Flexing business savvy to face adversity: Meet the owners WESTCA gym
San Jose fitness entrepreneurs share their secrets for staying in-shape during COVID-19
When most entrepreneurs open a business they might throw up some balloons or a “We’re Open” banner over the door. Not Tory Woodward and Meaghan Karabatsos. They threw up a stage and a runway and hosted a fashion show for friends and customers of their newly opened West Coast Aesthetics (WESTCA) gym in San Jose, California. The event’s high-point? Tory’s marriage proposal. Meaghan accepted.
That was three years ago this month. Now Meaghan is talking to us via phone about how she and Tory are adapting their business to the impact of COVID-19. She’s cheerful and optimistic, despite the fact that they have had to close their doors and move to virtual classes. She’s also nine months pregnant, scheduled to deliver their first child in one day. They are both excited about the addition to their family – although they like to call their business their first “baby.” Visa caught up with them to talk entrepreneurship, how their community is lifting them up and more.
First, how are you doing?
The most important thing is that everyone in our gym and our community is staying healthy and safe. It’s definitely tough with the business being closed. We have been closed since mid-March and we will be for sure closed until May 2, maybe longer.
What are you doing to adapt to the current situation?
Usually March, April and May are very strong months in terms of people signing up for new memberships and personal training packages, when people get ready for the summer and their summer bodies. We are missing all of that.
Are you using technology to offer virtual classes?
We are offering virtual training sessions, both private sessions and group sessions. We are also able to sell some of our clothes online, one of our new shirts drove our biggest day for online sales. We also started sending out daily workouts to all of our members on email and social media, workouts that you can do at home. We share shorter clips on our social media and post longer videos of several minutes on Youtube that have a little more instruction, free of charge. Even our non-members are able to get those workouts.
It sounds like you’ve got a great community. What inspired you to start a business?
My husband Tory is the driving force. He worked for many years as a private fitness consultant and is also a pro bodybuilder who was a three-time qualifier and top-ten finisher in the same competition where Arnold Schwarzenegger got his start.
Tory’s success as a trainer and a pro body builder helped him develop a fairly large social media following and sponsors. It was his dream to open up his own gym. I left my job in technology sales to help open up the gym. Now it’s three years later and we are both still there running the show!
What do you enjoy most about running a small business?
We really focus on the community aspect. Even while we are closed, we are sending emails and sharing our stories on social media so that our community stays intact even though we can’t all be physically together. During the shutdown we have one member who has completed a thousand days of consecutive cardio training – incline walking, stairmaster, soul cycle, bootcamps, jogging and running stairs. This member is a positive, smiling person who is a perfect example of the spirit of the gym, what makes our community vibe so special.
When our member hit 1,000 days, we asked all our gym members and community members to “virtually” participate in doing 1,000 minutes of cardio as a group to celebrate the accomplishment. Members took video and photos and tagged us on social media. That day we ended up doing more than double the goal – over 2,000 minutes of cardio as a community.
How is your community lifting up your business?
One thing that has been really humbling and incredible is we have had over 100 members offer to donate their memberships during our closure. It was incredible for us to see how many people were being so generous to make sure that we all succeed and come out of this being stronger and better together.
What is your proudest moment being an entrepreneur?
The actual day we opened we had so many people show up, sign up for memberships. Tory and I both came home after that and I was in tears because it was so overwhelming – this big thing we had been working towards, that we had spent all this time on – and our doors were open with a huge reception of people that showed up to support us. Our community is amazing.
What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs to going through this now?
Remember that it’s important to focus on the things that you can control. No matter what, life will throw adversity at you at tough times. All you can do is focus on moving forward, and focus on the things you can control. There’s nothing we can do to control the virus and businesses being shut down. What we can control is continuing to offer our members programs, offering the overall community our knowledge expertise and fitness through social media.
If you’re interested in becoming an entrepreneur, you are going to have some serious curve balls thrown at you, and you have to work through them, and you have to focus on what you can control and keep moving forward.
Check out West Coast Aesthetics in a new Visa commercial running during the NFL draft that features a “shout-out” from their friend George Kittle of the NFL.
You can support American small businesses facing COVID-19 by visiting the Visa Back to Business Project on Visa.com. Got a small business of your own? Check out these small business resources on the Visa Blog and learn about recent initiatives supporting women businesses and more ways Visa is helping support the COVID-19 response.[WG3]