Pivoting during COVID-19

By Ange

With the announcement of possibly being about to reopen on June 22nd, we thought it was a great time to reflect on the last few months and share how we’ve been able to pivot during this crazy, unprecedented time.

Going into maternity leave, I thought I could not be leaving 23W in a better position!

After all, in the months prior to we had hit some incredible milestones, finally ticked off some small jobs around the studio and hosted a bunch of regular team meetings.  With the second space up and running, refined operating systems and memberships hitting capacity… I was ready to put my feet up and enjoy every single new born snuggle. Unfortunately, my business plans did not plan for a global pandemic!

Like other gyms across the country, 23W has had to adapt to the changing fitness landscape, move online and survive! 10 weeks on from the forced shut down and restrictions easing, we wanted to reflect on how we managed to pivot 23W to not only survive, but become stronger than ever before.

One Step Ahead

Once the drug induced haze started to clear about 4 hours post-caesarean, my thoughts were occupied by the fact that I was unsuccessful in my mission to fully restock the studio with toilet paper, hand wash or sanitiser the night before my scheduled induction. And while the new born love bubble grew around me, I was very much aware of a growing concerns over this new ‘Coronavirus’, how this may affect studio attendance and the need for hyper vigilance in cleaning and sanitation.

Like all things in business, staying one step is critical. Once we got home from the hospital, we called a staff meeting at our house to check in with staff and develop a series of ‘hypothetical’ scenarios and plans. This included discussions around modifications to programs, new cleaning routines, decreased training capacity, the move to online training and a plan to support clients in financial hardship. I had two main goals in mind at the time… 1. keep our community together and 2. keep my staff employed!

StrongHer Online

On March 23rd we received the news we were expecting, we were going to have to close our doors for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, in response to concerns from some of our members and a desire to stay at home, we had already started to move into the online training space.

We were ready to embrace the brave new world of online training with gusto and a solid plan to offer a mix of daily Facebook live workouts and more polished and shorter pre-recorded workouts. We developed out a schedule that would ensure we meet the needs of our members with strength based workouts, HIIT, Boxing, Yoga and Pilates.

We created a new online membership option call ‘StrongHer Online’, which reduced our normal membership rate and offered an entirely new package.

By week 2 of isolation, we introduced the option for members to join in on workouts on Zoom, which allowed us to maintain face to face interactions between our community and have our trainers give important feedback and encouragement to those involved!

Quarantine Quad

Our next move was to support our members to get their hands on quality, basic workout gear they could use from their homes. Over the course of a week we put together our ‘Quarantine Quad’ program which allowed us to hire out small packs of equipment to our members and give them four quality full body programs to follow.

We later expanded this to add another two programs and this allowed us to have a total of 24 of our members accessing a comprehensive strength based program from home.

We were able to pull this program together in record time as we divide up the work as a team, used our videographer and producer, Jeremy Drake and our trusted and much loved designer, Jessica Renee.

Check-ins, seminars and meditation 

With changes in routines, increased social isolation, increased stress and anxiety and general uncertainty, we wanted to be able to continue to offer our members more support through this difficult time. Online check-ins, constant communication, weekly seminars and meditations were used to help ease the mental load of members, while giving them a consistent bedrock

Members in Need

The philosophy around 23W has always been built on a strong community focus. It was a harsh reality that while we were being forced to close, we had members being stood down and without income. It was heart breaking. While being hyper aware of needing to bring in funds to ‘keep the lights’ on, we also wanted to be able to move through isolation with grace and humility. We offered several of our members discount or complimentary passes and then something beautiful started to happen… we had members within our community volunteer to sponsor other members in financial hardship! These anonymous 23W ‘Angels’ have inspired hope and positivity during a time when so many of us felt like we had hit rock bottom!

Further Reflection

Reflecting on all of these initiatives, there are few factors that stand out that helped 23W pivot with agility and shape us into a more robust business to face future challenges.

  1. Desire to step up and into new opportunities: we realised we had a choice to shut up shop or rally! Asha, Dee and myself were genuinely excited to step up provide some real value and support to our incredible members. As the business owner, this also highlights the importance of hiring well. While qualifications and skills are important, you can not learn the kind of optimism and positivity needed to be an exception coach.  I have also loved giving my team more space and responsibility to step up and become genuine leaders within our community.
  2. Communication systems: For over 24 months we have sent weekly emails to our members and followers. Alongside this and and a very active private Facebook page, we were able to communicate fast and effectively with our community when the new circumstances unfolded.
  3. Community is everything: Gyms might close but you CAN’T shut down communities. For some gyms it might have felt like they were starting from zero when they lost their entire revenue. Community is everything within 23W. Our small group training environment and time spent bonding over heavy sets, helps to bring our members close together. When life as we knew it needed to shift so quickly, 23W become the much needed lifeline for many of ladies, our trainers and even myself.

What’s Next?

As of the 1st of June we will be increasing the capacity of our bootcamps to 15 members and then hope to reopen on the 22nd of June with other gyms around Victoria. We will be offering limited number of spaces for new members on 28 day and 12 week passes. We are also excited to announce our next 8 week challenge will be bigger and better then ever.

Starting July 13, this challenge will be open to new and existing members. Fill out this form to register your interest. 

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Our founder

Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.

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