While it’d be downright distasteful to argue that the COVID crisis has been a net positive for small businesses, there have been stacks of cases of entrepreneurs thinking outside the box, and making the undesirable situation work for them.
A superb example of this is Crunch Chorus member Sam Robbins, who started independent fitness studio Sussex Zest in Haywards Heath in May of 2015.
When the studio closed due to the pandemic in March 2020, Sam conducted a survey and discovered that 60% of clients were unwilling to pay a higher fee for a smaller, socially distanced group fitness experience.
With the studio’s commercial lease set to expire in June, Sam opted not to renew, and instead embraced the opportunity to pivot towards delivering online training on a full-time basis.
“The lightbulb moment was a lockdown webinar with the local business growth hub entitled ‘Rewrite Your Business Plan For Post-COVID19,” says Sam. “It was then I realised that the £10,000 government grant wasn’t to pay rent and fight for survival, but to sustain or grow my business however I saw fit”.
Thankfully, the gamble paid off, and investment in audiovisual broadcasting equipment and a full business rebrand (into ‘Zest Live’) produced some astonishing results.
“Our bookings are up 2130% versus the same rolling 30 days last year. Overheads are obviously significantly lower. So whilst 2020 has been a challenging year, it certainly pushed us to think outside the box!”
When asked to share a favourite tip for someone just starting out in business, Sam strongly recommended automating and outsourcing as much as possible.
“It can be quite a challenge for someone like me who is naturally quite frugal in home life... having to invest money to get a return. But without automation and outsourcing, you risk taking it all on yourself. As well as risking burnout, it might mean your clients buy into you - the individual - not the brand, which then makes it very difficult to scale up. My team consists of myself, three instructors, my accountant, bank manager and two business coaches.They’re all pivotal to the success of Zest Live!
As a member of the Crunch Chorus Facebook group, Sam found support from her self-employed peers on getting the most out of the rebrand, and says it was helpful for sourcing answers to answers to questions about “the pros and cons of starting a new company vs 'trading as”.
‘Furry Fridays’, where group members share adorable pictures of their four-legged friends, was also a notable morale-booster for Sam, who discovered the group via attending a Crunch Chorus meetup in Brighton.
“I do hope we can get back there at some point. I’ve gained a few clients, but also skill-traded, and took on some web support.”
Want the same advice and support Sam got when starting or running a business? Join the friendly Crunch Chorus community! You’ll also get access to over 30 jargon-free business guides, and stacks of helpful tools and resources to help you get on with doing what you do best!