In the space of a week, the fitness industry has been forced to go totally online to survive. Many gyms and studios around have adapted to this change with varying different results.
A previous guest on the show, Brittany Welk made this change and has brought her studio Ladystrong Fitness, totally online, with a 100% retention rate. So we were delighted to have Brittany back on the show to talk about the initial shock and challenge of closing her business and moving it online. She also gives some top tips for delivering online classes and explains strategies to continue delivering a positive member experience. There’s so much great stuff in this episode, and if you want to reach out and talk to Brittany you can find here on Instagram at @brittany_welk and @ladystrong_fitness.
Kevin: How’s it going everyone? Welcome to The Fitness Founders Podcast. I’m Kevin Mannion, VP Marketing here at Glofox. This week we unpack and spoke to Brittany Welk from Lady Strong Fitness outside Chicago in Illinois. She’s moved all her workouts online, both live and recorded, and has so far kept all her paying members. We talk to her about survival tips when your gym is close, how to recreate your member experience in a live workout, and how her business model is adjusting to include both online and offline workouts in the future. She says herself don’t give up, so let’s get started.
Okay, Brittany, welcome back to the podcast.
Brittany: Thank you for having me. I was so excited when I got this email. I’m like, yes, I’m really super pumped. I’m actually really excited to talk about this topic because I think in this time there’s a lot of other small businesses or industries that are really being promoted a lot and you don’t hear a lot about the fitness industry. But it is a huge industry in the world, and it’s being affected just the same if not more than a lot of other industries. I think it’s really cool that you guys are highlighting this.
Kevin: Yeah. It’s obviously shocking times for the entire fitness industry. I think the reason we reached out to you, Brittany, was because we saw that you were one of the first to react to the new way of doing things. And it seems to be a little bit of it is around survival and some of it is also around how just the future is going to be different from the way things were. Before we kick into what you’ve done maybe just remind everyone about your business, who you’re focused on, and how you got it going.
Brittany: Yeah. Our studio’s name is Lady Strong Fitness. We are in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. We’ve been open almost four years now. We are in our fourth year business right now. My business partner and my fiancé Marciea own the studio together. Our demographic obviously is all women if you can tell by the name, so we focused mainly on women only in our studio. Our demographic is really that like mid-30s all the way up to 60s woman who is either has kids and looking to get back in the gym. You can have the people that have never worked out a day in their life. We get a lot of those people too. And then we get our columnar golden girls who like to come back in after their kids are grown, and they have grandkids now and they just want to stay healthy and fit, so we have some of those too. We have a really good mix of everybody which is really, really nice to see.
Kevin: Nice, and I think in terms of building a brand and building a business the first podcast we do which has actually great lesson in that, so well done on that. I supposed let’s turn to the present. You know, I think first thing, you’ve obviously been one of the fast mover but your studio closed the stores a couple of weeks ago. Tell us what you had to do to keep your business going. Tell us the survival tactics that you’ve been using so far.
Brittany: Yeah. Like many others it happened in a blink of an eye. Last Monday we were featured on the news for International Women’s Month in Chicago in NBC 5 Chicago. Tuesday we cut our classes down in half to ten, and Wednesday night we made the decision to close. That was really scary. Nobody has ever been through this before. There’s not a single human being in this world that has done any of this stuff before as had to make decisions like business owners have had to make in the last week between employees themselves, their customers. There is just so much change that happened in such a short amount of time. The first thing that we knew we had to do was find help, and we found that with Mike Arce and the team at Loud Rumor. They have really been a go to for us over this time really sharing a lot of content, really helping us gym owners make that pivot to virtual. And like we are talking before, Marciea had already built out a virtual platform almost a year ago, so we had that diamond in the rough already sitting there. And it was like, “Well, shoot. I guess now is the time.” It’s like pulling that sixth person off the bench in a basketball game and being like, “Well, time to get in.” And that was kind of the move that we made. It was like, well, it’s time to see how this thing works. So Marciea wants to work immediately updating that site making it super valuable for our members because at the end of the day we are a small business. We are owned by us. We are not franchised, so the revenue that we bring in every single month feeds us, feeds our staff, runs our business, and to have that shut off completely could mean the end of your business. We were like, we have to build enough value with this people and pray that we’ve built enough community with these women that they would want to stick around and support us. And like many other businesses I’ve seen our members were like, we’re here, we’ve got you, we’re going to take care of you guys. Like you’ve taken care of us, you’ve supported us, and now it’s our turn to do that for you. We knew that with great power comes great responsibility. It’s like we knew we had our responsibility to this people more now than ever to make sure that when they are at home they are making progress and not going backwards. Because as a female that’s the mindset that you have is that if you’ve been working so hard at a goal and you literally get stuck dead center, you look to the people who have helped you get that far to help you overcome this. We knew that now more than ever they were going to be turning to us for answers and solutions. And we had to find it and we did with this online platform.
