Of all the business scenarios I planned for as the owner of my fitness studio, sculp'd, managing through a global pandemic never made it onto my list of worst-case scenarios. What does this feel like? It's just like riding the scariest roller coaster, after eating a corn dog and fries, and they won’t let you off the ride. Here is an inside look into the mind and wild thoughts of a small business owner trying to survive through COVID-19.
sculp’d forcibly goes from 75 in-studio classes a week to zero. From 18 employees and instructors to three. I cut as many expenses as I can, call the landlord, call all suppliers & vendors. I close the doors, and encourage my staff and clients to shelter at home. I talk to my webmaster every day – we get our YouTube Channel launched. I update the website, learn WordPress and start coding on www.sculpd.co. The new website is ready to go. Maybe I should go into web design?
Two weeks in and sculp’d has over 10,000 streams from our free videos. Amazing! We are killing it! We are going to make it!
Our sculp’d squad knows we need their support – they will, of course, join our new paid platform. We just need to cover our expenses to get through this.
We’ll make it.
Three weeks now and I think we are total rock stars! We changed our business model overnight and they love us. They really love us! In just three weeks, sculp’d went from zero online classes per week to 20 and we now have over 100 OnDemand videos in our library. Our total views top 15,000. But wait .... people aren’t converting to paid memberships. They are only using the free videos. What?
Did I totally screw this up?
I became a Small Business expert on the loans and Payback Protection Program (PPP). I share my knowledge with all of the other Old Town Boutiques. Do this! Get ready for that! Prepare these documents! I woke up at 5 am on April 3rd to get my PPP application submitted first thing. I totally got this. sculp’d will get the loans and we can make it to June (?).
We get a lot of member sign ups – for $99/mo they get to choose how they want to work out. 20 Livestream classes per week or anytime on the OnDemand video library. But not enough to sustain us. Can we hit our goals? Will we meet our expenses?
A sleepless night trying to figure out how I make payroll. Not for me but for everyone else. I cover expenses. I am inspired by the dedication of my team, clients and our first responders. I keep going. Alright, alright, alright. I keep pivoting and making it work.
"PPP and SBA be damned. We will make it on our own – hard work and grit got us here and we can get through this."-Betsy Weissman
The PPP runs out of money. Harvard with their $40 billion endowment got it. An Energy Company with 915 employees got $20 million. WTF is going on here? I have one full time employee and a handful of part-time employees. Wasn’t the loan intended for small businesses like mine? We are done. Time to figure out how to shut down. Don’t talk to me about your PPP – happy you got it but, at the same time, I needed it,too. I Netflix. I signed up for Masterclass. I walk 5 miles every day trying to think, think, think.
The way forward is becoming clear to me. Clarity around my team. This industry. What we need to do for the next year.
Our path forward.
So many new ideas. We are going to use this as a launchpad to something even better. Live and OnDemand is a hit and it’s not going away. sculp’d is not going away. PPP and SBA be damned. We will make it on our own – hard work and grit got us here and we can get through this.
When will Virginia reopen? That is definitely not within my control. Will our members come back? That is within my control. Play to our strengths and finalize our sanitization protocols.
These last six weeks have passed in a blur. I have barely slept. This roller coaster ride is making me sick, for sure (but in that I’m so scared, I am going to puke, but I love it anyway kind-of-a-way.)
So, who’s in for the ride of their “fitness” lives? (But first, sign up for our monthly unlimited already!)
Story by Betsy Weissman | As published in the May 2020 issue of VIP Alexandria Magazine