We talked to Jamie King of Flex & Flow, a Portland, Oregon-based yoga studio and online fitness community. This is what she said:
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jamie King: I feel so lucky to say that my family and I are all doing well during this time – and thank you for asking. Most importantly, we all have our health, and we are all working through the struggles of this past year together.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Flex & Flow.
Jamie King: I graduated from UC Berkeley in 2004 and immediately began working at a law firm, thinking that my next steps would be to take the LSAT and apply to law school. It seemed like the right and, in some ways, only and perhaps even “familiar” choice. But the more experience I got at the firm, the more my passion for a law school future dwindled. After discovering a job ad for a public relations/marketing internship, I decided to give it a try (even though I had zero clue what that really meant). Years later, from intern to management, I found myself thriving in my high tech public relations and marketing career at a firm in San Francisco, CA. While I was thriving professionally, I was less than thriving personally. I was working long hours, which often included late nights out at events, and networking functions, followed by early mornings at the office, and I didn’t feel good in my mind or body.
And when I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t happy – that I actually felt quite lost in my life and career – I discovered movement and fell head over heels in love. And don’t get me wrong, I was always pretty active – I grew up dancing, swimming, playing tennis, and snowboarding – but it was during this time that my relationship with movement really changed. It became more than a way to have fun, stay active, or get a good workout — it became my way to heal my relationship with myself. I began practicing yoga, doing circuit workouts, and trail running regularly as a way to tune in to myself, to clear my head, cope with stress in a healthier way, and find my own power. And I’ve never looked back. I started teaching outdoor bootcamp and yoga classes in San Francisco, and as my classes gained popularity, I grew more and more passionate about inspiring others to discover the same empowering relationship that I had with movement. In 2011, I left my job at the PR and marketing agency and focused on building a community that would support all people in their movement journeys as a way to inspire others to take care of themselves – body, mind, and soul. And thus, Flex & Flow was born.
How does Flex & Flow innovate?
Jamie King: We are constantly evolving to meet our community’s current needs. Right now, we are most excited about the growth of our signature HIIT & Flow workout and our expansion into the digital space, with online fitness classes, retreats, and teacher trainings.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jamie King: Like most, in March of 2020, we had to shutter our doors at our flagship studio in Portland, OR, and cancel all of our in-person classes, events, retreats, and trainings for the year. And we knew we had to get busy coming up with a solution to help our community stay engaged and moving together – but since we had a powerful community online, we quickly adapted what we were offering in-person to the digital space, with online classes, events, retreats, and even trainings. Now we have people from all over the globe moving with us, inspiring us, and growing with us. But since we’re still living it, I’m not sure I can responsibly say we’ve overcome it… yet…but I am so proud of how we’ve adapted and how much we have grown in the past year, despite the seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jamie King: Like most, we had to make many difficult choices during this time. That said, I think the most difficult choice we had to make was whether we were going to try and weather the storm or throw in the towel entirely. Obviously, we chose to weather the storm and step up to the plate, and while I’m so glad we did, it also came with significant growing pains. Over the past year, our strengths and weaknesses were fully exposed, and because of that, it forced us to streamline our efforts, get real about our goals and expectations, and in many ways, it taught us how to get out of our own way.
I truly believe that the difficulty (and urgency!) to pivot made us stronger, more effective leaders and reminded us how to be better communicators.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Jamie King: We adopted some new software platforms to navigate this crisis that have helped us drive revenue even while our physical location is closed.
We used Kajabi, we were able to develop and launch many successful online programs, including a summer retreat, holiday fitness challenge, and 6-week HIIT & Flow teacher training course. We also created a full digital studio with the use of Kajabi and Zoom– where we house over 400 on demand yoga and fitness classes and host up to 4 live, virtual classes every day. We’re now launching our first 8-week race training program for a 5K, 10K, and half marathon race in June on the same platforms.
We’re in the process of putting our classes onto Interval, a new streaming fitness platform that will allow us to create a hybrid studio (in person and online) once we reopen the studio at limited capacity.
We’ve really had to get comfortable with ambiguity about the future while getting crystal clear about our own priorities. If nothing else, the pandemic has really brought into focus what we can and cannot control and forced us to be laser focused on what we can control—namely, how we spend our time and resources, who we choose to work with, and who we serve. We’ve gotten way more clear and full-throated about what we do and do not stand for, and we’ve had to be more transparent with employees about what our future may hold. A true silver lining of the pandemic for us has been being forced into that kind of clarity and transparency.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Jamie King: We’re movers and shakers in an industry (the wellness industry) that quite frankly needs a lot of change. And I don’t think our competitors really know what to do with us – because we’re yoga, but we’re also more than yoga. And we’re fitness, but also, we’re much more than that. But most of all, we’ve cultivated that intangible “thing” that so many marketers and business consultants are grasping for these days: community. By putting people and relationships first, we built (and are continuing to build!) something that nobody else will ever be able to buy or replicate exactly, and at the end of the day, it’s what we’re always most grateful for, and most proud of.
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