Balancing Act: Aqua Studio’s Esther Gauthier

After a visit back home, French-bred Esther Gauthier brought back an idea that had yet to cross the Atlantic. Water cycling, the workout de jour in Paris, is akin to spin class—underwater. Thanks to Gauthier, it’s now available stateside, so get into your swimsuit and dive in: Consistent AQUA Studio classes promise to reduce cellulite, and provide a strenuous yet gentle-on-the-joints workout via natural resistance. After spending three years concepting her Tribeca-based space, she finally opened last spring, and 10 months of unpredictability later, Gauthier is learning to put some order back into her days. Here’s how she balances her day in order to attack all that comes her way.


photo: Charles Billot

7-8 am: My alarm clock goes off at either 7 or 8 am, depending on what time I went to bed. I’m the kind of person who needs 8 hours of sleep. The first thing I do when I wake up is give my fiancé Aaron a kiss. I open the windows (even in winter) to get some fresh air, and then plug the iPad to the Bose station and play Pandora. My favorite morning music: Billie Holiday, Al Green, or Kings Of Convenience. Oftentimes, I’ll check my emails on my phone even when my eyes are barely open. I can’t help it, but am trying to get better about it.

8:30 am: I always start my day with a mug of warm lemon water. I got this tip from my amazing Master Instructor at AQUA, Emma Galland, who is a wonderful health coach. If I don’t have a lunch meeting scheduled, I’ll prepare a lunch box: I like to bring a good lentil/kale/avocado salad to the office and make myself a berry smoothie for breakfast (another tip from Emma).

9:00 am: Get ready, pack my le petit cartable, give a kiss to Aaron, and go. I ride my bike to work 90% of the year. I love riding my bike in the city. The only thing that prevents me from riding my bike is heavy snow and heavy rain. Aaron got me a beautiful black Linux for my birthday two years ago and I am in love with it.

9:30 am: I get to the studio and settle in, open my computer, and check my schedule for the day. I often take the 9:30 am AQUA cycling class. My very good friend and fellow entrepreneur, Yurika, who lives in TriBeCa almost always joins the class. It is our outlet. We cycle in the water together before starting the day. We use our classes as a social activity, and as a good reason to see your friends while doing something good for your body, too.

10:30 am: After a 45-minute workout and a quick shower, I’m back at my desk (it’s convenient to have a gym on-site). I usually schedule a maximum of five major things per day. It’s so important to plan your day with precision when you run a business. There is so much happening, and no end to the work you have to do, so if I don’t limit myself with a frame of work, I can easily be lost and never stop working. That’s been my biggest lesson over the last 10 months. My solution is to never leave the office in the evening without planning the next day and leaving a little room for the unexpected.

Since we’re a small team at AQUA, I still take care of many aspect of the business. It is equal parts exciting and overwhelming at times. Accounting, marketing, sales, customer service… Luckily, I have a great team behind me and day after day, we learn how to work together with efficiency. I think all entrepreneurs would agree that the two key components you must build quickly to be successful are a solid team who works together with cohesion and respect, and  good management of your capital.

12 pm: I often schedule business lunches. I like bringing my guests to the Viet Cafe on Greenwich Street. They make the best Pho Bo. Otherwise, I eat my homemade lunch at the studio or we order from the very popular Cafe Clementine owned by Barbara, a very sweet woman who has been in business in TriBeCa for years.

2 pm: After lunch, I go back to my to-do list for the day. Meetings, meetings, meetings… My forte is to come up with ideas. I am always seeking to develop the AQUA brand, always thinking ahead, looking for the next step, performing better, listening to the demand, adapting to the market needs—all while keeping an eye on the big picture. I know where AQUA is heading. I try to allocate time every day to project development. For example, right now, we are working on partnering with a juice bar and opening a little concept store in the studio.

7 pm: Before leaving the office, I check my to-do list and make sure all is checked before planning the following day.

8 pm: I call Aaron to see if he is still at the office. His business is located two blocks down, so we’ll often meet up and ride our bikes home together or stop on the way to have dinner in Nolita or in the East Village. Lovely Day, Epistrophy, Freeman’s, Cafe Mogador, Bikinis are a few of our favorites spots.

If we cook at home, it is mostly vegetarian food. We’re not vegetarian, but love cooking vegetables and legumes and grains. We also get a organic veggie and fruit box delivered to our home weekly. We love it! Over dinner, we talk business, a lot. We are both driven and have big plans for our respective businesses and we are passionate about it. We love bouncing ideas off each other. Aaron is an amazing support and I am very lucky to have him by my side.

We talk so much about work that we made a resolution for 2014 to talk a little less about business and plan entertaining activities and vacations  to enjoy outside of the office. For my birthday (which was in January), Aaron got me cooking classes at the Institute of Culinary Education. I love cooking and I am very excited to learn more.

9 pm: One of my favorite shows to watch is the French Top Chef. I watch it on replay on my iPad. They are so creative and talented.

10 pm: If there is a TV show going on that we both like, we watch it together. Parks & Recreation is one of our favorites; we cannot stop laughing while watching it.