Small businesses, like boutique gyms, try hard to keep customers engaged

Posted at 2:57 PM, Apr 08, 2020

Everyday routines for most people have been disrupted amid the COVID-19 outbreak. As businesses were forced to close their doors in light of stay-at-home orders issued across the country, members of gyms and workout studios have had to adapt to new exercise routines.

"The day we found out we had to close down it was pretty tough on us," said Brady Cooley, with Fit36, a gym in Denver, CO.

“What the hell are we going to do? What are our members going to do?” asked co-owner Ned Matheson.

Matheson and Cooley considered closing their doors during the pandemic. Instead, they're figuring out how to survive in the most abnormal of situations.

"How about we start recording these things and possibly live stream these workouts with people?" Matheson proposed.

Since people can't work out in their gym, they've turned their space into a makeshift broadcast studio.

Each day, they live stream workouts to their clients who pay monthly memberships.

“We can see our members through the Zoom calls,” Cooley said. Who’s work out, who’s on each of the workouts.”

Coaches can see a screen that shows each member of the class working out at home. So, while in isolation, members follow the coach's lead as if they were still together.

The ability to still be coached is one of the draws to keep members on board as they try to keep in shape at home.

“Everybody who is still a paying member has access to all of our live workouts and our recorded workouts," Cooley said.

What places like Fit36 are doing is the kind of the business agility that Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Brough says is key as the coronavirus crisis continues.

"This is a group of people, just to start their company they had to be really hard working and really fast thinking and rely on other resources to support them, and those skills alone will help them navigate this more successfully," Brough said of small business owners.

A recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife found nearly a quarter of small businesses say they are two months or less away from closing permanently.
Many businesses are changing what they offer in hopes they can survive the economic downturn.

Sit-down restaurants now offer curbside pick-up, bars are offering bottle take outs of their favorite cocktails for customers to take home since they can't come inside, and gyms are going virtual to keep their clients onboard.

“Having to take your entire business model and change it into something completely different in a matter of days," Matheson said.

He and Cooley know they might not be able to keep every client through the crisis, but they aren't giving up.

“None of us know what’s really going to happen," Cooley said. "But I think just pushing through and keeping that to the side and pushing through with what we know, what we do best is provide workouts and keep the community tight.”