A former police officer turned gym owner is pushing ahead in identifying new ways to allow a newly launched venture to reopen safely, as Crossfit Longacre in Skelton redefines how to deliver fitness training in the time of Covid-19.
Dawn Close launched her new business venture in January of this year, after 20 years of service in the police force. Launching Crossfit Longacre from a unit in Skelton, Dawn was able to access a range of business start-up help from TEDCO Business Support and Virgin StartUp in the form of a low-cost, government backed loan.
However, after just three months of trading Dawn closed the doors to her Crossfit box due to lockdown rules and instead adapted to offer alternative ways of delivering fitness coaching whilst maintaining social distancing.
Dawn Close said: “I have no regrets at all over the timing of the opening. No one anticipates a global pandemic when planning to launch a new business and opening the doors of Crossfit Longacre was a dream of mine for so many years. The response was fantastic! By March, our membership numbers had reached the level we had anticipated after one year and we were on the way to building a great local crossfit community.”
Dawn acted quickly to ensure business continuity once lockdown was announced. She set up a system of loaning out equipment to members to use at home and created different daily workouts for members with or without equipment to ensure home-based fitness could continue.
Dawn continues: “Crossfit is a real mix of disciplines but the main focus is on functional fitness. It involves strength training, cardio and gymnastics-style workouts which can still be carried out at home with the right coaching and equipment. I trusted my members to look after the equipment and have been looking at ways to keep motivation high during this time indoors.
“Even in such a short space of time, the community I’ve built at Crossfit Longacre have stood by the gym. Less than 20% of members cancelled their membership but even those that have, I am still in contact with and completely understand their decision. It’s a very challenging time financially and hopefully we will be ready to welcome them back once we can start to open up. We don’t want to open before the government considers it’s safe to do so but we also need to adapt to ensure our business can maintain social distancing in a clean and safe environment.
“I was able to quickly access the government grant for small businesses to ensure I could continue to meet all the fixed costs of running the gym. The ease of the application and speed in which funds were received was fantastic for a small business like mine and will ensure that when lockdown is lifted, we have a better chance of survival for our members.”
Dawn initially set up the business with help from Mark Johnston at TEDCO Business Support who provided hands-on financial assistance in the form of business planning and access to financial support.
Dawn continues: “I really can’t thank Mark Johnston at TEDCO enough for the initial help and support in getting the business up and running and for his help in accessing the Virgin StartUp loan. His guidance has been a great way to move forward at a really testing time for a new business and the loan was the perfect way to meet initial costs involved with opening a gym.
“All I can do right now is plan for the different versions of what a future opening might look like and I’ve been busy identifying ways in which I can continue to deliver classes once lockdown is lifted in a safe way. I will be looking at individual training spaces and reduced class sizes as a way to maintain social distancing. Crossfit gyms and the style of workouts we do make it easier to clean equipment and offer more individual training than bigger commercial gyms, so I’m hopeful that we can open with confidence once government guidelines change.”
Virgin StartUp is the not-for-profit organisation designed to assist ventures with low-cost business loans to help get new enterprises off the ground. Exclusively delivered in the North East by TEDCO Business Support, Virgin StartUp has helped hundreds of new businesses access over £5 million in funding in the North East since its inception in 2013.
Mark Johnston comments: “Dawn has such a passion for Crossfit and given her own personal experience, really wanted to open up opportunities to access this kind of training to a new group of people. It has been unfortunate that the launch came at a time that is proving so difficult for many businesses to trade but in such a short space of time she has been able to build a supportive membership base, quickly access government support to meet her fixed costs and ultimately, create a range of plans that would allow her business to continue to trade depending on how lockdown is lifted.
“Her tenacity is commendable and I look forward to seeing how Crossfit Longacre can grow and support the local community even further in the future.”