiety that comes with dealing with the unknown, every day. But through the years, I’ve learned that, to find clarity, you have to tackle the things that cause you fear or that affect your pride. You approach matters objectively, [list] down facts and data, and really [work] with things you can control."
I also see that you are very passionate about local products! Have you always been an advocate of local goods or when did this come to be?
"Being a local brand owner myself, I know how hard it is to sustain a business here and that’s why when I see amazing local brands trying to make something different, trying to challenge the norm, I am instantly in love. I find that I am really attracted to the heart work and talent behind a lot of the local brands here in Manila."
Aside from your main daily grind which is running ONELIFE, you are also a Nike training coach. How do you balance all your responsibilities?
"You have to focus and you have to compromise. I read somewhere that in life, there are five key things that will take up your time and you can only realistically excel at three. The five things are: 1) Sleep, 2) Health, 3) Friends, 4) Family, and 5) Career. Through the years, I really streamlined and focused on Family, Sleep (the longer you sleep, the longer you live, hehe), and Career. My luck I guess is that my career also affords me to focus on my health. [This] doesn’t mean that you don’t get to give time to the other things, but it just means that my constant efforts build up to what I’ve decided to focus on."
Given everything on your plate—from career to personal life—what are some things you’ve learned along the way? And do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs or those who want to fulfill their major goals in life?
"For those closest to me, they know I absolutely dread getting older—and every year, I feel a bit taken aback. I always reflect on how every year, life’s a bit more serious, with more responsibilities, and more expectations over my shoulders. With every year, life is becoming more like a task list to be finished, a list that gets longer by the day. Sometimes it feels like a contest to be won, and that every year the stakes are higher. That and aging really does take a toll on you when you don’t find the time to take care of yourself (hello slower metabolism, wrinkles, and more ). So naturally, every so often I find myself feeling a bit depleted.
"A few days ago, my team celebrated ONELIFE’s sixth year anniversary and suddenly it hit me: My cup never runs empty and cliché as it might sound, the journey is just as important as the destination, thanks to my family, friends, and team. I’m grateful for the time spent with loved ones, the dreams being built together, the privilege to share, serve, and inspire, and the not-so-picture perfect moments that make us feel at our happiest.
"And while the task list we call the daily grind is important, at the end of the day, it should never take the spotlight away from people and moments that we love. They make up the compass that keeps us on the right road towards what truly makes up a happy and full life.
"One of my favorite mentors shared something with me that truly struck me and I’d like to share it today: The journey IS the destination Tanya, and when you look back with the perspective of age, more than the financial milestones or career milestones, what you will hold dear and reminisce about are the moments when you connected with people (team, family, friends, others) and genuinely made a difference. Keep that focus every day, and the daily grind will transform into joy.
"And so to aspiring entrepreneurs, you will need to accept the fact that you will have to live life in a completely new pace and embrace the priorities that come with it. Our cup is always full and adventure can always be found in the small things, if we just look at things differently. (And now more than ever, self-care is paramount, so that I can continue to give more of myself to those whom I love, and whom trust me to help them make their dreams happen, too)."