Duluth Fitness Studios Pivot to Online Platforms to Try to Stay Afloat
DULUTH, Minn. — Fitness and wellness businesses in Duluth are fighting to keep revenue going as they have had to shut their doors to clients amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Two of the businesses we spoke with are Movo Studio and Runa Yoga.
Jessica Rossing, owner of Movo Studio, opened her business in its new home on East First Street just seven months ago.
Like all small business owners know, going off on your own requires putting your heart and soul into it, as well as your finances.
“Oh my gosh it’s scary, I mean every last cent that I own went into making this happen,” Rossing said of starting up Movo Studio. “But I think that’s what I really love about entrepreneurship, is that risk of taking that chance to make your dream happen.”
Before Governor Tim Walz ordered businesses to shut down until the end of March to try to contain the spread of the virus, Rossing amde the tough choice to close her fitness studio doors.
“I cried this morning, I cried yesterday, I cried Sunday,” Rossing said earlier this week. “Sunday was the worst though, when I was officially typing up the email and making our Facebook posts of, this is what we’re doing moving forward until March 31st, and I mean it was like ugly cry, like almost hyperventilating.”
Up the hill in Duluth, the owners of Runa Yoga also decided to stop their classes before Minnesota’s state mandated shutdown of non-essential businesses went into effect.
Runa Yoga just celebrated the two-year anniversary of being in their space last week.
“There’s the fear, the unknown, the fatigue, even sleeping at night this is all spinning in the background,” Michelle Cartier, co-owner of Runa Yoga, explained. “So definitely feeling like it’s always there. And you’re thinking about it even when you’re not actively thinking about it.”
Not only did Cartier and her business partner have to cancel regular yoga classes, but also teacher training and yoga retreats, which make up a large chunk of the studio’s revenue.
“We had one coming up in two weeks that we’re to host 50 people, so we had to cancel that, and that was a big loss as well, our teacher training program, we had to take that down for the moment,” Cartier said.
Runa Yoga has 15 employees, while Movo Studio has 14.
For these small business owners, the revenue to pay for their monthly leases and their employees has suddenly dried up.
“Our absolute hope is that we can continue to support our team, we can hold onto our space,” Cartier said.
“It is really scary, like how am I going to take care of my team, continue to pay them and support them, but also make sure that I can still at least pay rent here and make sure that my bills are paid,” Rossing said. “And how do you find that balance of it at all, or the approach of, how do you move forward?”
Both Rossing and Cartier are launching online video subscriptions, with classes taught by their instructors.
While it will only bring in a fraction of what in-person classes usually generate, the hope is that their client bases will support them in these new video-based ventures, that may also experience some hiccups.
“We purchased an online platform over the weekend, and got ready and were ready to present it to our community, and [the website] got overwhelmed because we were of course, not the only yoga studio in the country to think about this option,” Cartier said earlier this week. “So that was again was another shift.”
The studios are also encouraging the fitness community to buy gift cards or class passes now to be used later, if customers are financially able to.
“If it’s not here at Movo, but any studio or gym that you frequent or that you love, that’s how you can support your community is buy a gift card, buy a pass now that you can use later,” Rossing said.
While times are uncertain, the hope is real, as business owners feel the support from the community they can’t even see in-person right now.
“Our community just shows up, from our community of small businesses and entrepreneurs, to our guests in the studio, like everybody immediately stepped up which is really reassuring,” Rossing said. “I think that overall it gives me a lot of optimism, that as hard as it may be, or as hard as it may get, that ultimately I feel confident that we have a really strong community that will continue to uplift one another.”