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Working it out: Wine bottles, burlesque and business

28 May 2021
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On Pointe Studio co-owners Katrina Buchanan (left) and Lyndal Woodham have gone from teaching at their Christchurch studio to filming their classes at home. PHOTO: Supplied.

When you’re in the business of group fitness and no one can leave home, there’s no choice but to diversify. We talk to Christchurch businesswomen stepping up to the challenge.

A new way to burlesquercise

Bonita Muntz allowed herself two days of “emotional eating” and then she got to work.

The writing was on the wall for the business owner and burlesque performer, a week before the Government announced the lockdown to combat Convid-19.  She knew her business would suffer.

“But I could either sit on my butt and have a wee cry about it, or I could get moving.”

Her social media business was restricted, as many of her clients were in hospitality and had been shut down. Her Danger Doll shop couldn’t import new shoes from overseas and she, as a performer, had nowhere to go.

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Bonita Muntz is a well-known Christchurch burlesque performer, under the stage name Bonita Danger Doll. PHOTO: Konrad Kreative

But what she could do is run her popular Burlesquercise classes, described as a “sexy version of aerobics”, online.

She investigated several platforms with a membership fee vital so she could still bring in an income.

“With Facebook you run into problems with royalties around the music, even if you have bought a licence. It is the same with YouTube and Instagram, they can cut it off so it is a bit risky, especially if people are paying,” she says.

She decided to use Patreon, where packages can be created for people to subscribe to. Now for $20US a month, clients can access all her workouts, including any bonus classes she runs, whenever they like.

“It is cheaper than if they were coming to classes, but I want to keep it affordable for the masses at the moment, because everyone is under the pump,” she says.

She has a studio in her house, set up with a laptop, webcam, external mic and music. She films the routines and then uploads them to the website.

“I am doing a class a day. I won’t be able to sustain that long term because that is a lot of work on the old body. In a couple of weeks, I am going to pull that back to every second day.

“But the classes can be replayed, so even if I have a couple of days between classes, people can always go back and choose another one from the week before.”

It has already been well subscribed to. Some have even dragged their partners off the couch to join in.

“One of my girls got her boyfriend to join in, which was great. It means anyone can do it,” she says.

The bonus of being online is her customer base has spread out of Christchurch.

“I have been getting people from around New Zealand saying they are so excited because now they can do classes too.”

It has been a frantic few weeks for Bonita, but she has learned that when faced with a challenge, she can push through.

“It is really important in any type of business to be adaptable and to be able to move with any change in landscape – not sit and cry over spilt milk. And I couldn’t sit and wait, I needed to generate income straight away.”


Wellbeing motivates duo

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Ellis and Paige Powerman run three 9Round franchises in Christchurch and have moved their business online.

Got a bottle of wine? A washing basket? Then the good news is you can still do a workout while in lockdown.

But for Paige and Ellis Powerman, who co-own three 9Round franchises in Christchurch, their app workouts are not just about keeping people physically active.

“We wanted to create something to help people work out, not necessarily for their physical health but more for their mental health at the moment. With things that have arisen, physical health is very important, but I think what will come from this is more mental wellness issues than anything else”, says Paige.

The lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern a couple of days earlier than the duo were expecting. Fortunately, they already had an app in place, created by MasterFit. They got to work and designed a new programme called Extreme 9Round Home Edition.

“We’d started preparing but we thought we had a couple more days. We did some long hours to get the app ready,” Ellis says.

That meant filming nearly two work outs a day, in order to make sure they had enough content for their members.

“It was good, we were certainly getting our exercise in,” laughs Paige.


Paige and Ellis film their workouts in a spare room in their Christchurch home. PHOTO: Supplied

The workouts are filmed in their home, on a camera Alice was handily gifted at Christmas. Instead of weights and other more typical gym equipment, the duo use whatever is readily available in most homes.

“The first day we used drink bottles, wine bottles, liquor bottles  - we thought we would start with that. It shows people that you are human as well, that you’ve got those types of items in your house. And we’ve used a washing basket, a pillow, a chair and a piece of paper so we can slide on the floor,” says Ellis.

Alongside the daily workouts, are customised nutrition plans. But in keeping with their emphasis on wellbeing, they have a special ‘guru’ section filled with “positive daily vibes”.

“It could be an article, an inspirational thing from a movie. We used the bit from the Rocky movie where he talks about life, for example. Then there are questions like, 'who is one person you haven’t spoken to in a while?' ” says Ellis.

The duo is certainly keeping up with the positive vibes themselves.

Due to the closure of their clubs, they are not taking membership fees from their 700 members. By running the programme on the app, they are just “covering the basics”.

But it is their keen sense of responsibility to the wellbeing of their community, that has seen them move their business online.

“The main reason is to help people stay healthy. We have the responsibility as trainers to make sure people are still moving and being active,” says Paige.

They have managed to retain their staff, who are busy calling around their members to check on their wellbeing.

“We’ve got an awesome team, they work super hard and they love helping people. The positivity we’ve had from people we’ve called - they are so surprised you are checking in with them. Not asking for anything, just asking how they are,” says Ellis.


On Point improvisation

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Katrina and Lyndal usually run classes out of their Peterborough St studio but have had to move online.

On Pointe Studio co-owners Katrina Buchanan and Lyndal Woodham set themselves a goal at the start of the year to “put themselves out there more often”.

And, for them, teaching their Pilates, yoga and bootybarre classes on Facebook Live is well out of their comfort zone.

Lyndal chuckles from her Christchurch home in lockdown.

“This is really throwing us out there, because we don’t like to be in front of the camera and by doing this online, we have to be in front of the camera. So that is our biggest personal challenge.”

The duo knew, like many businesses, that it was likely New Zealand would be put in lockdown and started looking at their options to keep running classes and keep their six instructors working.

They had previously offered a class via a private Facebook group, which included online workouts, and it had worked well.

For them, it was important to have a platform where people felt connected at a time where isolation has been imposed.

“With a private Facebook group, we could all chat together and still have conversations and have things going on,” Lyndal says.

People pay and then are added to the group.

“We would have loved to have offered it for free, but we still have overheads, still costs to pay,” she says.

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Lyndal films her classes in her garage. PHOTO: Supplied

Lyndal films her classes in the garage, which was fitted out after the February 22, 2011 earthquake as a studio.

“So, I am fortunate that I can tell my children to stay inside and don’t come out to the garage for a little bit!”

“Basically we [the instructors] are doing it either through our laptop recordings or our phones propped up against whatever we can find. It is very improvised – it was whatever we could find.”

Their classes are doing well with already 50 members. Typically, they run classes of 12 in their Pilates studio.

“We are more than stoked – that is amazing. We are extremely humbled, so grateful and so proud of people that they are still wanting to move in this new way of normal,” Lyndal says.

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