How Kim Ridgers and Barrie South’s Oxygen Yoga & Fitness Managed to Come Together to Open Amidst the Pandemic
Diving into a new opportunity can be a big risk at the best of times, but for Kim Ridgers, franchise owner of Barrie South Oxygen Yoga & Fitness, opening a new business came with more obstacles than usual. With the studio set to open in March of 2020, typical opening plans for Barrie South’s studio had to be pushed aside. But nonetheless, Kim found a way to connect with the local community and to keep Barrie South’s new yoga studio afloat amidst a world of uncertainty.
Growing up, Kim always had a passion for yoga and fitness, from running in the kilometer club in school to finding a passion for yoga. But it was during some downtime while in British Columbia to run the Lululemon SeeWheeze Half Marathon that Kim discovered Oxygen Yoga & Fitness.
“It was August of 2018. I stayed with a friend that lived in New Westminster B.C. Ran my half marathon, but I was there for a week. My friend was going to work so I was trying to entertain myself during the day so I found the one week trial […]. I remember leaving there in August 2018 thinking wow it would be so cool if they had these in Ontario one day”.
By the summer of 2019, Kim was turning that thought into a reality, delving into Yoga teacher training and Canfit certification while pursuing purchasing a franchise. Kim explains the initial pandemic lockdown “was literally two weeks before what was supposed to be our opening day”. Like so many others, Kim and the Barrie South team were unable to go forward with their life plans, in this case what would have been their new beginning with the studio.
Kim explains this was “pretty devastating” and “a huge challenge”. But nonetheless, Kim persisted and planned to continue with the studio opening once possible safely to do.
“Honestly I was so far into the process,” Kim explains. “My build out was pretty much done, my staff were hired. My day job was quit. My franchise was purchased. There wasn’t turning back. It wasn’t an option”.
While continuing with plans to open the studio may have remained Kim’s only option, this doesn’t mean it didn’t come with many more challenges than expected as Kim and the Oxygen Yoga & Fitness staff “just [tried] to keep positive and keep up spirits that there was going to be an opening day”. The team found ways to connect with their burgeoning community, running virtual classes and outdoor classes, first through renting out spaces in the park and then, when affording rent on the studio and the park was no longer an option, from an undeveloped patch of grass at the end of their plaza.
The studio was finally able to open in September of 2020, but with less than half of the original planned capacity for the studio. After remaining open for a couple months, the studio once again had to close. In total, the studio opened and closed five times before they were finally able to open and stay open consistently in February 2022.
Kim attributes much of her studio’s ability to overcome these circumstances to the team working in the studio and the people who have supported them. When the studio was eventually able to stay open, Kim’s staff initially opened the studio without Kim due to extenuating circumstances. And this is far from the only instance in which the studio’s staff have played an integral role in bringing the business success. Speaking about the Barrie South staff, Kim explains “they’re super dedicated. They’re super awesome people. They are literally what makes the studio and the classes”.
But it’s not only Oxygen Yoga & Fitness’ employees, but also its members which make the studio what it is. The studio, originally designed to hold forty people, is still running classes more spread out, with a capacity of thirty two people per class. Even so, Kim explains it’s “crazy to see the difference with the energy in the class and the energy with the people and the friendships you can make with thirty two people in a class. It’s almost what we’d envisioned and I mean it probably is our new reality”.
Kim shares “It’s really exciting to see the energy and the spirit of people and like that’s what group fitness is supposed to be. Like when you don’t want to do one more push up but your neighbor is doing one more pushup you’re like okay I can do this too. You cheer each other on”.
The studio has come together for countless fun events over the years, such as Halloween nights, disco nights, and a ‘meet me at the bar’ night featuring barre class and juice shots. A 20-20-20 class the studio held where three different instructors split up the teaching of each twenty minute segment of the class stands out to Kim as a member favorite, as do member challenges. They’ve hosted outdoor classes downtown Barrie, a member mingle event at a local pub, and classes for charity, “including the foodbank and a drive for feminine products. [Barrie South] have also raised funds for Special Olympics Ontario and sponsored an athlete”.
For Kim personally, the classes at Oxygen Yoga & Fitness remain the highlight of owning a franchise. Kim teaches a weekly class, and loves to take other classes at the studio whenever possible as well. It appears the members feel the same. When asked for advice to share with new franchise owners or those considering opening a franchise of Oxygen Yoga & Fitness, Kim suggested considering your policies for how many classes members can take because one of the unexpected obstacles Barrie South has faced is contemplating what to do when members want to take multiple daily classes.
For members coming into the studio, Kim hopes they find whatever they are looking for in the classes. People come into the yoga studio for lots of different reasons, and with many different class options to explore, there’s multiple options for members to meet these needs.
To connect with the community Kim and the team at Oxygen Yoga & Fitness are creating, come in and try a class at Barrie South.