An insight into how those in the wellness industry have felt the effects of the pandemic
COVID-19 has disrupted businesses all over the world, forcing many business owners to find new strategies to navigate these unusual and trying times. We reached out to the Founder of cardio-based pilates studio STRONG, Michael Ramsey, to share how the pandemic has impacted his businesses, his new coping strategies, and his expectations for the future of the wellness industry.
Q: How has COVID affected your businesses?
A: It’s by far the biggest challenge I’ve faced professionally. Some background info: I previously owned 6 x F45 studios which I sold 18 months ago to start my own fitness concept, STRONG. STRONG is a part reformer, part rowing, full-body workout that’s high-intensity and low-impact. I opened my flagship studio late 2019 and my first franchise opened not long after that. We were hit with COVID in March 2020 and since then have not had a clear run at operating. Both studios are based in Melbourne and right now we are in full lockdown. Luckily I have three new locations opening in NSW, SA & QLD later this year which should hopefully keep the ball rolling and generate some cash flow.
Q: How did you deal with this disruption in your business?
A: In the first lockdown, we spent those months working on technology advancements for the studios. Most gyms focused on online training but we decided to put the time into improving our systems. We filmed hundreds of exercises and built our ‘instructor assist technology’ which is a live visual cue the instructor controls during a STRONG class. We relaunched with the new tech in June and saw a massive spike in sales conversion. People LOVED it. Unfortunately, we could only operate for 3 weeks before going back into lockdown. My solution now is I’ve just built out an app for online training and will be launching an at-home training program called ‘STRONG Rewired’ next week!
Q: As a business owner in the health and wellness industry, what long-term impacts do you expect for the industry?
A: I think the health & wellness space will hold up pretty well. No better wake up call for people to get healthy than a global virus that preys on the immunocompromised. Economically we’re in a bit of trouble and many won’t be able to afford 2 – 3 gym memberships or have the luxury of purchasing various top-of-the-range wellness products. Although people will be smarter with their money. There’s still plenty of opportunity in this space.
Q: What strategies do you have in place to deal with and get through the uncertainty of COVID?
A: Diversification through online training. Hygiene procedures in the studios. Communications to make people feel safe & comfortable. Minimizing company expenditure to simply survive as a business and flourish once this over.
Q: Being a Melbourne-based company and your other business Journey Retreats being a travel / retreat company, how do you move forward within this new reality?
A: For Journey Retreats, I’ve now found a resort on the Sunshine Coast and we’ll be running retreats hopefully later this year or early next year. International travel is out of the question, so our Bali resort is on hold. I think we’ll need to support the domestic travel industry and put procedures in place to make people feel safe. I don’t want to give up and close the business down altogether. Right now, a health retreat is EXACTLY what people need – particularly in Melbourne. When the time is right, I’d like to be there to help them RESET after such a f*cked year.