For Taupō’s Melody Close, the COVID-19 outbreak has had a dramatic impact on her dance and Pilates business. Along with gyms and exercise studios around the country, Freedom Dance and Pilates closed its studio doors a few days before the government enforced lock-down began. “It was hard to shut the studio, I really wanted my clients to know that I was still here for them” says Melody. In those final 48 hours before the lockdown began, Melody set to work. Within two days Melody had up-skilled in Zoom video calling, and contacted every one of her over 800 clients. “I’d been thinking about running online classes for a while, but I’d never found the time. This was a real incentive to get things organised. I wanted to be online for the first day of lockdown” says Melody.
“Along with my Taupō clients, I had clients from my previous studio in New Plymouth, and family and friends in England and the USA. I sent them each a direct link to the classes, with login details and times. I wanted to make sure the process was really simple so technology wouldn’t be a barrier, especially for some of my older clients who have been finding these changes quite challenging.” For those who can’t attend the live classes, Melody records the session and adds it to her social media page. “We’ve had a few technical issues but we’ve been able to work through them all and learn together. All my princess ballerina classes for kids are still running and the girls are having lots of fun choosing their outfits and seeing their classmates online. There is a lot of banter in the classes and we just have fun with it. It’s also been amazing to see some of my family and friends in the USA taking my classes. I was in tears when the two-year-old daughter of one of my oldest friends took her first class in Maine. It was a special moment.” Melody is currently working on an app so all her classes can be in one place. “I’ve been taking an online training course to build the app. There is so much support available on the internet to help you convert your business, and many of the resources are free. The information from Enterprise Great Lake Taupō has also been really useful.”
Currently Melody is offering all her classes free of charge, and videos are available on her Freedom Dance and Pilates Facebook page. “I know there are many people who are struggling financially at the moment. Right now this is about spreading goodwill and supporting the community. I want people to know I am still here for them, I am still showing up, and I’ll be there each day through this time.”
Melody’s advice for other businesses at this time? “You can actually teach an old dog new tricks. I felt overwhelmed at the start and thought I couldn’t do any of the tech stuff. But I just took it one step at a time and didn’t give up until I reached my goal. Look at others in your industry to get some ideas on what you can do. And make sure you have support from people who understand what you’re going through” says Melody