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Local small gym owner shares COVID-19 struggles

Brittany McLean, owner of F45 Training in Kitchener, says boutique gyms like hers face more barriers for re-opening than big-box gyms
F45 Training
Brittany McLean (right) helps a client during a workout. Photo from Brittany McLean.

Before the pandemic, F45 Training was a small gym that had just opened in Kitchener, offering 45 minute high intensity interval training (HIIT) classes for residents on-the-go.

Now, F45 Training co-owner, Brittany McLean, waits to hear when she will be able to re-open her business. McLean says she is concerned about how she and other small gyms will be able to manage going forward as they haven't qualified for government aid like big-box gyms.

"The one thing was that we didn't have employees. We typically have private contractors, and for the majority of the fitness world, they use private contractors." said McLean, "We also had to file taxes by a certain date to qualify for government subsidy, which we also did not."

McLean says besides the use of contractors and taxes, time and profit are other factors that stop small gyms from receiving financial support during the pandemic. 

According to her, businesses need to have been previously earning between $40,000 and a million dollars, and have been operating for a minimum of six months, in order to meet the criteria for COVID-19 relief benefits.

"As a brand-new business, we qualified for no wage-subsidies or assistance from the government, at all." said McLean "We weren't able to put any money aside for any emergencies because we had just opened up our doors."

In order to help pay for rent and stay relevant to their clients, McLean says they started offering online workout classes and now are running boot camp classes in their parking lot.

It's a similar story for many small and new businesses, including other boutique gyms like F45 Training.

"We know many businesses that had just opened up themselves that just hadn't qualified either, " said McLean. "It's quite a bit of a gap which is unfortunate as many businesses may not be able to open their doors after this."

She goes on to say facilities like hers should be in a separate category from the big-box gyms, especially involving phase three opening guidelines, as smaller facilities have better control over safety measures being put in place. 

"It's really small class sizes. We know all of our members so we are able to be familiar if they have travelled, or if anyone they know has been travelling or is sick." said McLean, "We are also able to keep an eye on the cleaning processes taking place within the studio, to make sure everyone is safe."

As the province moves towards lifting restrictions, McLean hopes that residents will consider joining her gym and other small facilities like hers to help support them, just like some who have supported other local businesses during the pandemic.

"We have some of the absolute best members, whether they are joining in our online workouts and now joining our bootcamps, the best support you can give to the businesses that you love is brand awareness." said McLean. "That's the biggest way people can support small businesses is to share what they're offering."

To learn more about F45 Training, check out their Instagram page and Facebook page.

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