How Stretch & Flex Started and Grew During a Pandemic

Surveys helped the virtual Pilates studio make quick adjustments and plan for long‑term success.

Michael teaching a pilates class from home.
Stretch & Flex - well-being for your body

Snapshot:

  • Industry: Health and Wellness
  • Location: Eastbourne, England, United Kingdom
  • Company size: 2
  • Year founded: 2020

Published: February 11, 2021

Stretch & Flex founders, Tim and Michael Sitwell-Mogridge, found themselves with a problem in early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused businesses all over the world to shut their doors and go online. Before the pandemic, Michael taught Pilates privately and in gyms around London. “And then COVID-19 happened,” Tim says. “Michael lost all of his work in gyms because they closed down. And we panicked a little bit.”

But instead of letting a difficult situation get the best of them, Tim and Michael saw an opportunity to turn their circumstances into a positive. The pair had dreamed of opening a wellness center and studio together, and while the pandemic made it impossible to open a brick-and-mortar space, they realized they could make their dream a reality by taking their new business idea online.

The challenge: Getting started

Tim has a background in theater and arts, but quickly learned about marketing tools and techniques to help get Stretch & Flex off the ground. Within a matter of weeks, they launched a website and started offering virtual Pilates classes led by Michael.

Tim also set up a Mailchimp account to make it easier to stay in touch with their customers, and when it was time to encourage folks to enroll in classes, he tapped into the audience Michael had grown on Facebook over the years. It wasn’t long before the pair found success. “We started Stretch & Flex online, with just 4 classes,” says Tim. “And then we doubled in 2 days, and now we’re doing 16 classes a week.”

Tim and Michael Sitwell-Mogridge are the owners of Stretch & Flex.

The tools: Mailchimp’s surveys, pop-up forms, and WooCommerce integration

As Stretch & Flex’s audience grew—with the help of Mailchimp’s pop-up forms and the WooCommerce integration that automatically added people to their contact list upon booking a class—Tim and Michael knew they needed to start thinking about the next steps. They wanted to get a better understanding of what was (and wasn’t) working for their customers so they could maintain their momentum and start planning for the future of their business.

They decided to send out a Mailchimp survey to determine if people would feel comfortable going back into gyms when the lockdown ended. They also wanted to gauge clients’ interest in a mix of in-person and online classes and get an idea of how much folks would be willing to pay.

The results were interesting—over 54% of clients surveyed said they would continue virtual classes through 2020, and 40% said they would like a mix of both virtual and in-person classes. And looking ahead to 2021, 33% of clients said that they’d continue taking online classes, which was a much higher number than Tim and Michael anticipated before sending the survey.

The result: A path forward

30%

increase in class prices

54%

of people will take virtual classes through 2020

33%

said they'd continue virtual classes in 2021

The survey results proved that Stretch & Flex’s virtual offerings were worth building on rather than pivoting away from in the new year. The feedback they received helped Tim and Michael adjust their class offerings, increase their pricing by 30%, and improve the process for booking a class on their website. And since Mailchimp makes it easy to tag contacts based on survey responses, they can use what they’ve learned to increase the relevance of their marketing in the future, too.

Looking ahead: Goals for 2021 and beyond

Just as many businesses were forced to adapt at the start of the pandemic, Tim and Michael know that Stretch & Flex will need to evolve a bit once the pandemic is over.

“Our biggest thing will be adapting to a normal world,” Tim says. “A lot of companies who adapted to this situation will go back to what they had done before, but we’ve never functioned in the normal, non-COVID world. And that’s going to be quite interesting.”

“When things go back to normal,” Tim continues, “we may only retain 10-30% of our online group. So I’m trying to build that base up as much as possible so it’s enough for us as a source of income.”

The pair still plans to turn their business into a brick-and-mortar studio location. They hope to grow their local audience enough to sustain the business when they can safely return to group workouts. “We want a studio we can rent out to other like-minded people, like yoga teachers or personal trainers,” Tim says. “A place where self-employed people can come and teach in a safe environment. A place where people don’t feel intimidated—a safe space.”

“You may be surprised at how being forced to adapt to circumstances can actually lead you in a really positive—and potentially more lucrative—direction.”

Their advice for other small businesses

2020 presented Tim and Michael with a unique opportunity to turn their dream of starting a studio into reality, and they encourage other business owners to always look for the silver lining in otherwise challenging situations.

“Take advantage of as much free information and tools out there as you can, and then choose carefully what and where you invest in as time goes on. It is possible to make something good out of a bad situation, and you may be surprised at how being forced to adapt to circumstances can actually lead you in a really positive—and potentially more lucrative—direction. Be prepared to learn a lot in a short space of time, and make sure you utilize every opportunity!”

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