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REWORK: Flexing into online future

10:00am June 09 2020

BodyMindLife’s Phil Goodwin and Christian Ralston on the business’s COVID-19 pivot. (Josh Wall)

As the Australian economy awakens from shutdown, Phil Goodwin is realistic about the challenges of cranking up compared to closing down. 

“It's good news that we get to reopen,” says the founder and CEO of NSW yoga and pilates business, BodyMindLife, of the state government’s recent decision to allow gyms and fitness studios to reopen from June 13. 

“(But) it's going to be much harder coming out than going in.” 

Goodwin says the biggest initial challenge will be the limit of 10 people per class, leading him to initially  reopen two of his studios in Sydney’s Surry Hills and Bondi to “see what happens”. 

“Although it's not profitable to open up with 10 people, I am assuming for nearly every boutique business out there it's something that you need to do for your customers and your customers will expect it.

“We're going to cross our fingers and pray that they increase it to 20 people pretty quickly.” 

Despite the difficulties many small businesses are confronting to get back to normal, BodyMindLife has a new offering it otherwise might not have after pivoting to get through the financial strain from the restrictions to contain COVID-19. It involved streaming classes to the company’s eager customer base spread across its studios, which also includes Redfern, Potts Point, Kirrawee and Byron Bay. 

“We went from being a yoga and pilates studios to a content production house. By the time we were shut down on the 23rd (of March), we were streaming 70 classes a week,” says Goodwin, who co-founded the business in 2004. 

“It's been financially hard and very emotionally draining. (But) we've pivoted the business … online yoga and pilates classes, workshops and podcasts and all of these kinds of things which we actually wouldn't have had the opportunity to do before. 

“Online classes are here to stay and our students are loving them, so we will keep it going.”

BodyMindLife is far from alone. 

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry last week said its latest survey revealed 38 per cent of businesses reported a greater than 80 per cent decline in revenue in May relative to normal expectations, with more than 80 per cent reporting a decline of over 25 per cent relative to normal. An Australian Bureau of Statistics survey between May 13 and 22 also found three quarters of businesses said they’d changed the way they operate. 

Despite the business challenges, Christian Ralston, BodyMindLife’s head Yoga Teacher, says the shift to online classes during COVID-19 has made him a better teacher. 

“We've had an awesome response. I often get stopped in the street. Someone shouts at me from across the road, saying ‘I've been loving the online classes’,” he says. 

“I think the biggest thing is that people can take class whenever they want.”

Josh Wall is the Head of Video at Westpac Wire. Prior to joining the team, he spent 10 years as a video journalist and documentary filmmaker, most recently as Head of Video for the Guardian Australia. He also worked across numerous News Corp mastheads in Sydney as a presenter, producer, writer and video journalist. Josh is originally from Perth, Western Australia where he began his career by co-creating a video magazine that focused on music and the arts.

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