Kevin: Yeah, that’s pretty amazing. Tell us, with online platform, so tell us what you’ve got in terms of live content, in terms of record content. What sort of mix have you got?
Brittany: Yeah. Obviously, it’s very difficult to run seven Zoom calls in one day. Because if you are running six or seven classes per day at your studio you’re definitely not going to be able to run that many live classes because you’ve got a coach that literally has to coach through the class. So got to have somebody there that’s actually doing the class live so people can follow along very similar to an in studio setting. We made a decision to only run one live per day at 8am. That was the decision that we made. It worked well with Briana who is the coach that works with that. It worked well with Marciea who is helping facilitate the live. We still do the studio. We have literally a demo coach and like a horayaya coach that kind of sits by the camera and cheers people online, calls people live individually, very much like the class experience. Again, we want to keep it as similar to a class experience as possible and Briana and Marciea absolutely just crushed it. We do one live. We record it on Zoom and then the girls make it on listed on YouTube, and then they dumped the link right into our virtual platform. So on the left hand side it’s all built out in click funnels on a membership site. And on the left hand side if you click on Workout #1 it will have the entire workout there, exercises, how you do it, demo videos. Then down below it will say to preview this in real time click here. And if you click on the link it will take you out to YouTube to the actual replay of the live that they did that morning. The girls can essentially watch it on demand whenever they want to right from the comfort of their own homes. So that’s been crucial. It’s been absolutely crucial.
Kevin: Got it. You are using click funnels for all this recorded content, you roll in your live class, and then that’s just more content for that and people can log in and they can see that and they can see directions etcetera.
Kevin: Cool. Okay, so how did you find or how did you… Maybe like, even as you close down, how did you get the message out to your members, “This is how we are going to change. This is what we are doing for you and keep that loyalty.” What did you say to them?
Brittany: It was just constant contact throughout the week. As things were changing we were updating them via text, we were updating via email. We have a Facebook group page on Facebook we were updating them on. It was constant communication. And then we finally made the decision to close. We sent out an email and then we did a live video on our Facebook group page, and I cried the whole time. I was a mess. I was an absolute mess. It was like it’s a very scary thing and you never know how people are going to react. So we did a live video in the group page and sent out an email to everybody, and then send a text that’s like, “Please check your email. If you didn’t get it please let us know.”, to make sure everybody got the emails and everything like that. At that time that we did that video we were only going to be closed to the 29th. And then this last Saturday we find out that it was going to be another week which I was okay with because at the time we were only going to be close to the 29th, so an extra seven or eight days was, okay, that’s not bad. Because there are places around the world that are getting 30-45 days, and I was just like, “Whoah!” I don’t know that’s tough. So lots of communication, lots, and almost to the point where it’s too much but I would rather be criticized for giving too much information than not enough.
Kevin: Yeah, I know. That’s what it is all about. Now, in terms of, so you spoke a little bit around the class experience is actually a very good tip having the people, the instructor and the person actually demonstrating the moves. That’s really cool. You were saying that you were renting or giving out equipment. What other things have you done to make that class experience as real as possible?
