(Editor’s Note: At York IE, we don’t just work with entrepreneurs. We are entrepreneurs. This is certainly true of Ashley Oberg who in addition to being our Director, Business Administration is also the owner of Barre Life.)
As a new owner of a small business news of COVID-19 brought a lot of questions and challenges to the surfaces.
News was changing quickly and every day brought new suggestions on how to handle the situation and best practices. Everyone was looking for someone to tell them what to do. A week ago the studio was business as usual. We are a small studio with class sizes under 15 people, so we felt safe. I stocked up on as many cleaning supplies that were available. I reassured clients that the studio was a clean environment for them.
What led me to make the call
I immersed myself in every article and news update I could find about the virus. I watched studios all across the country to see what they were doing. They were all posting updates along the lines of, “We are staying open, taking extra precautions to clean, working out keeps you healthy”. My clients were begging me to stay open, it was their one outlet in the day for themselves and it helped take their mind off everything. So I did just that, cleaned more than ever, reduced class sizes, reduced the use of props in class, kept the doors open and people kept coming.
Something still just didn’t feel right. How can you truly protect yourself, your business and other clients? I didn’t want to be the first one to close up shop, but I also didn’t want to be the studio that put people in danger.
The only answer in my mind was to close the doors. How was I going to do that? I have instructors who rely on that income. Would all of my clients just go to the next studio who was still open and then never come back?
A situation likes this forces you out of your comfort zone, WAY out of it. I finally had to shut everyone out and do what my gut had been telling me all along.
Time to adapt
Monday the 16th I made the announcement to shut down until April. I’m still very much learning how to be a leader. I’m used to being in a supporting role so switching gears and making big calls like that was scary for me. I realized the only one who could tell me what was best to do was me. I had to be that example for my staff and clients.
I had already been working on ways to bring my studio classes online – playing around with some options that I was going to launch in April. I knew I couldn’t shut the door on my studio community completely and had to bite the bullet and launch virtual classes before my team and I were ready.
I am thankful for technology in so many ways. I have been able to train my team over text, FaceTime, email and Zoom. I have taken webinars and classes to quickly learn best practices for live virtual classes. Sure we are all nervous and scared, but knowing we can keep working out and offering this to our clients in this uncertain time makes it all worth it.
As nervous as I was about the uncertainty of the studio’s future, the outpouring of support I have received is overwhelming. Everyone said this was the right call and they can’t wait to practice with us at home. People have been signing up and showing up from all over the country! Friends that moved away, or people who saw our posts online are joining us and that’s beyond my wildest dreams.
The fact that I know I am not alone and that every person and business is going through this puts things in perspective. It could be so much worse for my studio. I feel for those restaurants and hospital workers, people who can’t work from home. I am very lucky that I have a full time job that lets me work from home, and provides me the option to close down the studio and not take pay so I can make sure my instructors still get paid. I know many studios are not in that position and I hope we all make it out of this.
Seeing how everyone is coming together to support each other is amazing. I hope it continues even after we are “back to normal”. I hope we will open our doors again soon, because nothing can truly replace the feeling of being inside that studio with our friends. But I am so thankful to be able to still do what I love and give people options. Thank you Zoom meetings!
How we can all help
Please continue to support small businesses, buy gift cards, share their brand on your social, sign up for virtual classes, order take out.
I’ll be using this little extra time away from the studio to recharge, work on new events, and continued education so that when we open back up we will be better and stronger than ever.