I had a picture of how life should be... but then it changed

Ahead of her appearance on RTÉ’s Strictly Business, EMMA CONNOLLY talks to Sian Horn of Elite Pilates about a difficult few years personally, the growth and expansion of her business, and ventures new
I had a picture of how life should be... but then it changed
Sian Horn and her husband Lee on their wedding day. Photos by Annie

ALMOST everyone you meet is happy, but there’s always a story behind the smile.

That’s the astute observation of Pilates instructor, businesswoman and, most recently, leisure-wear designer, Sian Horn.

And perhaps no-one does this apply to more than herself.

Born in Swansea, Sian grew up in London and has had as diverse a career, both in the UK and Ireland.

She was a dancer of note, a dance teacher (ballet, tap, and modern dance), a model, a publican, a night club manager, a leisure club manager, spa owner and magazine co-editor.

She’s currently the owner of Elite Pilates, based in Donnybrook, The Kingsley Hotel and Carrigtwohill, where she also teaches, and which was born out of her own need for pain relief.

Sian Horn of Elite Pilates
Sian Horn of Elite Pilates

“I was in the car a lot with my work and I was literally buggered; I had a touch of sciatica, had problems with my back and was very immobile and always in pain. I literally had difficulty putting my feet on the floor.”

She was familiar with Pilates through her former work and decided she wanted it back in her life, but said she couldn’t find anything suitable or affordable in Cork.

“So I trained in Pilates, reformer and barre in 2013 — as a former dancer and teacher it was a matter of going back to my roots. And I opened in Donnybrook in 2013, the Kingsley in 2015 and in Carrigtwohill in 2016,” she said.

Sian now employs a team of seven, including husband Lee, a physical therapist and Cork man. She’s also set to launch her latest business, BeBelle, a range of high-end leisure wear.

Suffice to say the 47-year-old makes a success of everything she puts her mind to. In fact, she says ‘tenacious’ is a word that best sums her up.

That’s perhaps one of the reasons why it was so hard to accept defeat to Mother Nature when it came to having a family.

Sian Horn and husband Lee, with their award from Junior Chamber Ireland.
Sian Horn and husband Lee, with their award from Junior Chamber Ireland.

Herself and Lee have been together 12 years, having met at a friend’s wedding in Cork, and tied the knot last New Year’s Eve.

She joked that on their second date she told Lee they’d have two kids. That was the plan.

They began trying to conceive when she was aged 36, and she said they “gave it everything for almost nine years”.

During that time Sian had seven miscarriages, after which they went down the egg donor route, travelling to Spain around two and a half years ago.

Cruelly, after getting pregnant on their first attempt, she was told at a 13.5 week scan that their baby had fatal foetal abnormalities.

“We chose to travel to the UK to terminate, I had to wait until I was 17 weeks pregnant, and it wasn’t an easy decision; it was barbaric getting on that plane.”

Sian giving a workshop at Brown Thomas Cork.
Sian giving a workshop at Brown Thomas Cork.

Sadly, Sian didn’t get pregnant from further attempts using donor eggs.

“In my head I kept pushing back the goal posts as to how long we’d keep trying; I was 45 and I just wasn’t able any more and everyone around me was worried about me and for good reason.

“Everything else in my life was great — I had a job I adored, great family, amazing friends. In the bigger scheme of things I had everything, I just couldn’t compete with Mother Nature.

“I had a picture in my head of how my life should pan out, so what I had to do was change that picture and what Lee and I decided to do was to celebrate our lives.

“I had spent nine years working so I could pay people to give me my dream; everything was secondary to getting pregnant and when I stopped trying, I found I had space in my brain and time for lots of other stuff.”

Sian Horn on her wedding day.
Sian Horn on her wedding day.

The couple started with a wonderful wedding celebration last New Year’s Eve and plan to continue their emphasis on celebrating life by taking a mini-break every month for the year.

They’ve already been to the Canaries and Rome and make no apology for it.

She admits that at some point in it all she was ‘rocking in a dark room’ but she won’t let sadness define her, and wants to use it for good.

And a lot of that is helping people through her Pilates: “I teach every day and practice every day. Pilates changed my life. In my classes I teach people to breathe and to take time for themselves.

“If you’ve a strong core, a good power house, it takes the weight off areas that you may have a problem with.”

Having said that, she just wants people to get moving in any way at all — regardless of whether it’s a walk, swim, yoga, etc.

“If we move more, we’d all have less ailments,” adds Sian.

Most recently, she’s started doing MC work at various events, which she’s really enjoying, and she’s also working with Brown Thomas with a monthly Sunday pilates/ brunch event.

Sian is also very involved with Network Cork and says they’ve been a fantastic support from a business perspective and through which she’s made “amazing friends”.

Resilience is a word she uses a lot in the interview and it’s certainly something she’s developed, even if it wasn’t by choice.

Sounds like she has things sussed? “We’re getting there,” she says.

Sian Horn, second left, will be on RTÉ's Strictly Business on March 13.
Sian Horn, second left, will be on RTÉ's Strictly Business on March 13.

STRICTLY BUSINESS APPEARANCE

SIAN will feature on the March 13 edition of RTÉ’s Strictly Business where she’ll be seen working on her latest business idea — a collection of high-end leisure wear.

She said the opportunity came along, so she grabbed it and described it as a fantastic experience being mentored by designer and entrepreneur Sonya Lennon.

Filming took place last September to December, and she plans to launch BeBelle by around this September.

The name is inspired by her niece, Anabelle.

“She’s sassy, a bit bold and always pulling these amazing poses and is very comfortable in her skin. And I just thought why aren’t we all like that?”

Fluctuating between a size 18-20, Sian, who has never been under a size 16 in her adult life, says she’s very comfortable in her body: “I’m at an age where I love myself. I’ve always been a bigger girl but I’ve always been comfortable with that and I think that comes down to the people you surround yourself with.”

Sian Horn brings her new business idea, a collection of high-end leisure wear, to RTÉ's Strictly Business
Sian Horn brings her new business idea, a collection of high-end leisure wear, to RTÉ's Strictly Business

Initially, the clothing range was going to be designed for sizes 14-22.

“But now we’re going to start with size 8. I felt if we leave people out, I’m as bad as everyone else. The idea isn’t about being big; it’s about feeling beautiful and being part of a community.”

Podcasts will also feature as part of the brand.

Describing the look as ‘Nike meeting Cos’, she’s designed a capsule collection comprising leggings, vest, top and outerwear jacket — all in her signature black.

“Then, every 12 weeks we’ll do a release in colour to add to the capsule collection. Each piece will feel like you’re sitting in front of a warm fire, and at your best.”

BeBelle and her own new website Sian Horn will launch on March 13 to coincide with her Strictly Business episode.

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