TOMORROW June 6 2020, is the beginning of Stage 3 of our Western Australian Covid-19 plan. This means many of my clients will be back in full swing and can start the process of returning to a normal existence … I am beyond excited for this. I have had countless conversations with devastated business owners over the last 2 months and it is just SO incredibly heart warming to see the perseverance and resilience they have shown… there’s no other word to use but ‘inspiring’.
Over the years I have worked closely with several Muay Thai gyms around Perth as a freelance Graphic Designer and Photographer. The effect of Covid-19 has been catastrophic in the industry as it heavily relies upon contact (sparring, grappling) and being in close proximity with a partner. One of my longest client relationships has been with Darren & Caley Reece from Riddlers Gym in Osborne Park, which is one of the leading Muay Thai gyms in Australia, and I have to tell you, they produce some incredible talent! Riddlers have made it through this messy last few months and will be back to business as usual tomorrow, and I bet it is going to be BUSY…there are loads of people in Perth that have been itching to get in some sparring and grappling!
I was able to pin down Caley this week to answer some questions before the craziness of tomorrow begins. Not only about Covid (because, you know, that’s a given) but also thoughts on life as well as branding and marketing.
Jess: Soooooooo Cales, Muay Thai gyms are opening tomorrow, how bloody excited are you to be able to offer full contact classes to all of your members?
Caley: Everyone is so pumped. As most people are aware, we are predominately Muaythai and offer BJJ as well, which are both full contact sports that require being super close to a partner, so to have that taken away from everyone was a massive blow.
Jess: I can imagine. What procedures will your members expect to see when they come back to the gym?
Caley: We are so passionate about what we do, but we also like to keep things as basic as possible. We have never had a computerized sign in system in the past – I guess you could call us old school, but we find people really love that – its one less thing they need to worry about doing. Whilst we are navigating our way through the phases, we have implemented a book in online system and have a strict cleaning procedure during classes to make sure everything is at the standard that is required.
'I guess you could call us old school, but we find people really love that.'
Jess: What has been the response from your members during the shutdown period, and how did they respond to your online sessions?
Caley: It was such a hectic few weeks – I personally didn’t think it would come to what it did, I don’t know why, maybe its because so much of my time and effort is spent looking after 2 toddlers but when it happened we all joined forces to create an online training community with anyone that was interested in training with us. We lent out all of our equipment to members including pads and all of our strength and conditioning equipment. This was a massive risk for us, leaving our gym almost empty, but we also knew that to pass through the adversity, we had to take the risk to do our best to keep the gym alive and standing for when this all passed. We had about 150 people join us in the online training group so the response was great. As mentioned before, we like to keep things as basic as we can, for us, and for everyone else so we ran our classes through the live Facebook section in the group and had people join us that way. We always had one of our instructors training live to give them that community based feeling. Some of the members would hook up through Zoom and work out together with us also. We had a bunch of bags made up through an upholsterer that trains at the gym too which people could purchase to hang up at home. It was basic. It worked. It was engaging and it kept everyone happy.
Jess: In regard to the active fighters. I know your fight team are like a tight knit family who saw each other pretty much every day, Muay Thai is their life. I can imagine no fight shows, pad work or sparring would have been pretty tough for them. How did you and Daz support and communicate with your fighters during this time?
Caley: The majority of them were all a part of the online training community page and showed massive support to us. They could join in on any class that we provided plus we had a few advanced/ fighters classes on the timetable too which obviously had specific fight drills and advanced techniques to work on. We also have a Riddlers Gym Fight Team Group which everyone is a member of and we all communicate and share stories, photos, training, motivational bits and bobs etc in. They are all super close and supportive of one another so there was never any negativity shared between anyone about the situation. I think fighters are used to being faced with challenges so to put it bluntly – they just copped it on the chin.
'I think fighters are used to being faced with challenges so to put it bluntly – they just copped it on the chin.'
Jess: For as long as we have worked together you have always had a fight show in the pipeline. How has it been not having that extra side to your business?
Caley: Any promoter will always say that promoting a fight show is such hard work. There is a lot of effort and time that goes into it without a hell of a lot of kick back. In saying that – the sport is our passion and training fighters is Daz's passion so it definitely feels like something is missing. It has been nice having a little break from it though but its going to be super exciting to kick it all off again.
Jess: Yes very exciting, I can't wait to watch another show, hopefully it won't be too far away! What other challenges has Covid presented over the last couple of months for you as a business owner and promoter?
Caley: Other than doing no fight show (Epic & Evolve) and having no fighters to put on it anyway, the promoting side isn’t really affected too much because it just “takes a break”.
Business wise is another story. Our gym is our livelihood. Its our passion. It’s what we know. And its what puts food on the table to feed my children – when you close the doors of your business, you are faced with a pretty heavy challenge. Our income was over an 80% loss as we would never charge members for a service we could not provide. Our online training community provided us with a small income as our memberships were heavily reduced because the quality of training wasn’t the same – it was enough to pay the bills, pay our outgoings and mortgage but certainly not enough to cover what our previous outgoings were prior to COVID. We were lucky to have savings so we have been able to still pay our full time staff the jobkeeper allowance whilst we waited for the return on that from the govt. There have been times I felt a little stressed about a couple of things but I consider myself to be a very positive person and I thrive on a good challenge so took the opportunity to grow from this rather than fail.