Brittany: With the coaches that really helps, they’ve encouraged ladies to wear their heartrate monitors. Because if they have a heartrate monitor that works in our studio, we have an app that they can download off to App Store. They can actually connect the monitor Bluetooth to their phone so they can track their workouts. Very similar to how they track them in the studio. We are still doing our committed club the same we do it in the studio. We’re still doing it with virtual classes. The classes are literally verbatim identical to how we do them in the studio. We demonstrate the exercises, we go through the warm up, we work out, we cool down, we give announcements, everything. It’s literally verbatim exactly how it goes in the studio. The girls do that exactly on the live Zoom and I really believe that it helps the women feel just like they’re in the studio even though they are at home. We are getting a lot of feedback from people. They are like, I’m working out more now at home than I actually do it in the studio so this is really good. And just a lot of really cool supports, so that really helps just to keep them engaged. Again, make it just feel like the studio is right in your homes.
Kevin: Is there two-way communication between the ladies and the trainer?
Brittany: Yeah, they can. Typically, they are in the class. Briana and Marciea will just mute all of the girls and just unmute themselves. That way when the replay goes, because usually in Zoom if somebody speaking it will pop their video in, so we wanted to make sure that it was always on Marciea and Briana the whole time. At the beginning everybody is unmuted to check people in and ask questions and during the everything, the action, it’s muted. And then after the action is done, after the cool down is over, the girls unmute everybody. If anybody has questions, they can conversate etc, and then if nobody has questions then they just end.
Kevin: Yeah, okay. That’s awesome. Are you doing class packs or is it full-time memberships?
Brittany: It’s all full-time memberships. Everybody is on a full-membership which is wild. That was the first initial fear that I had was like, man, you know these girls are paying a price for a service and it’s you pray that they trust you enough that you’re going to give them exactly what they are paying for whether they are coming to the studio or not. That was big. That was key for us. I believe that we’ve executed very well. Marciea, like I said, has just done a really fantastic job with content. And Briana and her had done a fantastic job with the lives. Our studio manager is still working with me remotely. Her and I have done a couple other trainers, a couple other girls, who really depended on us for paycheck. And I was like, even though there were a couple of girls that we couldn’t keep, they have full-time jobs outside of our studio so that put me a little bit more at ease knowing that they are still going to have some kind of income outside of me. But we wanted to make sure we took care of the people who really depended on us, so we gave them different tasks. One of the tasks was courtesy calls to members. Over the last week they’ve just been calling and texting members, checking in, how are you doing, did you get live out of the virtual platform, have you done the workouts yet, etc. Again, engagement, engagement, engagement. We’ve been focused on just engagement and check ins that way and Marciea has been focused on content and Zooms. It’s been a really great team effort for sure.
Kevin: Yeah, and that’s really important because obviously the members are going to have tech like getting use to Zoom, you know.
Brittany: OMG! It has been crazy. You know, when you go from no technology in your life to so much technology in your life, it was like 24/7. It was 24/7 tech support like Facebook messages, and text messages, and comments on Facebook, and posts on Facebook. It was like oh my gosh. But now I feel like, after a week, everybody has got it. They got it. We’re good so that makes me happy.
Kevin: Tell me what’s your thoughts on… I know you’ve got a limited number of members but what’s your thoughts on class sizes? I think there’s maybe a temptation now to have 100 people in the class and make lots of money that wat. What’s your thoughts on that?
Brittany: I mean, we don’t, you know… Like I said earlier, we have obviously shifted our way of bringing in new members to virtual versus in person. But the Zoom classes you can fit up to 100 people in Zoom. The most we’ve had so far is 30 which I think is fine, is manageable. I have heard studios doing much more than that. I don’t know. Personally, I don’t think I would want a 100 people on a Zoom call. I feel like for Briana and Marciea it’s really important to be able to like point out people like, “Get your butt down on that plank.”, “You’re doing a great job Emily. Nice job.”, “Keep up the awesome work guys.”, “I see you.” You know, you can really kind of call people out when there is a smaller number of people versus so many people. You are just like, what? I feel like the smaller number is nice and it’s manageable. We haven’t had more than 30 and I think that’s a good number.
Kevin: I’ve got so many questions because it’s so new this whole thing.
Brittany: Yeah, this is all new. Yeah.
Kevin: Yeah. Like if you are doing strength training obviously an element of this is making sure people have the right technique. How do you tackle that?
