Megan Twinning is the founder and owner of Sonder Whole Fitness, a boutique studio based in Owings, Maryland, that was set to have its grand opening on March 16th, right as COVID closures began. Here she talks about what it’s been like to launch a fitness business in the middle of a pandemic.
I was on the brink of my grand opening when the pandemic came to town. By mid-March, I had sold 130 intro month packages, hung 20 TRX straps, installed a dozen infrared heat panels, and had a staff of instructors ready to make their debuts on the mic. I was ready to finally shake up our rural county with a boutique studio that I had been planning and prepping for over a year.
Then, on March 16, Maryland Governor Hogan shut all gyms and fitness studios in an effort to flatten the curve. Our grand opening was canceled.
We moved to virtual fast
Like so many others in the fitness industry, I desperately needed to keep my community together, as well as keep the momentum moving in a positive direction. The pivot to online classes was ugly at first, but students were forgiving and in need of movement and connection.
I exclusively offered live-streaming classes for the first three months. As a result, my online fitness game grew up fast. Now clients are hooked, and when I was finally allowed to open my studio recently, clients asked to keep the live-streaming classes as an option.
We now have an additional revenue stream that wasn’t in our original business plan via hybrid classes, where one instructor leads live classes in the studio plus additional students join live-streaming from home. Through FitGrid, I’ve had instructors teach sold-out classes in-studio and then pick up additional revenue from those who join us virtually. Once my live class is ready to start, I just open the laptop and click “Start Meeting” on Zoom. FitGrid schedules the meeting and automatically sends the link to all those who have pre-registered for the class in Mindbody. I have chosen to create a separate hybrid pricing option in Mindbody. I can set all the same late-cancel windows and policies that I would for my in-studio classes.
FitGrid makes it possible for the fitness industry to meet people where they are, both emotionally and in terms of health. And right now, virtual exercise classes are super convenient for a lot of people—those working from home, with limited childcare, or just not ready for group workouts. In fact, even clients who are invested in the fitness community or have a favorite instructor say that they prefer to workout from home instead of traveling to a physical studio.
Our Grand Opening
The delayed grand opening of Sonder Whole Fitness finally happened this month (July). Maryland, at the time of this writing, lifted the three-month shut down of gyms and fitness studios with the ability to open to 50 percent capacity. Connection is at the heart of the fitness industry, and we’re using FitGrid to connect with our new community. Specifically, the live-streaming, client outreach, and follow-up capabilities make it easy to have immediate, frequent, personal interactions.
Opening a studio with limited volume has obvious downfalls, but the new protocols for cleanliness, timeliness, and using the genius of fitness technology adds some undeniable perks. People stay at home when they are sick. Clients pre-register. Classes start on time and not a soul asks to come in late. Phones even stay in the lobby! Our clients head out the door with masks on right after class, leaving our staff and instructors to their cleaning and disinfecting duties. It’s great for productivity, but we sure miss that human connection.
Join Sonder Whole Fitness in their success with live-streaming and hybrid classes. Sign up for a free trial of FitGrid LIVE today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Megan Twining is the owner of Sonder Whole Fitness, a boutique studio in Southern Maryland. She is a personal trainer, certified TRX coach, and certified in 3 barre methods. She has worked in the boutique fitness industry both in the USA and internationally for 10 years.
FitGrid is a community management system designed for boutique fitness studios to engage clients on a personal level