Adapting a new business to extraordinary times

Marielle Suddarth ‘09 started her own personal training and dance business, Barbells N Ballroom, last year in Nashville, Tennessee. Covid-19 made business-as-usual impossible but within days Marielle set-up virtual training sessions and is now also offering free bodyweight workouts on Instagram. She talks about how she is adapting, her hopes and fears, and the importance of compassion.

“The COVID-19 crisis has affected me, like everyone else, in so many ways.

“By profession I am a Functional Movement Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach, as well as a Ballroom and Latin dance instructor, and I started my own business last fall. Because all of my coaching was in-person, in the gym, and in the dance studio, my income has been drastically reduced.

I had to get creative and push past my comfort zone

“Before it was mandated that non-essential businesses close and we ‘shelter in place’, I realized I needed to prepare for the inevitable and created a system to offer virtual personal training sessions to my clients.

“This has helped me retain about 25% of my business during this time, which I am incredibly grateful for. Not only for the income, but also so I can continue to see my clients’ faces, work with them, and talk to them on a regular basis. That has been just an important to me during quarantine, if not more important to me, than being able to continue to earn some income during this period.

“Now that I officially have a system in place through which to offer virtual personal training sessions, I have even picked up a few new clients in cities out of state, so that is one silver lining to COVID-19… I was faced with a problem, and I had to get creative and push past my comfort zone to find a solution, in a matter of days!

I hope these help improve other’s physical and mental health

“I am also now offering free bodyweight Instagram livestream workouts every Saturday morning to anyone who would like to join in or who may also be feeling the economic impact of COVID-19. I hope these help improve other’s physical and mental health during this time.

“The more personal side of this is that it’s no secret the healthcare system is lacking in the United States. Although I am 33 years old, healthy, and fit, as a self-employed individual I pay for my own health insurance and have a ‘catastrophic only’ policy because the monthly payment was inexpensive and I hardly ever go to the doctor. For that reason I want to make sure, the best I can, that neither my husband nor I get sick because the medical bills would just compound the financial impact of Covid-19 for us.

“I also have family in California, my Dad, Mom and Grandmother, who I worry about contracting the virus.

“It’s definitely been a surreal experience and I hope that we are able to find a safe solution soon!”

Marielle’s lockdown tips

“Stay active in whatever capacity you are able to: home bodyweight workouts, walking or jogging (if you’re allowed out). The benefit of exercise is not just physical but also mental – my favorite benefit of exercise is stress relief!

“Pair that with self-compassion and compassion for others, we are all coping with this crisis the best we can, and that looks different for everyone.”

Find out more about Marielle’s business – Barbells N Ballroom >>>

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