Brittany: The demonstration at the beginning is helpful so we always make sure that the demo person does modified exercises. And the regular version, so we give the modification and the regular version. And then while it is being performed the demo person does both too to keep reminding them of like, okay if you can’t do this, make sure drop your knees on your plank, or just do bodyweights instead of the actual weighted version. So it’s the constant reminder throughout the class and also what’s nice is having the two coaches is the one person can actually… Because when the girls start they always they always ask people to turn on their videos to make sure that the coach can see them properly. If they are doing something wrong we can at least say like, make sure you’re getting low on your squat, blah..blah..blah. We can always help them along the way. It’s nice to have that two-person visual because one person is really paying attention and the person is doing the exercises.
Kevin: Yeah. Told us some like really good tip. I’ll just maybe summarize for everyone’s benefit the big takeaways I have were the two coaches I think is a great idea. It gives you so much control over the class and you’re not doing the exercise and talking to people at the same time which can be hard. Videos on, having the conversations at the start and at finish of the class, and then muted in the middle so that you get a good recording. That’s very smart. And then I think just what you said, the ground work, making the calls during the week, touching people, keeping them motivated, and getting them over their own blockers of adjusting to this is really good.
Brittany: That’s been a huge one too. The girls have bee reaching out. You do get those too but they are like, “Oh, I just don’t do well at home.” It’s like you have to just encourage them to get on a class. Just get on a class, just do one workout. We promise it’s going to help you and I’ll find accountability buddies. We actually had one of our coaches who normally workouts at the 5:15am class or the 5am class. Started a Zoom call of her own at 5:15am. So she’s got a bunch of people that do the 5am workouts with her in a separate Zoom call which is just so cool because a lot… You’ll be very surprised a lot of people are still working from home. A lot. We have a lot of girls, a lot of our members, are still working from home. They still have to be checked in and logged in by 8 o’clock. They still need to get their workouts in the morning or they just want to get out of their routine because they know there is a means to an end. They know this is going to come to an end and everything going to return to normal so they want to be prepared for that. That’s been a really unique thing too.
Kevin: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Okay, let’s move on a small bit. Obviously, we are on unusual times now but it’s going to come to an end. I want to get your thoughts on what do you think the mix of online and offline is going to be into the future?
Brittany: I think that what I see happening is that a lot of the fitness studios have had to make that shift, that drastic pivot of, “Oh shit! I can’t be at my studio anymore. Now, I’ve got to move everybody online.” And everybody is just been busting their butts to create these virtual platforms. But at the end of the day, if you were to think of this on a normal time having an actual brick and mortar studio and having a virtual platform is like operating two businesses. I mean, you’ve got two different clientele bases, two different streams of revenue, two different operational systems. You would have to have two different teams. It is essentially is like running two businesses at one time. For us, I just have the vison of our business is not to have a brick and mortar and online. For us it’s temporary and that’s why we’re only advertising to just our radius of women because obviously the ultimate goal would be to convert people from the virtual to the end studio once this is all over. It’s really going to depend on where your business was when this all happened, where it is when it’s over, and then what your mission and your vision for your business is in general. And then you make your decisions whether you’re going to continue your virtual platform or not based around that. Because, listen, if your virtual platform is bringing in six figures a year. If you’ve got 200 clients on your virtual platform and you’re absolutely crushing it then by all means invest the money in making it something. But if it’s just a client here and there and you can transition them into in-person studio experience and that’s your ultimate goal is just scale your business that way, then scale your business that way. For us that’s what it is. We’re not going to continue doing the live and stuff like that once we’re up and running. We may continue to update the workout on the virtual site but it will not be a priority after this is over.
Kevin: Yeah. It’s very good point around remembering what your mission is and why set out in the first place and not getting distracted. And like you say, creating two businesses, trying to run two businesses. But, I think we were chatting at the start, you were saying that it is effective now getting people in on the virtual side would have you to converting them into real members.
