As a millennial, movement expert, mental health advocate and entrepreneur, Clare Lim Martin combines her drive and energy with intention and balance.
We had the chance to chat to Clare about how her life experiences and go-getter personality have shaped her journey and what it means to stay creative and centred in Hong Kong’s fast-paced environment. After struggling with depression and chronic fatigue in her teens, Clare worked to become Asia’s first Katonah Yoga teacher trainer and explored different wellness practices before launching SharedSpace Movement. Today, this boutique movement and lifestyle studio in Causeway Bay offers classes exploring multiple different health and fitness disciplines. She tells us about how working with her husband, Aaron Martin, has developed over the years, and how they share the same passion for their ever-evolving lifestyle, their movement practices and their growing team. From supporting other local businesses to taking time out for herself each day, here’s how this entrepreneur manages to stay true to her company whilst staying true to herself.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you lived in Hong Kong?
I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I grew up as a dancer, and competitive swimmer and runner. I was also a competitive Scrabble player! From day one, I had a real go-getter type personality. My parents and teachers didn’t need to push me – I pushed myself. I organised charity events and led dance crews in performances and competitions. I did not think of myself as an entrepreneur at the time… I likely didn’t even know of the word “entrepreneur”. I saw things needed to be done, in order for me to enjoy working with my peers. And so, I built things.
At age 14, I began to struggle with depression and chronic fatigue. I pretty much became an autodidact, studying from home in my last two years of secondary school. The school system, my teachers, my peers, all knew little about mental health and the concept of wellness. In my recovery process, I learned to be independent, emotionally resilient, and curious about the world of wellness, and possibilities for my health.
I began practising yoga when I was 15 and became a yoga teacher when I was 18. As I left dance school (Boston Conservatory), I spent the years that my peers were spending in university, travelling and immersing myself in an unconventional self-prescribed syllabus of homeopathy, nutrition, yoga therapy, pilates, strength training, face reading, astrology and finally, movement. I wanted to be more than a yoga teacher. So by the time I was 22, I had accumulated so many of what are now highly sought-after qualifications in wellness, that I began considering my personal possibilities in contributing to society.
You’re the co-founder of SharedSpace Movement, can you tell us a little more about the company?
I met my fiancé, Aaron Martin, at 22. Our values for growth and family were seamlessly aligned, and our skillsets were complementary. Aaron, a stunt performer and movement teacher, had previously built and run businesses around parkour performance, media and education. We shared the same want – to step away from performance, being the star, and immerse in education, sharing our knowledge in movement.
In 2017, we started SharedSpace Movement, as a boutique movement studio in Causeway Bay. We assumed that over time, we would grow at scale through the boutique studio business model – we were so wrong! Two years in, and the brand is anything but that – it is now multiple businesses under the SharedSpace umbrella brand.
- Movement Media (creating scalable video content for health and wellness companies, with a speciality in the vertical video)
- A training centre for yoga and fitness instructors who look to learn about movement (accredited with NASM/AFAA credits)
- And yes, until early 2020, we are still a boutique studio with drop-in classes and short courses teaching Parkour, Acrobatics, Handstands
What encouraged you to start SharedSpace Movement? What keeps you inspired?
My work is so much fun – and it’s fun for me because I love entrepreneurship. I don’t love that I get to say “I run my own business”, but I love having the opportunity to think creatively and solve problems every day. I love not running out of things to do… I’m not overwhelmed by being busy. I think that with technique, it is fun to be busy.
A variety of podcasts and books by Gary Vee, Simon Sinek, Seth Godin and Scot Belsky keep me focused and inspired.
There’s so much that comes with starting a new company. Can you share your most meaningful milestone?
I have three milestones to share if that’s okay!
1. Filling the room for our 20-hour Katonah Yoga teacher training this June
Beyond the bragging rights of filling a teacher training, I feel incredibly blessed to pass on my mentor Nevine’s teachings, her intelligent blend of yoga with Daoism, TCM and geometry.
2. Growing with our own community, watching others grow
Aaron and I ran a business accelerator-type course, for wellness professionals in 2018. Aaron now focuses on movement-based training, and I run this course on my own. It is called Iterate, and as its name suggests is a course that encourages the continual iteration, creation of product (in wellness, either a health product or an actual class or experience). I believe that it isn’t a single project, or class, or social media post that leads to success. Rather, success comes through the continual iteration of one’s work, with an overall level of innovation and quality going up over time. Two graduates, of course, have grown their personal brands, by continuing the journey, both with and without SharedSpace. They are Malbert Lee, sound healing extraordinaire, and Camilla Warburton, movement photographer (photographer of this article). Their successes are not mine to take credit for, but the joy that comes from watching them shine qualify as a milestone.
3. Videos that our true to who we are
Aaron and I wanted to create videos that were fun and inspiring, without being too sales-y. We bought an LED light, and a few paper canvases in our brand colours, filmed and edited our first videos with my sister, Audrey (an IG influencer herself). We’re quite literal with brand names, so we called these videos MovementLibrary and put them on IGTV just as it was developing (Instagram has been favouring IGTV in terms of natural distribution so far). We haven’t stopped making these videos since, and they’ve opened doors for us, enabled us to start a whole new business segment, making videos for other brands. Not only have we filled the room with our videos, they also enable us to be everywhere at once.
