Flexing Their Creativity: Pivoting in the Fitness Industry

CBDC Central PEICentre for Entrepreneurship Education & Development Inc.Metro Business Opportunities CorporationNewfoundlandNova ScotiaPrince Edward IslandResilience

How Three Fitness Entrepreneurs Have Overcome COVID-19 Challenges


With Atlantic Canada experiencing a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a second wave of restrictions, small business owners are once again under pressure – few more so than those in the fitness industry. With gyms and recreation facilities amongst the first to close during an outbreak, fitness entrepreneurs have had to get creative to continue operating their businesses while also keeping their clients and communities safe. Find out how three Impact clients in three provinces have adjusted to survive and thrive despite pandemic restrictions.

Aumbience Yoga and Wellness – Adopting Virtual Ventures

When Michelle Robinson opened Aumbience Yoga and Wellness in 2019, the last thing she expected was for a worldwide pandemic to disrupt her business plan. But that is exactly what happened in the spring of 2020. After just nine months in operation, Aumbience Yoga had to close its doors for in-person classes. Faced with uncertainty and loosing revenue, Michelle turned to the team at CEED (Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development) in Halifax, Nova Scotia for help.

“One day I called my advisor and I almost couldn’t talk, he was like ‘are you okay?’ I was full on tears. He was just on the phone and all he said was ‘I am here and ready when you’re ready’. Just to have him on the other end of the line, and just know that they were there and that they were willing and able to work with me in whatever capacity that they could, was a huge relief. I reached out for advice and I was also able to communicate with my advisor to have a couple months [of Impact loan repayments] put on hold and then even be able to have a couple of my months reduced so that I didn’t have the full amount to pay.”

Michelle Robinson, owner of Aumbience Yoga and Wellness

With her own peace of mind assured, Michelle decided to use technology to give back to her community. Like many other affected fitness businesses, Aumbience Yoga quickly shifted to offer online classes. However, Michelle recognized that her students were dealing with isolation and missing the energy of her studio and connecting with like-minded people. She created an offshoot brand called AUM@Home to give consistency and community to her students. What began as a 30-day virtual program, offering participants daily content and prompts in a group setting, has now shifted into a YouTube channel with short-form yoga videos.

In addition to the free AUM@Home resources, Michelle is planning to launch a subscription-based online content library, as well as several special video series. This digital content will create recurring and passive revenue streams for her business. In the meantime, she has continued to offer select classes with both in-person and virtual options, helping her business succeed in spite of physical capacity restrictions, while also making yoga accessible to those who are practicing self-isolation at home.

Michelle prepping her yoga studio for class.


Aerial Warehouse – Pandemic Optimized Offerings

Aerial Warehouse is an alternative fitness studio located in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Owned by Jade Robinson, the business focuses on pole and hammock fitness, made possible by special apparatuses and equipment located within their studio space.

When COVID-19 restrictions forced her classes to go virtual in the spring of 2020, Jade knew that her students would not have the specialized equipment needed to participate in pole or hammock fitness classes from home. This meant rethinking her class offerings when creating digital content. Jade quickly tailored her online classes to strength, conditioning, and flexibility – all exercises that would benefit her students when they could return to regular classes.

Since reopening the studio, Jade has taken the COVID-19 restrictions in stride, adjusting to reduced class sizes and new sanitation procedures. She has also continued to offer occasional digital classes, such as a recent series on “Flexibility and Floorwork”. The studio has also launched a new class type that embraces pandemic restrictions – chair dance! Available as a regular class or a private party, the new offering is low-contact and physically distanced, making it a great activity for friends and ‘bubbles’.

Jade Robinson, owner of Aerial Warehouse


Cirque’letics – Seeking Solutions Outdoors

2020 was always going to be a year of business uncertainty for entrepreneur Danielle Aubut. Her circus arts school Cirque’letics was in need of a new home, a process that would take months of renovations and disruptions in any given year. But 2020 was to be no typical year.

The end of Cirque’letics commercial lease coincided with the March onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the temporary closure of the business was not due to the outbreak, the lockdown did extend the renovation process by many months due to issues obtaining permits and hiring contractors.

Danielle Aubut, owner of Cirque’letics

However, a closed studio did not keep the St. John’s, Newfoundland entrepreneur from sharing her circus skills. Danielle took to social media, offering glimpses of what her new space had in store, including a full wall dedicated to vertical dance. To show-off this new offering, Danielle recruited some of her experienced students and took to the great outdoors. While outdoor fitness allowed for greater physical distancing and lower aerosol risk, it also meant that Cirque’letics safety truss system was unavailable. Danielle overcame this by working with local rock climbers – utilizing their safety equipment and locations. The result was visually stunning and captured the interest of both students and the public alike.

Outdoor Aerial Dance. Photo Credit: Scott Humber

Now, the end is in sight for Danielle’s lengthy business closure. She is hopeful that Cirque’letics will be open in its new space by January 2021, with a full slate of classes and lessons. Danielle knows that pandemic restrictions are likely to continue for some time, so she has a plan at the ready, one that she eagerly awaits implementing in her new location.


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