Brittany: For me, perspective right now we haven’t actually… We’ve gotten one person to sign up for our virtual platform right now but they are not local. We do have a couple of ladies that are likely going to do at least a month of our virtual and then move into a regular membership because they are local. So I feel like if you price your virtual platform correctly, jumping them into a regular membership won’t be difficult. Now, if you are doing your virtual platform free or for like $99 a month and then you want them to come in and pay $160, $170 a month in your studio that’s going to be difficult. But if you price your platform, and for us it’s not like how many people can we get on this platform right now. Because let’s be realistic, there are members that have been so supportive right now that we don’t have a need at this moment to have tons and tons. Now, if this thing goes another 30 or 60 days, yeah, that might look a little bit different. But right now our goal isn’t just to drive tons and tons of people to the virtual platform because realistically it’s hard. It is hard to keep track of all these people. That is the one thing me and my team on the sales side of things is really struggling with is we’ve gotten 60 some leads in a matter of less than a week unto keep track of them. If they can’t make the live video at 8 then you’re pop them schedule another time for a workout and hoping that they stick to it on their own. And if they don’t you are getting them to recommit. It’s just a lot of extra legwork. It’s going to depend on your model and who you are marketing to and what you want to do after this is all over. You know? It really is.
Kevin: Yeah, exactly. I think in summary probably what’s going to happen is taking some of these live workouts, making them available, doing some advertising probably just in your local area, because the end goal is getting real fully paid up members into your studio.
Brittany: Yeah. Something that we’ve learned a lot through Mike, and the Loud Rumor team, and the things and the things, contents that they’ve been putting out is you want to treat your studio like it’s in presale right now. The idea is to get them to buy into something that’s coming in the future. It’s very much like a presale mentality. I believe that that’s the mentality that our team has is that this is just a presale and we want to get them in like our introductory offer. And then convert them into a full paying member when this is all over.
Kevin: Yeah. Okay. That is a really good, strong point to finish off on. Just to finish off Tell me what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since in the last three weeks?
Brittany: That this is one of those entrepreneurial death traps. When you see those curves and they’re like up and down, up and down. For us we were on an up. We were on a high. We were on the news. We’re growing month over month. We had two record months in January and February back to back with memberships. We were almost at 250 members at the time this happened so we were on a high. We were in one of those upward curves. It was like the roller coaster literally just tipped over the edge and we just went flying right back down. And you just have to adjust. This is a constant adjusting to your surroundings especially as an entrepreneur because it’s never one direction. It’s never one direction. The people that will make out of this will have stories to tell forever. You know what I’m saying?
Brittany: I think what I can tell, if I can tell the listeners that are listening to this, either you’re at the point where your place of where you live made the decision to lockdown, maybe you guys are getting close to it. You have been lockdown for two or three weeks. Do not give up. The people that give up are the people that are going to lose and likely you are giving up to early. Just don’t give up. You have to surround yourself with people like, for us, we are surrounded by Mike and his team and the people in that group. His been a God sent for us and many other gym owners. You just got to surround yourself and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Reach out to me. I’m happy to help. I don’t have all the answers. Nobody has all the answers right now. There is not a single person in this world who has the answers to what’s going on right now. But if we all collaboratively work together and reach out to each other for help and questions, and this and that and ideas we are all going to make it all out of this or a lot of us will make it out of this okay, and we will be better forward on the other side.
Kevin: Okay. We’ll leave it there. That’s great advice. Don’t give up.
Kevin: Okay. Brittany, before we leave. Where do people find you? How do they get in touch?
Brittany: Personally you can find me I think Instagram is the best way to find me is @brittany_welk. You can find me on Instagram. You can find us at Lady Strong Fitness on any platform, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. You can find Marciea more so on Facebook at Marciea Allen. Just find us anywhere. Hit me up on Instagram. Send me a DM. I’m happy to jump on like a 15, 20-minute just session if anybody wants to just like run some ideas, play some defense, events, whatever you need I’ve got your back, so yeah.
Kevin: Okay. Brittany, I’m sure you’ll get people taking up on that. Brittany Welk, Lady Strong Fitness, thank you very much.
Brittany: You are so welcome.
This podcast is brought to you by Glofox a boutique fitness management software company. If you want to accelerate growth, work efficiently, and deliver a well-branded boutique customer experience then find us at glofox.com.