Dawn Condon, a yoga teacher who has been in the wellness industry for over 30 years, was working to expand her studio, Connected Living Yoga, from a tiny second-story walk-up to a larger and more accessible space when the COVID pandemic hit. Like so many other fitness businesses, Condon knew she would face significant obstacles. So, she got serious about the element of her business she had put on the back burner for too long: technology.
Condon has been fostering a growing community of yogis in Sudbury for years and in-person practice was the foundation of her business. “Being online in the yoga world was never […] something [that] was interesting to me,” says Condon, who feels strongly that building community requires an in-person experience. It also wasn’t something that any of Condon’s clients were asking for. That was until COVID hit, and virtual classes became the only opportunity Connected Living students had to practice yoga under their instructors’ guidance.
While Condon scrambled to shift her offerings from in-person to online, she became increasingly frustrated with the glitches she and her students encountered while learning to navigate new platforms and software. That’s when she discovered the Digital Transformation Grant (DTG) program offered by Digital Main Street (DMS) through the Sudbury East Chamber of Commerce. The program, which provides brick-and-mortar small businesses with a digital assessment, online training, and a $2,500 grant to implement their Digital Transformation Plan, was exactly what Condon needed.
The educational component of the program was especially enticing to Condon, who had struggled to incorporate technology into her business in the past. “I kept thinking I’ll get back to that when I get back to it,” she says, but in light of the pandemic, “[everything] that had been sitting on the back burner now became urgent.”
As Condon worked through the DMS online courses, she started to formulate a plan that would not only help her business survive the pandemic, but also set it up for success in the long term. A major key to that success, says Condon, was asking for help. She used her grant funds to hire a marketing expert and a web developer to assist her with executing her Digital Transformation Plan. “It was so good to be able to bounce [ideas] off of somebody else, get it out of my head, and receive constructive feedback because it’s only me. I don’t have a business partner. I don’t have a spouse; I don’t have a manager. It’s [just] me,” Condon shares.
With the help of the marketing expert and web developer Condon hired, she digitally transformed her business in a way that not only supported the shift to online learning during the pandemic, but also streamlined the business’s overall marketing strategy and operations. Condon set up a marketing calendar and created social media templates. With the support of a web developer, she also redesigned her website to achieve the level of functionality for class bookings she had been dreaming of.
Finally, Condon also purchased a subscription to a software called Mindbody that enhanced the website experience for both online and in-person students. Mindbody offers high-quality video streaming services that Connected Living leveraged during the pandemic. But, even when students returned to in-person classes, the booking feature which seamlessly integrated with the studio’s new website, proved to be a game changer for Condon. “It was a huge, huge weight off my shoulders. I bought myself enormous peace of mind by going that way,” she says.
Post-pandemic, Condon is thrilled to have her students back practicing yoga in Connected Living’s brand new space. “The minute that they had the opportunity to come back to class, they did,” she says. But, even so, technology and online learning continue to be an important part of Condon’s business. With more efficient booking systems and the option to practice online with a library of class videos to choose from, Connected Living’s hybrid model appears to be working well. Despite all the ups and downs, Condon shares that her business has actually had an incredibly successful year. While Condon is thrilled to see her business grow, she says that above all else, she is grateful that the Digital Transformation Grant program offered her the opportunity to continue to foster an online and in-person community at a time when we all need it the most.