We recently connected with Bridget Ericsson and have shared our conversation below.
Bridget, appreciate you joining us today. One of the toughest things about entrepreneurship is that there is almost always unexpected problems that come up – problems that you often can’t read about in advance, can’t prepare for, etc. Have you had such and experience and if so, can you tell us the story of one of those unexpected problems you’ve encountered?
Before COVID hit my business was doing fairly well. I work at home teaching private pilates sessions. I am also a personal traniner. I’ve always had a “backup plan” thus I have a second job as a contract instructor at a small boutique-style pilates studio near my home as well. Business was going well for me in both jobs.
When COVID hit everyone was told to shut down for an indefinite period of time. I was fortunate that the studio I worked for was gracious enough to still pay us for the time that we were closed because I was no longer making money at home. I am a single family income and I am divorced but my adult daughter who was a college student had moved back home and my son was a senior in high school and was spending the majority of time at home with me as well. Adult kids eat a lot and take up a lot of space. I loved having both of my kids back at home but finances were tight.
I knew I had to come up with a plan quickly to start making money again. I started emailing and calling all of my clients. I also contacted my employer. I initiated a plan to begin teaching classes as well as privates online via Zoom. I knew if I was feeling the effects of COVID so would my clients. People NEED movement in times of stress and hardship and very often it is the first thing people stop doing because they are so desperate to just pay the bills and meet their basic needs.
My plan worked as I was one of the first instructors in the area to begin online training. Other instructors and business owners began reaching out to me to see how and what I was doing to make it work. I explained my simple act of reaching out to others. People need connections in difficult times. This was as important as the movement itself.
I found simple joy in just talking to people as we were all so isolated. I had my kids do Pilates with me. I invited friends and family to join for a first session free online. The mat classes took off and we found a sense of community with each other. We were apart but we were together.
Because of my need to connect with others my business thrived. I had more clients post COVID than before. My clients knew I was there for them and in a time of unsure-ness- I was a constant. Now of course, we are all back to “normal” again and all of my clients have stuck with me. In fact I have more people now than I did before.
I continue to teach my class online and now know that when a client isn’t feeling well we can always meet from the comfort of their home in front of the screen and still have them move. This has also given me the ability to teach from other locations other than my own home.
I know for many COVID has been a horrible thing but for me I found the silver lining and made it work to my benefit. I am grateful to my clients for sticking with me and spreading the work that movement can still happen even if we aren’t face to face!
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
My company is called WonderWorks Fitness. I am a private in-home pilates studio. I also have a private in-home gym where I do personal training. My clientele ranges in age from teens to people in their 70’s. I work with neighborhood college students who are home on break helping them better balance a heavy course load, work, internships. and their own personal health. I also work with an aging population who are living with injuries and want to be pain-free. My job is as much about movement of the body as it is mental health and wellness.
I have always been a “mover” so-to-speak from when I was a child to now. Fitness and enjoyment of the outdoors are my passions. In the summers you can find me on my paddleboard in a Colorado lake or reservoir to a hiking or biking trail. In the winters I am downhill skiing at any ski area in Colorado to cross country skiing, or uphill skiing in the backcountry. Many of my clients are also outdoor enthusiasts so I find I spend many of my adventures with my clients! It’s a great way to get to know people better and really build connections. When I worked in “corporate” fitness this was not encouraged and considered unprofessional. How great to be my own business owner where I can foster these relationships.
What’s been the most effective strategy for growing your clientele?
My strategy has always been to communicate early and often with clients. I reach out to them when they don’t feel well, when they have had a death in the family, a birth, any life celebration. People appreciate the relationship as much as the work that we do together to get their bodies in a healthier place. My relationships with my clients are everything. I consider most of my clients friends as we share similar outdoor interests such as skiing, biking, and paddleboarding.
I have never had to “market” per se. All of my business has been by word-of-mouth. Many of my clients know each other. I teach families, friends, and friends of friends!
Building a community where people feel they fit in is also important. People want connections.
We often hear about learning lessons – but just as important is unlearning lessons. Have you ever had to unlearn a lesson?
A lesson I had to unlearn was that what you learn in a book is not what works in real life. People aren’t meant to be trained, programmed, or “taught” via a textbook type style. Each person is unique and has their own set of circumstances, injuries, illnesses, and daily trials and tribulations.
When a person first comes to me I always ask how they are. How is their body? How do they feel? How’s their energy? How hard do they want to work? I used to program each session ahead of time. The client would come to me and I would be disappointed that they couldn’t accomplish what I wanted them to do. I really had to unlearn this. It was my expectation. Not theirs. This has been not just a lesson for me in teaching but in life. To listen. Really listen to what they are saying and also to what they are not saying.
I’ve learned to really read people’s bodies in my job. If they come in with a tight neck, a limp, or a sore back we always go straight to the issue and I start asking questions.
I think this has been my greatest success and accomplishment the past few years in growing. People appreciate when you get straight to the heart of the matter.