First Person: Small Business Owner Markus Rosenberg

August 10 2020
Concord, ON

Markus Rosenberg isn't just active in his spare time, it's also his business and his passion. He was an organizer of the Estonian Men's Hockey Team in recent years, and is otherwise involved in the Estonian community. After years as a personal trainer, Markus opened his own fitness studio in 2015. While fitness is certainly on trend, it is also the kind of business that was especially difficult to operature during Covid.

Fit Culture Inc., located at Dufferin and Steeles, is a boutique personal training studio dedicated to helping people lose weight, feel stronger and improve health issues. Typically, Markus and his staff serve clients 40-60 years of age who are new to exercise and would like to lose anywhere from 20-50 lbs or more - or just see a need to improve their fitness level in a more organized way. They are usually local business owners, teachers, commissioned sales people, professionals and/retirees in the Thornhill, Vaughan, Richmond Hill or North York area. EFC caught up with Markus just before his studio was able to reopen as the GTA moved into Stage 3, and here's what he had to say about operating a small business during the Covid pandemic.


The biggest challenge my business faced due to Covid is the forced closure of gyms and fitness facilities which began on March 15th. Losing approximately 60% of my business was a tough reality to face at the beginning. We are a personal training studio and group classes is not something we offer but our normal way of operating came to a grinding halt.

To survive we had to adapt quickly. We switched as many clients to virtual training as possible and created a low-commitment group training program for people in quarantine and working from home to make it easy to join. To keep our clients and followers moving we also introduced free weekly group classes on social media and Zoom to anyone who was willing to participate. Luckily for us, there has been pretty solid traction in our group classes, and often we have upwards of 25 people on the video calls. Through all of these challenges, I've learned that obstacles are inevitable in life and sometimes they knock you down, but it's how you overcome your struggles, how you persevere that develops your growth and helps you to achieve  success.

Looking ahead, some of the new ways of doing business will definitely stick. There will be clients who transitioned from in-person training to online training and now enjoy it because of the many benefits. Training online provides training from anywhere they are - at home, on vacation, cottage, anywhere! It saves communiting time and clients can have family members and friends join them - which makes it more fun and adds a layer of accountability.

Unfortunately my business did not qualify for any of the subsidies provided by the government. We fell short on one or two qualifications, denying us any relief from the government even though we had a signficant drop of 60% in business from March to July.  On a positive note our landlord provided rent deferment for one month and we are currently negotiating a portion of the rent to be deferred for the next two months. Luckily we have now entered Stage 3 and can open our doors again. Some people like to be in the studio and have that 1:1 in person feedback - and we are ready to welcome them now.

Looking ahead at 2021 and beyond, I am optimistic that things will turn around for the better for my business and we might even see a boom in the next 12 months provided a second wave of Covid doesn't happen.  I have heard from many people that they are financially in a better position to focus on fitness due to less spending on big ticket items like travel and entertainment, etc. Plus, I am hoping people in our community who may have gained weight from eating and drinking more during Covid lockdown will turn their focus to improving their health and fitness as we move forward. We are ready to help them reach their health and fitness goals - in studio or online.




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