How This Small Business Owner Uses Instagram To Keep Her Fitness Community Thriving
Updated: May 11
Mental and physical health is incredibly important during this time of social distancing. Once shelter-in-place was enacted, fitness studios across the nation closed immediately. For small business owners, the pressure is high. With high rents in big cities and staff to pay, owners have shifted to their digital communities to continue classes and promote health and wellness.
I spoke with Burn CEO and Founder, Lisa Corsello, in between her homeschooling her two young children, teaching online classes, posting to her Instagram Stories, and genuinely keeping her business afloat on how she’s finding joy and connection through her digital community.
Kate Talbot: Tell us about Burn.
Lisa Corsello: I've owned Burn for almost 11 years, and there are three studios throughout San Francisco. The workout combines the best aspects of high-intensity interval training, strength training, and hardcore pilates. It's a unique and different fitness method that serves all of the members of our community which includes anyone from teenagers to people in their late sixties.
Talbot: How do you define community at Burn?
Corsello: Since day one, we focused on galvanizing our community with the goal of inclusivity across the board. We keep our classes small; the largest studio only has 17 stations. Community is built-in given the fact that we don't pack people into the room. Teachers can interact one-on-one with each client, and it's also part of establishing trust and a relationship between our clients in their own bodies.
We also have community boards with information and encourage people to write inspirational messages to their teachers or one another. From the second you walk in, we work hard for it to be very friendly and thoughtful about what works best in those spaces to bring people together.
Talbot: How have you had to shift since COVID-19?
Corsello: We closed our doors very suddenly, just like most small businesses. We moved immediately to live online, virtual classes. We started with a handful of classes, and after a few weeks, we are up to 23 classes on the schedule taken on Zoom.
I also have my own on-demand videos that include 115 workouts that people in our community can use. We've also started selling the Burn kits, which is an at-home version of our in-studio equipment and comes with instructional videos. I made videos immediately to accompany people to workout at home and get a similar Burn workout.
Talbot: How have you been using Instagram during this time?
Corsello: Immediately I started doing Instagram Live workouts within 24 hours of shutting the studios. I wanted people to move and connect to their bodies. I create Instagram Stories each day to discuss both the physical and emotional benefits of regular daily exercise. On IGTV, I post segments on stretching the areas that are particularly tight for most of us right now.
Talbot: What has the response been from the community?
Corsello: The community has connected to us a lot more one-on-one. People are direct messaging me that I've never met, but that have come to Burn for years. They now see me on Instagram being more vulnerable, open, and raw. I'm sharing and talking; they're feeling more kinship and camaraderie. I've always wanted to be able to experience this with my clients, and social distancing has brought that out.
Talbot: Do you have a story from your community that has inspired you?
Corsello: I have a client who is a nurse, and I have lots of mothers. The nurse shared that it brings her joy during this time. I've had a couple of mothers say, “this is the only thing I do for myself”, and I can't tell you how meaningful that is.
Talbot: How have the insights from Instagram helped you serve your community better?
Corsello: On Instagram, I'm able to pivot very quickly based on what I'm hearing. Last week was week three for us in the Bay Area for shelter-in-pace. There seems to be a real heaviness and a different level of engagement. I could sense that people were starting to feel more anxious, and more physically uncomfortable in their bodies, I changed what it was that I was putting out there to try to help people feel less lonely, less anxious, and to be real and authentic. We are starting to hit this point, and these are the things we're feeling. These are moves that we can do every day that are going to help us maintain.
Talbot: What lessons are you taking from this time that'll bring to back into the studios when they open?
Corsello: People do still care. When you have three studios, and you're putting fires out all day long, you can't help but lose some of the connection to the clients in the community. Having this time to focus on clients has brought me back to the things that I love the most about Burn, which is the community. I could not have done that without Instagram because it does provide this instant forum for people to reach out to me privately or publicly. I'm able to remember why I started Burn and connect back to the reason that I love this community so much.
Talbot: What advice do you have for small business fitness owners during this time?
Corsello: Reach out. Small business owners need to support one another. This is an opportunity to come together and troubleshoot and commiserate and lean on one another. The lessons you’ll learn during this time will be invaluable to your future.