The Glen Fitness Studio works out the best way to use digital
The day after COVID-19 hit Canada, Barbara Gill knew the pandemic was going to have an irrevocable impact on The Glen Fitness Studio, the fitness centre she’d opened in Glen Williams just outside Georgetown in 2013.
“My husband said to me ‘you need to get everything on Zoom today, Barb,’ “ recalls Gill. “And I did – we got our classes online and my trainers started doing as much as they could, the gym cleared our of equipment, all loaned out except for the big stuff… people just kept hammering away from home.”
She says the pivot helped keep her afloat. It also threw the personal trainer into a completely new world, one that felt at odds with the world she’d built The Glen Fitness Studio for. In 2013, Gill was just returning to Canada after 20 years in Africa. She’d trained to be a personal trainer and had the ambition to open a fitness centre here.
After working at GoodLife Fitness for a few months, she noticed a lot of the trainers were in their early 20s. “I was 52 years old at the time (and) I just thought there was a real need for people to have trainers that were more mature,” says Gill. She wanted to build a fitness centre where mature clients could choose training sessions that fit their budget, flexibility that she couldn’t find at other gyms in the area. When she launched The Glen Fitness Centre, digital presence was far from her mind.
“For a long time, because I had a lot of seniors who don’t do social media and because I'm in a small community, I really felt that I didn't need to get into the digital stuff,” says Gill. “I thought we'd be okay without it.”
But that proved not to be the case, especially when the pandemic forced the temporary closure of gyms. She heard from her local Business Improvement Area association about Digital Main Street, a program that combines grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario alongside partners like Google, Shopify and Mastercard among others to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities and plan for the digital future.
She applied for a $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant and used the funds to work with Tech Coaches, a local tech consultant. The Glen Fitness Centre also invested in a website and a series of promotional videos.
Gill learned how to make social posts through Canva, a design tool, which she says has helped improve the quality of marketing materials. Now a few years into her digital experiment and a couple of months into focusing on social media and digital presence, Gill says she’s finding her rhythm and in cases where she hits a hurdle, she feels supported.
“It was very scary to get into social media and technology,” says Gill. “At times when I'd get into a real bind, couldn't find my way out now… I’d be wallowing in frustration – (now) I can get it sorted out quickly.”