We talked to Marianne Tafani, founder of Core Connect, about online health and wellness training, and this is what she said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Marianne Tafani: We are doing all right, thank you! We welcomed a new family member in September 2020, our second son, Julian. Like most people, it has been a stressful year, full of uncertainty. But these uncertainties have also sparked much creativity, new products, new ways of working, and more connection within my family. We have been sad not to be able to go home to introduce Julian to our parents, siblings, and friends, and it goes without saying. But as a family of four, this crazy year has created a sense of balance. And as an entrepreneur, I have found my voice!
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Core Connect.
Marianne Tafani: I am a 34-year-old passionate mover, fervent women’s health advocate, functional anatomy geek, and core expert. I am also a mother of two, and I can say without a doubt that my two sons have been instrumental to my professional growth!
I started teaching Pilates in 2015 in a few studios. Less than a year into it, I was teaching between 40 and 45 hours weekly, had a small but regular private clientele, and was being called the “core training guru.” That’s when I got pregnant. Instead of looking at the pregnant body as restricted, I started looking at pregnancy as a time of creativity and exploration.
After a difficult childbirth and isolating first year postpartum, I decided to work towards developing a more thorough and compassionate approach to prenatal and postnatal training, and to bridge a knowledge gap that was evident in my industry. I created workshops for expecting women along with a comprehensive prenatal and postnatal course for instructors.
As I developed my now go-to postnatal abdominal rehabilitation program in Dubai, I was struck by how relevant the techniques I used with new mothers were to my regular clients and to my clients in rehab alike. That’s how the Core Connect Method came to be. Pilates-inspired but much more comprehensive and holistic in its approach. In 4 years, the method has helped over 500 new mothers and many men with lower back problems and chronic pelvic pain. I hope that the many instructor training I have lined up in 2021 reaches out to many more people.
How does Core Connect innovate?
Marianne Tafani: I innovate in the following ways:
- I listen to clients first.
- I explore next.
- I brainstorm with my team, and then I create a product, an offer, a service that matches demand.
My creativity and what I feel people need are utterly intertwined. I innovate technically in my field by bridging the worlds of creative movement and the world of research in women’s health. I have also started creating digital products that are quite unique such as my pelvic floor audio packs. I see a gap in the women’s health market, and I am instantly inspired to create accordingly.
I am the opposite of techy, but with this situation, I have had no other choice but to get acquainted with digital platforms. All my digital products are now on Teachable. About half of my weekly workshops or classes are online. And in 2021, I am working on an online membership.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Marianne Tafani: It affected them a great deal at first. Many events had to be postponed or canceled. I was meant to fly out to Saudi Arabia in April 2020 to lead prenatal and postnatal workshops, a first in the region.
When I started teaching online in April 2020, I felt like I could not charge the same amount I was used to charging in person. I am very tactile in the way I cue clients. So I felt like the service I was offering was not worth the same price. This has changed now. My time is my time. My skills have expanded. I can see a rib flare or a poor breathing technique without any sound on Zoom.
Events still get canceled at the last minute, and clients are more comfortable with last-minute cancelations because of Covid. But overall, the finances are better than a year ago! And all the time spent on developing digital products is beginning to pay off!
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Marianne Tafani: I founded the company in August 2020, so I built it in a way that felt “Covid sustainable” HR-wise. I did have to make tough decisions that were not related to employing staff but rather to partnerships I had to put an end to. All of them had helped me grow at some point. But I stopped partnering with places that I felt were not being ethical about the way they treated freelancers in the face of this crisis or places I felt pushed clients to show up when it was unsafe. On the bright side, I deepened my relationship with the professionals I felt shared the same values.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Marianne Tafani: I went from relying on studios and clinics to do most of the administrative work to do most of it on my own, accountancy and bookings included. And that’s not the part I am most fascinated with. I am creative, I manage projects decently, but chasing payments from clients has never been my favorite part of the job.
I don’t use tools. I use energy. I know it is going to sound hippy-dippy. But when your business is based on human interaction, there is room for educating indirectly. I believe in leading by example and by sharing values in the way I show up. I try my best to be on time, be ethical with refunds, for instance. As a consequence, in the past year, not a single client has not paid a product or service they owed. Not even one. Very much human- and energy-centered.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Marianne Tafani: No, I did not.
Your final thoughts?
Marianne Tafani: It has been a tough year for the fitness industry. But I also believe that Covid has led so many people to focus on being healthy again that it will, in the long run, provide more opportunities for businesses like mine that bridge the medical, wellness, and fitness world. I cannot wait to see how it all unfolds when the most challenging part of the crisis is over.
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