Mandi Bateman had been teaching yoga and pilates for about 15 years when she and her co-founder David Schreck started LubbDubb, a Bay Area-based booking platform for fitness instructors, in 2017. Bootstrapped from the start, the platform let yoga, pilates, dance, and boot camp instructors connect directly to students and set up classes outside the usual studio system, which traditionally takes a large cut of the booking price. It was also a way to help lesser-known instructors build a loyal audience and ensure fuller classes when they did teach in studios.
That was, until Covid-19 and California's shelter-in-place measures changed everything for companies dedicated to bringing people together in a physical space. LubbDubb had to reposition, and do it quickly.
Bateman had already been hosting online webinars for instructors, which got her thinking. "I was like, 'OK, we've got to get these instructors paid--that's the mission here,'" she says. Almost overnight, LubbDubb became a directory for online classes taught via Zoom. Other sites like Seattle's Namastream and Los Angeles-based Glo have been offering online yoga and meditation classes for several years, so students are already acclimated to the idea. Of LubbDubb's 130 instructors, 68 have begun teaching online.
One benefit, according to Bateman: Some instructors are finding that even though they're charging less for classes, they are teaching more and pocketing more of the money than they could working with studios--a lucky stroke for solopreneurs hard hit by the lockdown.
Hannah Muse, a yoga instructor based in Santa Cruz, California, says she normally teaches in-person classes for about 40 to 50 students. The first time she taught an online course booked through LubbDubb, 140 people signed up. Muse charged $8 per person, but shared the Zoom link as a "scholarship" to anyone who said they couldn't afford it. She's now teaching three to four courses a week online. While she declined to discuss how much she was earning, Muse says LubbDubb has helped her earn money during a time when she expected to have none. "I went from being like, 'Oh, I have zero income' to being like, 'Oh, my gosh! I have really great income!'"
LubbDubb does not charge instructors to list their classes and only collects fees--which are set by the instructor and average about $3 per booking--if the platform sells the ticket. If the instructor sells the ticket on their own, they keep the full sale. If another LubbDubb community member makes the sale, they can collect the fee as well, encouraging members to cross-promote one another's classes.
Shruthi Reddy, who teaches a form of Bollywood-inspired dance workout called BollyX, says she's been teaching five classes a week from home, charging $8 for instruction that normally goes for $18 per class. She says these unprecedented times are inspiring fitness instructors, like other solopreneurs and founders, to rethink their approaches to stay afloat: "Every time there's a curve ball like this or a recession, something new emerges." Recently, she began teaching online marketing seminars to other instructors, showing them how to grow their followings even as studios are on hiatus.
As for LubbDubb, Bateman says she isn't yet sure whether the pivot will be permanent. Once instructors are back out in the world, she imagines they will use the platform again to book their classes and international retreats. "We hope that we'll be able to serve all of those other things," she says, "but we definitely are going to see how this plays out."