When we told our friends and family in New York that we were moving to Indiana, we turned a lot of heads and sparked a lot of questions. But with our daughters growing older, we started to think about how we wanted to raise our family; between top-ranked schools, cost of living and the city’s urban feel, we fell in love with Carmel and decided to move to this nationally ranked suburb in 2019.

While Carmel touted a lot of great things, one thing it didn’t have was our favorite fitness studio. My husband and I were loyal to a New York City-based barre studio and attended classes regularly for over a decade. Given our commitment to the specific movements and brand, we thought, “why not open our own studio?” While opening a business comes with its own list of challenges, something we never could have predicted was combatting a global pandemic.

At the onset of COVID-19, we saw nonessential businesses – especially workout studios – close temporarily. We saw workout class bookings fall as much as 85% and gym membership plummet, and the return to in-person classes has varied across the country ever since. Even knowing all of this, we decided to move forward with opening our studio, and it ended up being one of the best business decisions we’ve made to date.

We weren’t alone in the journey toward the grand opening. According to an analysis of Census data by the Economic Innovation Group (EIG), Americans have filed a record 1.4 million applications to start new businesses. And while our business is a franchise, we credit the pandemic for helping us fine tune our priorities for our business and hone in on where we need more and where we could be “lean.”

Location and functionality.

Location is crucial when opening a consumer facing business, and the pandemic allowed us to be thoughtful in where we wanted to be located and which spot was best for our target clientele. We weren’t in a rush or trying to outbid other businesses for real estate but instead could sift through options until the right one hit the market. Timing was also on our side as we were able to redesign our space to take into consideration the “new normal” of post-pandemic fitness. This means plenty of space between clients in the studio, no need for showers, larger waiting areas where people congregate, and more. The space was prepared to not only function for the primary purpose of the business – studio class offerings – but also in a way that met the safety standards and comfortability for clients amid the pandemic.

Balancing digital and in-person offerings.

Time also allowed us to build our online presence for virtual classes. With 72% of club owners now offering livestream group workouts, we knew this was an avenue we needed to pursue – and run flawlessly – to meet changing consumer needs. Whether you are a busy professional or a parent multitasking with remote learning or otherwise, a well-functioning online class platform gives clients numerous options and flexibility to connect with your business, while also meeting them wherever they feel safest to take a class. Providing digital options that compliment in-person offerings is key in today’s business environment.

The fitness industry was transforming.

The typical gym membership experience once held a monopoly over the fitness industry and consumers. Since the pandemic, gym substitutes have become even more visible representing a significant shift in the industry to serve and support consumer demands. This movement within the fitness industry allowed us to take a new approach with fitness classes in a new market.

As of July 1, 2021, more than 20% of gyms and studios had permanently closed their doors, with many going out of business due to lack of adaptability and many more shifting to online classes and new business models. Because of this, we were able to enter the market at an even playing field, if not an advantage. We didn’t have any current customers who were frustrated with studio and class changes due to the pandemic, were able to adapt to the pandemic era and cater to the needs of the consumer from the get-go.

The pandemic brought light to the importance for all business owners to work adaptability into their business model. Businesses across all industries, especially consumer focuses should have plans in place to pivot quickly and try new tactics should obstacles like this happen again in the future.

From adjusting our lifestyles to abide with social distancing protocols, to adjusting to remote schooling and more, just like the rest of the world, we had grown into a mindset to roll with the ever changing environment. This agile mindset allowed us to view our business opportunities with the same tenacious mentality. Pursuing entrepreneurship in any walk of life is a daunting commitment, especially when you add a global pandemic into the equation, however, the state of the world and specifically the fitness industry allowed us to step out of the box, get creative and share our favorite fitness routine with a brand new demographic.

Leslie has over 20 years of experience providing guidance to media companies such as Spotify, Viacom, WebMD and more as a Digital Ad Revenue Operations Consultant. When Leslie’s family moved from New York to Carmel, Indiana in 2019, she took her business experience and passion for wellness to open Physique 57’s first Midwest franchise location to help the Indianapolis community make wellness a priority. To learn more about Physique 57 Indianapolis you can visit physique57.com/indianapolis.

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