Digging deep: the group fitness studio championing online classes
For local gym, Raw By Bek, keeping a sense of community and connection amongst the team and its members has been paramount during COVID-19.
As a leading to-the-beat HIIT group fitness facility, a sense of community has always been the core value of Raw By Bek. Located just south of Brisbane’s CBD, Raw By Bek has been running group HIIT classes for a number of years, growing a dedicated following while creating a strong sense of community amongst local members.
So, when government-enforced lockdown was announced Australia-wide, Raw By Bek founder, Rebekah Strachan, was faced with a difficult decision; flip the entire RBB business model to run online, or temporarily close, running the long-term risk of losing staff and clients.
For Rebekah, keeping this sense of community and connection amongst her team and gym members was paramount. Apprehensive of the effects of the incoming lockdown but already having a strong vision for her business and a strong digital presence, Rebekah launched live-stream workouts in a matter of weeks.
“We had already been planning from quite early on what we’d do if and when the lockdown hit Australia,” said Rebekah “This pre-planning ended up being a blessing in disguise.”
Researching streaming services, the equipment required, and designing a robust support network for her clients, Rebekah found solace and support in her personal network.
As a business, how do we get people to commit to their fitness journeys during lockdown? People join a gym to be a part of the environment we create. Physically going to a space to workout, working with others, these things are very powerful motivators. We had to find a way to bring that into people’s lives at home. And fast.Rebekah Strachan, founder, Raw By Bek
“For the past four years I’ve been building up a professional network in the industry stateside—this is where the majority of our own fitness trends emerge—, and given the USA was a few weeks ahead of us, I’d heard through contacts about everyone switching to online classes. We went live with our live streaming classes one to two weeks before gyms were instructed to close. Being able to troubleshoot in advance has been such an asset to the changes we’ve faced in the business.”
Long term business goals already included the diversification of the Raw By Bek brand—including expanding locations, membership options and digital classes—but having to pivot the business so quickly for its survival was confronting.
“It was incredibly challenging,” Rebekah said, “but I’m so thankful for the support from our team to get everything up and running. My local Suncorp store has been especially supportive over the past few months, too, and know me by name.
It’s been a difficult time for my industry, and knowing I have that kind of support has been reassuring. Ultimately, it’s made me think about Raw’s long-term future. Shutdown has forced us to take action on these projects sooner than we expected, but it’s been amazing to see it come to life for our community.”
John Debenham, Head of Suncorp’s Business Banking said the bank is committed to helping customers get their business back on track.
“Small businesses which can adapt and shift throughout the pandemic are going to see real benefits, just as Rebekah has been able to do. It’s fantastic Suncorp can support these businesses along the way to ensure they can come out the other side of this pandemic and thrive,” said John.
Small businesses which can adapt and shift throughout the pandemic are going to see real benefits, just as Rebekah has been able to do. It’s fantastic Suncorp can support these businesses along the way to ensure they can come out the other side of this pandemic and thrive.John Debenham, Head of Suncorp’s Business Banking
Something Rebekah and her team are most proud of is the outpouring of support from their members about the live streaming classes.
“Our members are embracing the change! One of the biggest things to overcome as a business was maintaining that motivation factor; how do we get people to commit to their fitness journeys during lockdown? People join a gym to be a part of the environment we create.
Physically going to a space to workout, working with others, these things are very powerful motivators. We had to find a way to bring that into people’s lives at home. And fast. Choosing to live stream our HIIT classes over pre-record was a way we believed our members would still be able to connect with us in real-time. They still get that same experience”.
While the new normal for Rebekah and her team of trainers may be less physically connected during lockdown, Raw By Bek has managed to keep that crucial element; connectivity in time of adversity.
“We stream our classes, live, multiple times a day. We are lucky in that as trainers, we are still able to come to the facility and record from there. It has given our community a sense of normality, but also us” she says.
For what the future holds for Raw By Bek, Rebekah has never felt more focussed. “We’re already thinking about what the return to the space looks like, for the team and for our members.”
“We have a number of things working in our favour; for one, we have a large studio space—so distancing measures can easily be enforced. We are fastidious about cleaning the space and equipment anyway, all members already own their own set of exercise bands to bring to classes. We will be able to make it work safely for us all moving forward.
In terms of live streaming, Rebekah has managed to troubleshoot initial teething issues by sheer perseverance, coming out of lockdown with a new platform, and product, for her business.
“Given how popular our switch to live-stream classes have been, we’ve already been asking our existing members what they’d like to see from us when things return to some sort of normality. We’ve had such a positive response, so we’re looking to offer a hybrid membership — a mix of in-studio classes as well as online.”
Feeling connected, keeping well and helping others goes hand-in-hand with a career in health and fitness, and while Rebekah is certain that this pandemic will change the workings of the industry, she remains ever optimistic.
“As trainers, this is what we sign up for; supporting others to reach a goal. We are in it for that ‘people’ connection. And I am so grateful we have kept that.”