Misha Patel Studio in San Jose is a place where one Santa Clara grad has fused her knowledge of marketing and movement into a light-drenched haven with wood floors, muted blues, and a view of the downtown skyline. Her clients, about 150 at the moment, have ranged from professional athletes, including a few San Jose Sharks, to a recent amputee and people with rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
“My father gave me the best advice I’ve ever gotten,” says 30-year-old Misha Patel Bechtolsheim ’05. “He said, ‘Do what you’re passionate about. You’ll work hard and success will follow.’”
That was in 2005, after she had graduated with degrees in commerce and arts and was pursuing brand management jobs in fashion. But her father detected a lack of spark. She moved home to Southern California, became a certified Pilates instructor, started a company where she worked with competitive figure skaters—she’d been one until college—and returned north in 2007.
After two years with Club One Fitness, she opened her own studio in April 2009. Seven months later, she relocated to a bigger space in the same building and married her college boyfriend, Sebastian Bechtolsheim ’04, M.S. ’08, MBA ’09. Misha works 60 to 70 hours a week, broken up by walks with her Welsh terrier, Jax.
The ninth-floor studio offers fitness sessions such as Pilates, yoga and TRX training, massage, nutrition counseling, and culinary classes. At 5-foot-3 and 110 pounds, Misha is especially fond of the Reformer, a machine that helped her recover from a knee injury.
As she takes a pair of clients through an hour-long Pilates workout, two Reformers glide back and forth. She scrutinizes every move, snaps her fingers as she counts, and is firm but not merciless.
“Squeeze your inner thighs like you have a winning Lotto ticket between those knees,” she urges.
Valerie Forney, 49, heeds every word. “Misha is sensitive to my physical needs,” she says.
Misha’s parents, who trace their roots to India, grew up in Nairobi and own a company that makes fireplace screens. They went to college in England and prize education—which meant that their daughter felt guilty for “prancing around” when she became smitten with dance and choreography at SCU.
Her mentor, Kristin Kusanovich ’88, helped her see the larger value of theatre arts. “I applauded after one marketing class and everyone stared at me,” Misha says. “Part of me felt awkward, but part wondered why appreciation and respect are not instilled in all classes.”
Kusanovich, a senior lecturer in theatre and dance as well as liberal studies, lauds how “Misha found a way of integrating two pretty disparate fields. She has approached her business as an artist and has a completely different outlook. The performing arts teach leadership, discipline, follow-through, and collaboration.”