Even though Barre Body was better placed than most to adapt to the new normal, founder Emma Seibold says she felt equal parts terror, desperation and hope when the government first introduced restrictions to curtail the spread of coronavirus.
“It was a very scary time,” she says. “[But] we’re all in the same boat. Often in times of great upheaval and challenge, events [can feel] focused on you, but in this case, we were all in it together and navigating the big mess as a collective.”
Founded in 2012, the fitness studio offers barre, yoga, power pilates, dance cardio, and stretch classes across nine locations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Byron Bay, as well its online portal, Barre Body Online. In one sense, the pandemic has struck a blow to the fitness industry, with gyms and studios around the country having to close their doors. In another sense, however, it’s an opportunity. With little else to do at home but watch Netflix and bake sourdough, the demand for online fitness options is enormous.
Recognising this, Seibold’s plan was straightforward: to “do what we could to mitigate our losses – negotiate with landlords, put bills on hold, reduce costs where possible, and then focus our energies on our online business.” The Barre Body team “worked around the clock to deliver products, services and results”, she says. “Their positivity, commitment and support of each other was inspiring and energising for me. I’ll always be grateful.”
Barre Body’s expanded online offering includes a regular program of live-streamed classes that mirror the studio experience as much as possible, workouts for kids “to support parents at home who are juggling home-schooling”, and complimentary access to the online platform for healthcare workers during the crisis.
Many other businesses in the area have switched their offerings to deal with the crisis – particularly nearby lunch spots like popular Indonesian cafe Enjoy Cafe and the beloved Kitchen by Mike. For Seibold, the core focus is “building community and supporting our clients to feel connected and to actually enjoy their home-studio experience,” she says. “We ran our most successful challenge ever with over 1000 participants – the ‘Stay-at-Home’ 14-day challenge gave our clients a focus and schedule to stick to. Connection is more important now than ever.”
When discussing her efforts to adapt to the Covid-19 restrictions, Seibold comes across as resolutely upbeat – but she says it’s been a difficult experience. “To be honest, I didn’t stay as strong as I usually would. It was immensely stressful,” she says. “I am very lucky that I have an amazing husband and team of people who I love and trust, and who carried the baton for me.”
Still, her optimism is never far away. “I hope that we can hang on to some of the positives: slower living, more family time and connection, less busyness,” she says. “I hope jobs are restored. From a business perspective, I hope we can continue to adapt and thrive in the new world.”