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Online Fitness w Jillian Keaveny of Compass Fitness

Jamie
Jillian is the co owner of Compass fitness, and we’ll be talking about that as well as their online fitness which they have just done a phenomenal job with, and you know I thought about coming on here Jillian and just saying something really mean to you because I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without a smile on your face, which is just amazing.  You know you hugged me the first like three or four times you met me without even seeing it knowing me, and it’s you know, a big testament to just how friendly you are and outgoing you are. I know you have a lot of things going on between campus and school. Online, which is essentially another business, you’re also an event producer. I’m sure there’s several other things that are missing. So, let’s just get started and we’ll cover as much of that as we can. So tell me about your background, how did you get started in fitness.

Jillian
Yeah. So, my degree is in kinesiology with an emphasis in sport and fitness management. So when I was in college, I played basketball for two years at Mesa state it’s now Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, and as my degree was kind of coming to an end, I took more business turn towards the end and so my goal was to work for like a professional sports team or the USS like the Olympic Training Center or something in that regard and the business side. And so that was my goal and then when I graduated from college, I couldn’t get a job pretty much anywhere. I even worked for the Kansas City Chiefs I did a six month internship and worked at Arrowhead Stadium and worked in the marketing department and I really liked it but came back to Colorado and there just wasn’t much available so I was like well I have this Canadian degree like I’ll just personal train on the side for a little bit. So I did that for a little bit, and then I did kind of get more into the retail side. I managed a running specialty store called the Colorado Running Company springs. I opened up blue lemon there, but all the while I was really passionate about movement. I started teaching for core power 2010 Down in the springs and that’s kind of where I got my group fitness and yoga start, and then I moved to Denver in 2013 and pretty much just started teaching anywhere I could both fitness and yoga.

Jamie
Okay, so you’ve been here since 2013 and Compass started two years ago. That’s correct, yes

Jillian
We just celebrated our two year anniversary in May.

Jamie
Okay, congratulations. What was the genesis of Compass?

Unknown
So very early on in 2018. I myself just started thinking about what’s next. I had trashed my body teaching 20 classes a week for the previous five years and I thought, How much longer do I have doing this and what am I going to do when I can’t, no longer teach as many classes personal training, and just be this high energy all the time.  

I’ve managed other people’s businesses like how do I start to manage my own business and what is even my brand like what am I doing and so I started producing some events with Phil who own sound of Colorado, and I’m independently for myself and I just kind of had my hand in a lot of pots which I enjoyed. But I also felt very stretched thin and not really seeing what the long term plan was. And so, my friend, and co-owner of Compass, Heather Lawrence, she and I have known each other since Colorado Springs day she was my first school teacher at core power. We’ve known each other for over 10 years. 

We just turned 40 and 36 We’re not like fresh chicken in this whole fitness world and we were like, What are we going to do long term and so we had taught so many places and learn so much about what I think studios do really well and where we saw gaps and things that weren’t working well, and we were like, to Regis, like try to give this brick and mortar thing and go like, and we were like, we’re both she’s Enneagram 679.  We both thought, well did you do one year, we’ll just do one year and if it’s terrible we’ll just back out whatever. 

We found a location, which is our current campus.  in a situation where the current lease owner was like, not wanting to have it. And so we just did like a one year sublease deal and in that process. a few of our other trainer friends were like hey I want to come teach for you I’m interested in ownership, and so we then became a trainer owned a gym, which I think is one of the things that sets us apart from other studios we have for trainers that own it and then we have to other like very small percentage owners that are not.

Jamie
So. Okay, great. And you have had some tremendous growth in the last two years, you’ve now opened a second location, as well as the online which we’re going to talk about both of those, but I want to know what holes you see in the fitness arena that you thought compass could fill.

Jillian
The big one was so many studios focus on one thing. I want to be really great at one thing which we’ve seen in a lot of other businesses. We have a niche and that is that it works really well. However, when it comes to movement, our bodies are constantly changing and evolving. What we want is constantly changing and evolving we’re injured, we’re pregnant, we’re aging. We have, You know, new fitness concepts are released and like, how do we stay attuned to what our bodies need in the moment and also stay excited about movement. 

