It’s been a hugely tough year for small businesses. Trying to juggle home schooling with full time jobs whilst worrying about your clients needs, looking after your staff, medical shielding and concerns if you’ll ever get through it.
But through it we did! Like many of the wonderful inspiring businesses out there, we were just doing our best to stay positive, keep motivated and keep motivating others.
Being part of a community like Hitchin has meant everything. All the local businesses and town centre team, helped keep each other boosted up in darker days.Michelle
So imagine our surprise when a journalist from the Guardian Newspaper got in touch to say we had been chosen us as one of only 12 UK small medium businesses for how we had pivoted during Covid19 and lockdown and they wanted to come and do a socially distanced photoshoot.
Like a rainbow after the rain clouds, the delightful news spread further joy in our hearts as we learnt we have been particular chosen for how we have supported our clients, staff and community.
- Free classes for NHS workers.
- Teaming up with celeb clients and worldwide Pilates friends to run free “Lockdown Live” sessions on Instagram to help move and educate people with back pain and a range of medical conditions.
- Supporting our team and keeping their jobs going throughout with salaries and holiday pay.
- Slashing the cost of online classes by half to help those struggling to pay.
- Gifting our members with free classes every single month for over a year to ensure they moved more!
- Working with the community, running free Pilates programmes for children like the Luton Town Football Club Academy.
- Delivering and loaning items to clients at home that needed it.
- Making regular check up calls on vulnerable clients
- Ensuring our online sessions had time for pre and post chat time to ensure they stay connected in a time of loneliness.
- Running mediations classes, art club and Pod social quizzes to keep a healthy mental wellbeing.
- Communicating regularly with the team and continuing training
And then a few months later, VISA said they wanted to feature us again in recognition!
Rewind back to the beginning of March.
Following our transition to a fully classical Pilates studio in 2018, and all of the significant investment that entailed both in putting our team through the same training Michelle had achieved and in all the apparatus, we had been enjoying a fantastic year since and everyone was loving the benefits . Visits were up, memberships were introduced and the feedback on our services was fantastic. So when Covid-19 started taking a hold of the country, and we received news that we would have to close our doors overnight, we were devastated.
A meeting was held with our wonderful team, and there were tears (predominantly from Michelle and I) as we explained that the future looked pretty dark at that moment. There could be no guarantees as to the future of the Pod, post-covid. It was our most worrying moment in our nearly 10 years as a business. (and we’ve been through credit crunch, recession having two children, a couple of serious illnesses, many staffing let downs and crisis, an expansion that fell through and cost us greatly, a nasty year long trolling attack on Michelle and then Brexit and finally Covid19 to boot!)
But, as a team we dug deep. Michelle and I reverted back to our origins as a business and spent many hours discussing our strategy over a few glasses of wine as husband and wife, business owners and team! We discussed a variety of options, including freezing the business altogether – furloughing the entire team and waiting for it all to blow over.
However, we quickly decided that this was not really an option. With everyone stuck at home under lockdown, the need for people to move their bodies and to have some social interaction was more important than ever. We are unique in our industry, in that we employ our staff where mostly you see freelance contractors, so we strongly felt the need to support our staff and give them the best chance of a living.
We committed to continuing our classes and 1:1s to the best of our ability online via Zoom. There was a very steep learning curve, not just for ourselves and the team – but also for our customers – and many early weeks spent in ‘tech support’ phone calls, dealing with behind the scenes tech work to get things smoothly integrated with our booking tool, and to train the team weekly with how to deliver the sessions to be the best quality for sound, light, and having our Pod stamp on things; all of course whilst everyone was dealing with home schooling, family life stresses and panic!
In time, we all got to grips with things together. Our virtual classes were operational within 7 days of lockdown, and continue to this day post lockdown – with loads of members, and people who were new to the Pod enjoying the change of Pilates from home with our incredible team.
We had no choice but to change, learn, evolve, modernise and digitise to survive. We have, and we will continue to do so.
Fast forward to the Guardian and Visa piece
For a small, family business like ours to feature on a national website, having been picked out by a massive brand like VISA and Guardian is enormous. It’s also incredibly validating. Michelle and I don’t see ourselves as business people most of the time. We make things up as we go along, we’re reactive, creative and full of passion and dedication but ‘business’ is not our business. Our business is people. Love. Laughter. Fun. Movement. Body Positive. Inclusive Fitness. Mental Health and Happiness.
We’re now about to celebrate our 10th birthday at the Pod on 5th July, the same day as our wedding anniversary (16 years!)
So please raise a glass with us, and here’s to the continued good times being part of the #podsquad, being part of a community like Hitchin and to the good times for everyone ahead!
Thank you for all your love and support. Let’s keep going shall we 🙂
Ed and Michelle x