Finding My Niche

By Jaclyn Forrester

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Before we get into the details about how Niche began, let’s start with a little about me! I grew up in the country, surrounded by horses, fields, and long fence lines. My mom ran a horse-boarding barn so that she could stay home with my brother and me, and my first memories are of horses in the alleyway being brushed and saddled. Buck, my pony (who was given to me by my Grandfather before I could even walk), was on his own schedule and would allow me to ride for ONLY as long as he wanted. Since I preferred to ride bareback, he would simply drop his head when he was over it and I would slide right down his neck. I’d scream, and cry and immediately run back to the barn to find someone to help me catch him. For a pony that never wanted to work hard during a ride, he could sure run away from you quickly! 

When I was six we sold the boarding barn and moved to a place that was more quiet and peaceful for my parents. My Dad and cousin constructed what felt like a mile of fence lines, and as I grew older, I’d walk them from one side of the property to the other.

Thinking back, I realize that this was my first brush with some of the core principles of Pilates: balance and coordination.

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Then for Christmas one year my parents gave me sweet Jethro, my very own horse. It was like a fairytale! Jethro and I were best buddies. We jumped, went to shows, went trail riding - I learned the importance of posture and alignment (also important principles of Pilates!) And unlike Buck, he would let me ride bareback for as long as I wanted. He was a dream!

In high school my interest shifted from horses to friends, working out in the high school gym, and going to football games. At 16 I got my first job, working at the front desk for a chiropractor. The primary doctor was Dr. Payne (the irony of his name still makes me laugh!) He was wonderful, intelligent, compassionate with his patients, and willing to teach me. I soaked it up. Going into college, I was certain I would become a chiropractor.

I began my college education at Emory and Henry College, my dad’s alma mater, but I felt that I needed something bigger, so I transferred to Radford University my second year. I entered their Exercise, Sport, Health and Education program, and my professors there inspired me everyday. I took a deep dive into human science and movement - studying cadavers (yikes!), strength training, athletic taping, nutrition analysis, and other juicy materials.

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After college I moved to Richmond. Though I was passionate about my degree, I didn’t know what to do with it. I realized I wasn’t super excited to continue formal education at that time, so becoming a chiropractor was out of the picture. I began searching for a career path that would incorporate my degree. Through my research I found Pilates, and was thrilled that one of the best Pilates trainings and certifications you can study, STOTT Pilates, was right here in Richmond! I called and met Kimber McQueen, owner of Balance Pilates, who hosts the training. After I trained, I began teaching Pilates and strength training at Balance, Hermitage Country Club, Westwood Club, Core Pilates, YMCA and Core Kids Academy-- all at one time! As my experience progressed and positions shifted, I was offered the director role at Westwood.

I knew within a year of being the director that I wanted to open my own studio, and when I stepped down in 2014 that was my sole mission. 

There were trials and tribulations, many attempts to merge, to purchase, to open. Finding a location was MUCH more challenging than I expected. I began in a small space with one reformer, a TRX band and a few props. In that first year I learned, on a very small scale, the ins and outs of running a business. It was a valuable learning experience, but I knew I wanted to offer classes and have a team that inspired me. Being the only instructor was lonely. I wanted to create a community that elevated each other and made a significant difference in people's lives. 

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Finally I found a space. It took a full year, way longer than I expected. But it was perfect! Filled with light and in a cool part of town, and I was confident that between my drive and the energy and location of the space, it would draw the community I was dreaming of. Now I needed a new name. The thesaurus became my go-to. I searched and searched for hours! I narrowed it down to a few options and talked them over with my husband, friends, and Carrie Walters, my logo and brand designer. Unanimously they voted for Niche. Within three months of finding the space, my landlord (who also owns a construction business - convenient!) built the space out, the branding was created, the instructors were hired, the class schedule was set, and on March 26, 2017 the doors opened!!

It was one of the most invigorating and incredible days of my life, and the single most significant achievement of my professional career. 

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Now, a little over two years later, I still pinch myself when I walk in the door. It’s everything I could’ve dreamed of. I love our team; you can’t imagine how dedicated and incredibly talented they are. Our clients are from all walks of life. They come in with goals and previous injuries and they work hard, they achieve their goals, then exceed them, and seeing them each day is truly a joy. They keep us inspired and striving to learn more so we can help them more. The strength of a supportive community is real. Many times I’ve heard people say, “I come in here and feel calm, it just feels good in here.” I’m not personally one for crystals everywhere or gushing about energy vibes, but seriously...there is something special happening at Niche. I truly believe the energy in the space is a direct connection to the love that’s been poured into it, by me, my incredible team, and all of our incredible clients. I’m honored to call it my creation.