And so our idea was the name or compass came from, you know our tagline is find your direction, it just comes, it’s fueled by the idea that we believe there’s a lot of ways to move your body. So our idea was, hey, let’s pick a few platforms, a few class styles, hire the best teachers, the most experienced teachers we know that we know will lead a great experience for a large size class. I mean our space is almost 7000 square feet. Heather knew she would help me when she said, John, you can have all of your events here you can have you can teach over 100 people here if you want, and she didn’t get me there but you know it was  hey, what if we did mini trampoline, what if we did a strength training class only. What if we offered a mix of hitting parties or what if we did some run focus classes. So that’s kind of where we saw the gap, and we just knew that if we, we established a really community based foundation and also , Hey, we’re going to meet you where you’re at today we’re going to push you are also going to adapt to what your needs are the best we can in a group fitness scenario and I think that comes from the years of experience that we had.

Some of the struggles early on, you know, it’s just finding the flow personnel wise.  We had some changes in ownership right away that was pretty heartbreaking.  within the first six months of  this foundation that we thought was no longer, and so that emotionally was a pretty big toll but we just kind of  pushed on and trust that the people that were meant to be on our team and help us develop and move forward either in an ownership level.  a managerial level or a teacher level  that that would be what was brought to us and that’s exactly what happened. I think, you know, trying things on and giving it enough time to see what the result is without going. oh that’s not working. Let’s pull it back. I see a lot of studios do that with  time slots or formats and stuff that if you don’t give it time to catch on or for people to get into it and you  pull it away too fast. 

I think we lose opportunities so I think it was just  trusting ourselves to be what we have learned working for 10 years in this business. Let’s try some things. And so I think that was kind of a struggle that we have, you know, marketing, or fitness people  when you aren’t you know this when you want your business you’re setting up to do it all over  we still don’t even o neighborhood marketing or anything we’re just  the word of mouth was such a huge gift for us. So I think we just didn’t do the best job with that and, you know personally now looking back  the last two years we just personally I think really ran ourselves pretty hard.

Jamie
Yeah. Yeah, and it’s one thing you know, because you are also pushing your body really hard every day you’re teaching the classes, right. Yeah, people don’t realize that physical stress and mental stress are basically the same thing to the body, just kind of in different ways and so when you’re running a business that has that many classes. Now many people are coming through there. It’s very impressive that you’ve kind of put up, you know, and done as well  as you have and  we’ve kind of talked about how you do a lot of that in the past. 

Creating a new business, you kind of have this great idea, right, and most people think that successful businesses are started with these ideas that nobody has ever had but the majority of successful businesses actually just kind of copy somebody else and that’s the safe way to go and it’s actually how most businesses are successful, and you saw, like, I want to do this something completely different, anytime you do something completely different. You get some people who really love it, and then you get some pushback. What was some of the pushback that you got

Jillian
With the class style. You know people wanting more of this or more of that and like in not totally getting caught in all of the individual wants and needs of everyone, and trying to figure out well okay  615 or 9:15am classes, our biggest classes, what styles do we put there and, oh, Joe Bob over here wants more strength training but like Sally wants more hate cardio like how do we, if we say, Hey, this is one a one stop shop for a lot of different modalities, how do we meet everyone’s needs. 

We only have so many hours in the day, you know, and so, coming up with a schedule that made sense, physically, where people wouldn’t be as inclined to go someplace else and  like we know so many owners in this business. if we don’t have the class you want to like go see Betha transform. We would throw those people names out there like go be with these studios, but I think it was a little bit, we would get caught up in chasing what people want and of course we wanted to please people and keep people you know we first opened. So that was definitely something and just, you know pricing and all that stuff like Heather and I are always some people to be like well just do it for free or like whatever they’re like oh my god or overheads.

Jamie
I know when I saw you move into that place I was like, good luck, they’ll be out of there in six months, but you obviously prove me wrong. And, you know, credit to you. I didn’t know what I was talking about. So you know as you’re developing all of these, these individual classes and you know you’re trying to bring on some new resources for people. I want to talk about the individual classes and who those are for but what do you what would you say your general approach to fitness is.

