The pandemic-forced restrictions around using gyms and other fitness venues has not only made keeping fit a challenge during COVID-19, but has also made life very hard for fitness businesses. JennaMaye Fitness in Vancouver is unusual in that personal trainer Jenna Maye was already thinking of providing online-only classes before the pandemic hit.
This enabled her to pivot quickly and offer a range of group classes designed to progressively improve the fitness of her at-home clients. We talked to Jenna about her approach to running virtual fitness classes while still maintaining the “personal” element of personal training and replicating the community aspect of group classes.
What’s your business all about?
I try to focus on making people feel really comfortable with fitness, especially as a beginner. I come from a background of not being athletic at all. So, I always view any of the fitness experiences I create for people through that lens. I also keep things simple. I decided right away to just offer four classes, and to not name them anything fun or creative—just Arms and Abs, Leg Day, Cardio Core, and a full body circuit called The Circuit. I want to eliminate anxiety for people when they start out with fitness.
How did your new business model come about?
When the pandemic hit, I pivoted pretty quickly, but I was ready for a change. I had a personal training studio, but managing a physical location was so much work. It was basically my whole life. When all this happened, I was like, “Well, I guess we’re gonna go online.” I had already been kind of moving in that direction, and it just accelerated a lot of things. I didn’t think I was going to move my entire business online, but had to because there was no other choice.
"I want to eliminate anxiety for people when they start out with fitness."
How do you compete in a crowded fitness market?
I originally opened my studio before some of those larger, more global fitness brands came to Vancouver. When they arrived, I had just started my group fitness stuff, and I was wondering how that would affect my business because some people obviously really like that glossy, branded fitness experience. People kept telling me that when they go into these large gyms, no-one knows their name—even if they go the same day at the same time. I realized that my niche was connecting with my clients, and that there are still people in Vancouver that want that personal experience. I think that’s how small businesses can compete.
With my business, keeping it simple and accessible has worked really well for me in terms of the demographic I work with. I think being super clear in my branding caters to that person that’s feeling a little bit nervous going into another fitness environment. My clients know exactly what each class offers and the benefits they’ll get from doing it.
Have you noticed a change since going online?
I have noticed that existing clients come to classes more consistently now. Without needing to travel to a class, working out in your living room is simply more convenient. I appreciate there are people who live to go to the gym, and they are really suffering right now because they miss the community. But there’s a whole other person that never felt comfortable going to the gym, and would have never even thought about doing a virtual group fitness class. Because they kind of got forced into it by COVID, they’ve experienced the benefits and enjoy it. After the pandemic, I might open a small space to work with one-on-one clients and use it as a filming studio for my virtual classes. But I don’t see myself doing in-person group fitness again.
What are your most popular classes?
Leg Day is really popular, because everybody wants the glutes. A lot of people also love The Circuit because it touches on everything and it flows really nicely. People feel like they get that full body workout in 45 minutes, so it’s really efficient. It’s also a great class for people that aren’t in the best shape, because they don’t have to commit to doing 45 minutes of legs, for example. You do some squats, then some triceps, and so on.
Why do you think it’s important for people to continue to support small businesses?
You don’t miss community until you don’t have it. If we don’t support small businesses, we just won’t have a community. I’m guilty of shopping at the big box retailers, but for my Christmas shopping I went up Main Street where there’s a ton of little boutiques. I did pretty much all my shopping there because I don’t want them to close down. And the reality is, if we don’t support small businesses, especially right now, they will close down.
What are some of your favourite small businesses?
There’s this little coffee shop near where I live that is very community based called the Federal Store. They are definitely a big community builder. I really like an amazing clothing company that specializes in consignment called Hunter and Hare. They do a beautiful job making consignment clothes feel new again. I just think it’s such a nice way to reuse stuff. I have also always really liked Glory Juice Co. for healthy smoothies. And then there’s a boutique on Main Street called Much & Little, which carries beautiful women’s wear and gift items.
"You don't miss community until you don't have it. If we don't support small businesses, we just won't have a community."
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