Business Owner Insights

‘Because of COVID-19, I Closed My Studio and Moved to Live-streaming.’ Lessons From an NYC Studio Owner

FitGrid | April 6, 2020

Q&A with Radan Sturm, founder of Liftonic

On March 27, we chatted with Radan Sturm, the founder of Liftonic, a weight-training studio in Manhattan, New York, about what it’s been like to close his doors and move his business and community to live-streaming classes. 

Radan Sturm

QUICK STATS: 

  • Status: NYC location closed; live-stream only 
  • Live-streaming classes per day: 3 per day
  • Instructors doing live-streams: 4
  • Size of live-stream classes: 20-25 people classes on average

FitGrid: How has COVID-19 affected your studio? 

Radan Sturm: Due to the restrictions in New York, we had to shut our studio doors due to COVID-19. We’re currently holding three classes a day—8AM, 1PM, and 6PM—with each of our instructors live-streaming from their homes. These are tough times, they have been a real test for all businesses. Not necessarily operationally or even financially; it’s more like, what kind of people have you been working with for the last three years? That being said, I couldn't be happier with the instructors that we have, and the members have also been amazing. We’re fortunate in the sense that our community spirit is super strong.

FG: When did you start live-streaming classes? 

RS: We are about two weeks into streaming workouts through FitGrid’s Zoom integration, and I’m surprised how well our studio experience translates to digital. With Zoom I like how you can see the clients and they can see you. I talk to individual people during the workout in the live-stream and give them pointers. You can engage with people pretty much the same way as you would in an in-person class. Even when I personally train a client one-on-one, the service is pretty much as good as it would be if I were at the studio. I was surprised.

FG How did that impact your team? 

RS: Having to decrease the number of classes we offered meant we also had to downsize our team. We now have four instructors teaching on our limited live-stream schedule. It was a tough decision. The instructors that stayed on were ones who had the most to lose by filing for unemployment. The rest of the team is waiting to see what happens.

FG: What about your clients? 

RS: People seem to be enjoying it and have stuck with our virtual workouts so far. I think it's because clients really love the method we offer, the familiarity of it, and the instructors really help bring some normality to the situation. All things considered, it's been great to see that we have built a pretty loyal client base.

FG: How are class sizes? 

RS: We’ve seen pretty even attendance. Our average online class size right now consists of 20 people booking a class, with an average of 15 clients showing up, per class. It’s usually between 12 and 17 clients showing up for each session though some have had more sign-ups than we could have accommodated in the studio!

FG: What are clients saying about the live-stream experience?

RS: We’re still actively engaging clients after class by sending post-class feedback surveys, which we also did regularly at the studio. Since enabling live-streaming less than two weeks ago, we’ve received over 20 client reviews of classes with an average score of 9.6. It’s helpful to be able to ask clients directly for their feedback after each specific class, so we can troubleshoot and make the classes the best they can be. Here are some examples of the types of feedback we’ve been getting via FitGrid:

  • Great class despite the conditions. Glad I didn’t pause my membership!
  • Great instructor! Effective even when streaming. Can this be a permanent option?
  • My only suggestion would be to have options using resistance bands (vs weights) for all of the exercises if possible! Thanks!
FG: Liftonic’s studio classes relied heavily on equipment. How have you modified your classes for live-stream?

RS: For about 80 percent of the exercises in our live-stream workouts, we’re able to have a non-weight modification for clients. For certain exercises, like a bicep curl, you have to have a weight—a bottle of water, a band, a dumbbell, whatever. So we started teaching exercises to work up the tension in each muscle for even longer than we normally would. I think the program is going to be all about how you teach. I’m going to start implementing body-weight-only classes next week, and we’re recording some to post on our studio community’s Facebook group so that if people miss the session they can catch up.

FG: Have you had any other obstacles thus far?

RS: I would say the trickiest part of live-streaming is the audio and music. Since we’re keeping our workouts beat-based, I need to hear the music, but if I turn up the music too high on my end, clients can’t hear my instructions… so it’s something we are in the works of finding a solution for. Stay tuned!

FG: Do you think you will continue streaming once the studio reopens?

RS: Yes. I think everyone will, right? A lot of people will be saying, ‘why am I paying so much rent for my studio when I can successfully run my studio’s workouts and keep our community connected through a live-stream?’ I might as well offer both options and attract a wider net of clientele and give the people what they want. 

FG: Any parting tips for others?

RS: My question has always been, ‘How do I retain our core following?’ I need my regulars to stick with me for a longer time. That’s why I have a Facebook page for them all to connect with each other and with the studio. Some challenges, such as music copyright use issues, we might just have to worry about later when we come back up for air. We also let all of our members take home whatever equipment they wanted until we reopen. I thought, ‘I could charge rent for clients to borrow the equipment and make X amount of dollars, or we could retain members and still make revenue almost as I would at the studio, and that will keep us going.’

To start streaming classes and stay connected to clients during social distancing, sign up for a free trial of FitGrid LIVE.

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