Jillian
Our general approach to fitness I would say is like safety, form, functionality, and fun. We are very specific on how when we teach a move it’s for a reason, we’re always going to show you visuals.  we’re always gonna consistently cue you are not going to be like, Okay, here’s an eight reps, serve or an eight move circuit. Now get out there for 40 minutes and I’ll just like, play some good tracks and see you later. Like, we’re constantly looking at people’s bodies letting those fuel our cueing and like a really intentional class and format for sure which is very hard to teach. And that’s the way I will go back on like a struggle that we’ve had is like Heather taught everywhere and she left everywhere because either that studio or the owner was like you have to do it our way her creativity was tampered down, and we want to say hey, teacher, that works for us. We want you to be creative but we also want you to hold this level of integrity and standard that we have for our space, and that’s a very fine line. So your question was what again.

Jamie
What is your general approach to fit.

Jilliam
Okay yeah so functionality, teaching things for purpose. Being able to challenge people in a group dynamic, being able to up level people and being able to accommodate different injuries and stuff in a group setting is very challenging.

It takes a lot of experience and work to do it well. And I think just like the fun factor I mean we are such  goofballs.  I think this is why our minds work so well for us is like, we start every class with like, we call it our monologue and Heather and I kind of learned this in our yoga teacher training, it’s like, I’m going to tell you where I’m at for the day if I expect you to be vulnerable with me or with your body and your energy and all that. I’ve got to step up and say  hey man like I’m really excited to be here today I have lots of energy or like it was a really huge struggle on this is my weird story that happened over the weekend we’re all kind of notorious for like our bizarre stories, but having that human connection, and then being like, alright, let’s, let’s go. We’re in this, let’s turn it on, I think is what a big part of our approach.

Jamie
Who would you say compass is perfect for.

Jilliam
Can’t say everybody, because that’s a lame answer so I’ll just say, I think everyone should try it out though, right. Everyone should try it out. Yeah 100% I think this is for somebody who’s constantly curious about that connection to movement, and somebody who appreciates being excited about community, and someone that is like excited and curious about their evolution of their wellness.

Jamie
I love it. And how many classes do you have right now, like, not numbers but like different styles of classes,

Jilliam
Different Okay, so I think we have about 10. I think I have about 10. And we have pre COVID They were like, during the day it would kind of be varied. Post-covid, the times we call it the times, post the times we would run the same class, the whole day, so like, okay, Mondays is compensable direction Wednesdays is hit and run things like that were before they were kind of scattered but with the spatial equipment stuff we are kind of an app but they very pompous online has all the formats right now.

Jamie
Okay. And let’s talk a little bit about compass online. So you had had this idea before COVID Right, it was slowly starting to kind of develop, and then all of a sudden you know it was, essentially, you know, this has to happen now. So, why did you want to do it before. And then we’ll answer that, let’s answer that first.

Jillian
So, when we opened Columbus fitness, we talked about online like right away. how can we film there, we only have one location. We just were really caught up in the hell of it, and we saw the need for, for the same reason we open the gym like believing there’s a lot of ways to move our body, people could really connect with our individual personalities online and some people do want to work out at home. Some people are intimidated to come to a space. I mean, we have a very thick community. Very friendly but it’s intense sometimes and I’d like I would hate, if someone didn’t feel comfortable or fit enough or in shape enough to come into our space, it would be really beautiful if they at least could have something online where they could see what we’re really like as people in trust us in their living room and then be able to come in so that was like a big part of that, and as you know, only a brick and mortar, the, the profit margin is not very high. And so we thought long term like it’d be cool to have different kinds of umbrella limbs for our business.

Jamie
Yeah. And so you started this basically at the same time as everybody else in the world, you know, so lots of competition out there. Yeah, very few people were, I would say, long term successful, and you have been very successful at this because, correct me if I’m wrong, you’ve gained like 2000 followers on Facebook in a month or something insane like that. So why were you successful when everybody else wasn’t.