What does a typical week look like for you?
A typical week includes a mix of keeping operations smooth, lots of team building, teaching a mix of private and group classes, a few meetings with business owners and clients, creating content… And when I am good about it, lots of time alone to hear myself think.
Aaron and I used to rock up to meetings together, but we are really able to command the room solo too, so more and more now we will divide and conquer. Now, we spend our work-life together slightly differently – taking each other’s classes, taking our friends’ classes together, and connecting with our team.
What do you do in your downtime? What are your favourite ways to spend your time?
I’m not subscribed to the weekday-weekend organisation of time. I tried having weekends a few times over the past two years and they were a complete disaster!
I am naturally fulfilled doing my work, adding brick by brick on the daily. So, downtime is scheduled into my life, in the form of a 10 – 14 day trip to New York every year, where I spend time with my mentor Nevine Michaan, founder of Katonah Yoga. This trip has been my personal pilgrimage for the past five years, and now Aaron joins me as well. Reconnecting with the greater Katonah Yoga community in New York fills me up, it’s my creative, entrepreneurial supercharge. The founders of yoga brands such as Sky Ting Yoga, Love Yoga and Sacred Fig, are all part of the Katonah Yoga community, and regularly visit Nevine in NY as well.
What are three things you do to maintain a work-life balance in your day-to-day?
My work requires me to stay physically and mentally healthy. I prioritise internal wellness over external wellness… in other words health over beauty. Because I’m never completely off the clock, I block out a few two-hour chunks of the day, to enjoy a deep tissue massage (at Le Spa by Jan or Health Touch).
When my system needs to be soothed by the element of fire, I sweat it out at Skin Gym’s infrared sauna. When I need to soothe my waters (kidneys, adrenals in TCM), I block out all distractions in the float pod. Some weeks are more stressful than others, so I do this as needed!
Staying embodied is important in a data-heavy era. I try to maintain a physical practice, either by doing a Katonah Yoga practice on my own or taking a movement class.
As serious as I am about my work, I find humour to be incredibly medicinal. I watch sitcoms religiously…superhero movies are my only exception.
We love that SharedSpace Movement team is made up of such young, talented entrepreneurs. Can you tell us a little about your team?
I love our team – we are a mix of movement teachers and content creators. The three of us that have a full-time position are all college-dropouts millennials and take pride in that. We are almost a bit cautious about hiring anyone who is overly qualified in terms of education! It’s not that we are opposed to people who have degrees – but coming into the workplace earlier than our peers, we have simply endured more adversity, and appreciate prospects who are rich in life experience, understand the value of hourly pay, and understand the nature of the 40-hour work week. Our video editor, Pamela Gonzalez, was trained by me and Aaron from scratch. And here’s a secret…our first 300 videos were made on iMovie!
We are growing our team of content creators as our media business grows, and also have five to six fitness and yoga instructors mentoring under us to become movement teachers. As Aaron and I travel more next year, these will be the teachers substituting our classes and growing Fivelements’ movement programme, as well as our teacher trainings and retreats with us.
What are five personal goals you have for this year?
1. Bootstrapping a brand has not been easy. For a long time, I was my own operations team, marketing team, sales team, product design team…basically quite a few full-time positions. Two years in, I feel I have become very efficient, and becoming any more efficient will give me limited returns. My next step is to delegate parts of the business away, so I have more time to hear myself think and create. If I reach 20 solid hours of solo creation time weekly, by the end of the year, I’d be happy.
2. I love business strategy! I know it’s not a particularly sexy thing to love, but it brings me so much joy to see brands and projects come to life. As I free up my time, I’d love to consult and support health and wellness brands that I feel aligned with.
3. As a city girl, I fear nature – grass, moss, bugs are my biggest phobias…and I’m not happy with that. I hope to overcome that so I can explore more of the world, breathe cleaner air, connect to our planet.
4. Growing with and supporting the wellness community in Hong Kong, through my Katonah Yoga teacher trainings and my eight-week Wellness Business Course, Iterate.
5. Sweating daily.
How do you envision SharedSpace growing in the next one, five, ten years?
The movement industry is growing – the team and I see so many possibilities… growing a movement institute to verify movement teachers, movement festivals, movement retreats, introducing movement to schools, coworking spaces and large studios. Aaron and I are currently working closely with Lahra and Chicco Tatriele of Fivelements, to grow Katonah Yoga and movement training programmes. We’ll be rolling out more substantial offerings in 2020.
Scot Belsky is my hero – he and his team built Behance, sold it to Adobe, and took on a CPO role in Adobe. He’s done much more than that since, but what I mean to say is I see similar possibilities in my future. When it comes to the possibilities of growing SharedSpace at scale, I know what I would do with my first million dollars, and the team I would grow it with. And outside of SharedSpace, I am excited for strategic roles to help brands I believe in.
If you had one piece of advice to give to aspiring entrepreneurs out there, what would it be?
Water does not aspire to be water – it simply flows. In other words, do not aspire to be an entrepreneur, simply make things.