'...I thrive on a good challenge so took the opportunity to grow from this rather than fail.'
Jess: Now real talk here... There was lots of chatter about some of the restrictions being excessive or confusing, or on the other scale not excessive enough. If this ever happened to us again, (god forbid) Do you think there is anything that could be handled differently for the fitness industry in WA?
Caley: I don’t know if anything should or could have been handled differently but I did find some inconsistencies within the state. For example – you couldn’t go to the gym and train in a place that can be cleaned after every class but you can go to KMART and shop around touching anything and everything as you go. I understand KMART provides stuff people need, BUT they also have an online shopping site that you can use and have stuff delivered to your door. Exercise and health is crucial for people lives, mentally and physically, yet it wasn’t given priority over someone shopping at KMART. To me, and I don’t think Im alone on this – it makes absolutely no sense.
Jess: Now let’s change direction....a bit about you...I know you in the process of recovering from a very nasty injury and then... Covid hit, great timing. But I see on Instagram you are still smashing WODS in your garage and goal setting. How have you kept your motivation without being in a gym environment?
Caley: Training keeps me sane. I don’t need motivation or other people’s energy to feed off from. I have discipline instead and that is from years and years of creating a good habit for myself. It's so common to feel like you cant be bothered doing something at a time that poses a challenge to and for you, but they are the times that you need to be training so you can keep a positive frame of mind. I also love bettering myself every day. Just existing doesn’t fulfill me at all.
'Just existing doesn’t fulfill me at all.'
Jess: Being able to self motivate is an unreal quality to have, how about inspiration? Is there a business or person that you admire or follow on social media that inspires you?
Caley: To be honest – so many people inspire me in different ways – I could never pin point anyone out. I love fit and strong women, I love successful stories, I love stories of adversity, I love stories of growth, I love stories of watching people transform, I love stories of mums - I take bits and pieces from all walks of life and draw the positives from every story.
Jess: Now let’s talk bizniz! We have worked together a long time on lots of projects, but in general, what do you think are the benefits of working with a freelance designer?
Caley: I love working with a freelance designer because I feel they are full of fresh ideas and they are professional with what they do and how they deliver it. Branding is super important in business and I really feel they understand what a business needs to stand out
Jess: How do you feel about the Riddlers brand/look/feel? What is one word that would describe it?
Caley: We have always been known around the world for our red and black colours. Its been like that since 2003 and we have never changed it. I would call our look, simple. As I said before in regards to our online training community we set up – we kept it basic, and that is how we like our branding as well. We aren’t big on massive designs that get your business lost – the simpler, the better.
Jess: So I know you don’t need to do copious amounts of advertising because your gym is always pumping as it is, but when you do, what kind of advertising/marketing does Riddlers do, if any/? What, out of these is the most effective?
Caley: To be honest we hardly do any advertising and rely mostly on word of mouth, Facebook and Instagram posts. Our signage which was designed by The Pink Tank is also really highly visible from the main road plus our clothing brand is also worn around A LOT. We get a lot of traffic through our WIX website too. We like to think of ourselves as a great advertising tool, we are active in the gym and know its important as business owners to have that face to face value with our members. We aren’t about the numbers and getting people in the door – we are about keeping people there and having us all interacting with everyone, gives everyone that close feeling.
Jess: When you have a new member sign up, what is the most common way they found you?
Caley: Usually through word of mouth or someone that is currently training in the gym has recommended us.
Jess: That's awesome, as referrals are based on your reputation. So not to harp on about Covid but when the 20 per class limit was in, you implemented a booking system on your WIX site, was that effective for you during the time?
Caley: Absolutely. It was such a basic online booking system and I set it up on my own and then had The Pink Tank implement it into our website which was done in about 5 minutes.
Jess: Do you think you will continue to use it or will you go back to your normal process? I tell you, your google analytics and website traffic spiked like crazy with the system!
Caley: I think we will use it for a while and then think about getting a Riddlers Gym app designed (with the help from you of course) when the COVID situation is in the past.
Jess: I know you have been adding blogs and doing small edits on WIX which is so great. What do you like about WIX as a website platform?
Caley: I find WIX really easy to use, which for me, is important. I am your least tech sav girl going around and need it to be basic because I don’t have a lot of time to be sitting around fiddling with stuff that is going to take me forever. I have 2 toddlers to look after – I need an easy website!
Jess: Now enough business talk, let’s get back to you. 😊As a business owner and mum of 2, life would get a bit crazy. Do you find time for yourself, and if you do, what do you do to recharge your batteries?
Caley: I always make sure I find time for myself. As a person, and this is not just a mother, this is everyone, we all need to find time for ourselves otherwise we get lost in the madness. If I didn’t actively find time for myself, Id never get it so I make sure that 5 times a week, I train and I do my best to get to the beach or go for a catch up with friends around twice a week. The rest of the time is spent around work, teaching and having the kids.
'...we all need to find time for ourselves otherwise we get lost in the madness'