Jillian
That’s a really good question Dave and I keep coming back to it I think I have a lot of different answers for it so basically the story goes, we shut down on Monday the 16th of March, at 1pm, and the four owners and I hopped on a call at 1:30pm, and we were like, What the f are we gonna do, like, we got to, so our biggest goal was, how do we keep because we had to keep paying our bills we didn’t know how long this is going to go for. 
So our idea was our members, our auto pay members whether we’re on for 812 times a month UNLIMITED How do we keep them pay. And our idea was we were to say to our members hey if you guys need to cancel your membership today, totally fine. If we’re going to do these 8 million things to keep you on providing that it’s an exchange of energy services still so we rented out our entire gym, we offered everybody like four pieces of equipment that was paying us a membership for free. We decided to get online on Facebook Live, the very next morning I taught Tuesday morning at 915.

So we had established we had compass fitness you know our Facebook business page. And then we’ve created like a couple months back, this page called compass family that was just like, for our people in our community, it had like 100 members on there that we were like hey we’re going to have a potluck or we’re going to do like a, you know, fitness yoga, or clothing exchange just like to keep our community kind of connected. We haven’t spent much time on the page though, so we’re like, we don’t want to put it on our business page because of the algorithm of Facebook, people don’t see this much, we’re gonna create it on this compass family page which was a private group.

We didn’t care if you lived in Nebraska or whatever we’re going to let everybody. So, the next morning I taught live and then we slowly every week decided we’re gonna least do one class a day and like by week three, we were having up to three classes a day and a showing our different formats that we have at our brick and mortar, but they were all in their living rooms, they were always stuff that we had around the house, I mean we knew some of our members had equipment, so like we’re like okay if you don’t have weights like fill a backpack with books like, we tried to be as creative as we could. 

And again, I think that’s where our personalities really shine in that moment and like being really vulnerable like hey we’re all in this and this is like my living room my roommates upstairs like shut the door shut. So I think, that’s part of the process but then we were just getting requests to request and literally like, within three weeks we were like over 1000 people and within six weeks we were over like 2000, because everyone was just sharing it out and everyone wanted access. So they were invited, you know we approve them we’re just letting everybody in, and we did off Davey was so funny like Taylor did trivia nights on Wednesday, he like channeled Alex Trebek had the microphone and he did trivia everywhere from like regular Jeopardy, it was exactly that was like, you know, nature for 500 whatever and then like compass would be like a category and, and it was all on Facebook Live and people were typing in their answers, and all this stuff.

I did an Enneagram talk. Cooking live demos we were just like, What would people love  to have at 5:30pm was the happy hour like trying to keep something going some sort of like normalcy in people’s lives. So we had that weird stuff on there. And like, you know, Tara’s boyfriend was and some of the videos and he became a character like it was just fun,

Jamie
Yeah gonna say it sounds like you had a lot of fun with it probably what was the most stressful time ever for you. thank you, for you know helping bring up everybody else’s spirits as well.

Jamie
I will say it was all free or donation based. So that’s how it kind of transitioned after seven weeks.  We did all donation based content and then we flipped to the compass online format. And how is that going, how is the new online format going,

Jillian
Oh, it’s amazing, it’s amazing we use this platform created by Denver guys called member def. And one of our friends Kyle Uyghur, who’s a handstand workshop like genius guy, works with them, and we tested out probably five platforms in one week. Everybody was trying to sell those platforms to every studio in the nation. And so we really liked that it was local and we streamed a video. It was super easy, it allowed us to upload over 80 videos, I mean, already we could just dump into the program. It was super easy to go live every day. And just looks really clean and it’s been going great, we have just under 200 paying members currently. And our next goal is to really market it and spend some time and money to do that.

Jamie
I mean that many members and that short of a time is pretty, Pretty impressive, because that’s only a couple miles. Yeah.

Jillian
Thank you.

Jamie
So we haven’t talked specifically about the classes and you probably have too many for us to go over the specifics of every class, but maybe just give us give us an idea of what people will get in the classes.

Jillian
Yeah, yeah, so I’ll just go over a few so one of our foundational one,s purposeful direction, that’s like our tried and true blend of strength and cardio. you’re going to get full body. We have complex NORTHCOM the south means upper body for north lower body for barbell, same thing, Little Mix of cardio. One of our really popular classes is a strength training focus class only called down and dirty. There will be no burpees, like, no mountain climbers like no high impact, it’s all strength training.

