One of the most important parts of any business is the community you cultivate. Without customers, your business would struggle to grow or succeed. Which is why not only maintaining her community, but enabling her students to feel empowered, motivated, and encouraged during the pandemic was and remains very important to Jen Day, owner and teacher of iPilates UK. Jen shared with us how her students and studio were affected by COVID-19 and the successful steps she took to keeping her community together.
I have often found myself wondering over the last year, how did my Pilates studio weather the storm of having to shut the doors for 126 days during Covid-19's multiple lockdowns? An even better question is how is my business now thriving as we enter another year of uncertainty...?
At the beginning of 2020, I had great plans for my studio. We were busier than ever, and although admittedly I was a little overwhelmed and overworked, I was thriving on the energy of the studio. Over the last 10 years, I have built a wonderful group of incredible loyal students that share my passion for Pilates.
Then, on March 20, we were told to shut and close our doors as the virus continued to spread. We sensed it was coming, but nothing really prepared us for lockdown. I took everything online and was teaching on Monday morning via Zoom. This took an enormous amount of energy and came with its own steep learning curve. As I got to grip with teaching online, there was no trial, yet probably plenty of errors as I learnt how to navigate this new way of teaching. Little did I know that this would actually keep my business afloat.
The power of community
Naturally, memberships were cancelled, and I took it very personally and felt the loss of each one. I feared the worst and worried that my studio wouldn't survive. Over the next four months I 'zoomed' like crazy. It was an extremely draining way of teaching but the feedback from my students kept me going. I felt an even stronger sense of community developing and was thrilled that some of my students joined a class with me every single morning. It turned out to be our lifeline. We were in this together.
I had invested in my students over the years and their support and loyalty to my business during this extraordinary year have been truly amazing. I credit my success to these key steps and they have not led me wrong.
Lead with integrity
Creating a strong sense of community starts with integrity. A simple honest approach with strong principles. You attract your tribe. I believe in what I teach, I am what I teach. The key is to be authentic, honest, and human. Be an upholder, practise what you preach and people will invest in you.
Teach with passion
Love what you do. Keep learning, keep interested, keep the light alive. Shine your skill like a beacon. Share it with enthusiasm, energy, and joy. It's incredibly powerful. Be a master at what you do, and care how you share it.
Be committed and persevere
Show up. Be responsible and commit to giving your very best. Sharing your knowledge freely and openly. Commit to your students and to your own health, be the change you want to see. Consistency is key, be prepared to grow with your clients as they progress with you. Dedicate your teaching to the well being of others. Be prepared to fail but learn from your mistakes and persevere.
Keep it simple
Be clear on what you are offering. Make it easy for yourself and you students. Do what you can to make coming to class super easy. If paperwork isn’t your strong point, get help. Use a booking system like TeamUp to allow you to give more human hours. Encourage your students to commit to a monthly membership — this is the best way to ensure your student is prepared to commit and mirror your integrity and passion.
This is a big one for me. So much so we have a gratitude practise in class. Be thankful to those that turn up week after week, year after year. It always amazes me. These people choose you and support you, especially in times like these. Be grateful every day that you get to share a passion that you wholeheartedly believe in.
It may mean you wake up at 3 am thinking about an exercise you should have given them, or that you wished you hadn’t. You may never fully switch off to a constant enquiry into the well being of those that learn from you.
You may question yourself and your ability a lot. It may mean you can’t teach all the hours under the sun as it is exhausting from the amount of time you invest in your students. But this is how you build a community. You have to invest, you have to give a lot but the rewards are quite profound.
The Cliche – The more you give, the more you get back is so true. I had invested in these amazing people. It's the boomerang effect!
We're stronger together
Covid closed the studio but very quickly I adapted and kept my relationships alive by Zoom. I taught my community in their own homes, day-in-day-out with the exact same integrity and passion. I shared my fears and anxieties, there was a constant line of communication that for some proved a lifeline, especially for my lovely seniors. I hand-delivered equipment if they didn’t have it, I carried on caring and they carried on booking their classes.
Each day, little did they know these people kept me going, as it turns out they were my lifeline equally and they had my back.
It turns out, we are stronger together. I’m still standing, albeit teaching less, and fewer clients, but caring more for those who are weathering the storm with me. Taking life at an easier pace knowing that once my studio re-opens it's going to be a celebration. We made it through together. Also knowing this, the pandemic has given me time which has been incredibly valuable to my creative self, my family and friends. We may never get an opportunity like this again.
Rolling out a vaccine, spring is ahead, lighter, brighter days to come. I’m sure there will be future challenges, there always are in life. But it’s how we react, it’s how we pivot and it’s all about the connections we make along the way. Community matters.
Thank you very much for sharing your story with us, Jen!