So if we have to use heavy weights, like push a pole in front of the leg, back of the leg, very, like, low rep towel, lots of rest people that really want to develop the strength. We have one of our newest.  We launched this class probably two weeks before COVID happened, called hit and run.  so there was like a running element. And it really became like especially doing guaranteed one of our most popular classes because I was like, Hey I have six stories in my townhome I could run stairs you can run outside you can do jump roping, we had a treadmill, people I think life the idea they could get them outside and like knowing that there would be like a little bit of a running element but if they didn’t run they could, 
You know, choose something else. And then we have a class called buns and guns, it’s more glutes and arm focus again, less impact like down and dirty, and we have one called athletic conditioning like going over speed work agility, kind of athlete mindset stuff. So yeah that’s kind of like a little taste of some of our most popular classes.

Jillian
Well, we actually are soft openings when we get a 20th. And so we’re just doing personal training and now we signed the lease which can be nearly like the first week of February. And we acquired it in the third week of April.

Jamie
Okay, and what is the eventual goal with that or what’s the vision.

Jillian
Yeah, so I’ll tell you the initial vision. some of this wellness is two blocks up fromCompass fitness, and it’s a totally different ideology of it
we’re gonna have yoga and bar. there’s a separate yoga room and then kind of out in the front space. Our goal is to have smaller group classes called high lit it’s high intensity low impact. So we have six Versa climbers, we also have six cable machines if you think of a home gym. And those would be for small groups and because of COVID those will be six people classes. And then it’s also where we personal train. We have to mirror some kind of squat rack area up on the front. And then there’s three practitioner rooms. So the idea of pre COVID was like PT massage, acupuncture, chiro, those sorts of things hydration. So it’s, it looks like a sister location with the same barrel roof ceiling, but it’s, it’s a, it’s a lot different exposed brick upper level law, we call the eagle’s nest.

Jamie
Yeah, it almost looks like a fitness spa like it’s kind of that high end feel to it, like luxury. You know it’s a beautiful space.

Jillian
Yeah, thank you.

Jamie
Yeah, and the only good classes there. Yeah, eventually doing quite a few classes through there as well.

Jillian
Yeah, not as much. There’ll be like four a day between the yoga, bar, and the small group. Yeah, about four a day.

Jamie
And I want to give you credit because I know you co produced the 50 to 80 wellness boost, which was amazing, which went really well. Yes, exactly where fitness, everybody and fitness and health and there’s classes and so next year, check it out. Julian did a great job with that last year and I’m sure will do a great job again. It’s really fun. And what else, what else would you like people to know either about you or compass Yeah,

Jillian
I would love for people to come give it a try. I mean I think I’m so passionate about the people that we have there, our staff, super knowledgeable, super passionate about people, about movement. We just have a stellar community and I was reminded of that. And since COVID Like the level of support, the level of excitement that I got even just being away from it at home was very noticeable so I just obviously like my heart’s in it not just because of my co owner but because of the people.

I think one more thing about me, I think, is just the last year, I went through school with the MTA which is nutritional therapy Association, and I had been looking for a nutrition program for like five years and everything I found was just super selling old school, it felt like just like here’s macros here’s a plan like here we go, type of thing and I was looking for overall wellness like how does food impact my life How does food impact my digestion my stress level. And that’s really what nutritional therapy does. It looks at the whole person, it looks at our lifestyle choices, and all of that and last year I was in school learning about that and I just graduated and I’m definitely going to include that in encompass but also me personally working one on one with clients and then also creating.

I want to create an online course where people can learn about food and wellness, and kind of debunk the diet culture and get access to the information in a feasible way, so that’s something I’m working on now.

Jamie
Yeah I think that’d be huge for all your clients because fitness is one thing but health is more inclusive right. And so while you can go and sweat every day you know if you eat a steak and a beer every night, you may not, you know healthwise, be a healthy person. Yeah. So I think that will just bring a whole, whole nother level for all your clients and you’ll congratulations on that. By the way, I know you’ve been working on that, a long time and with as much as you’re doing I don’t know how you did that, but congratulations and I’m sure you’ll just fill this free time up with, you know something else. 

Jillian
So make sure you check everything out that Julian is doing, and thanks for tuning in.

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