How Financial Pivots Created New Possibilities
Written by Robin Taub

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

At the beginning of 2020, 26-year-old Joanna ("Jojo") Eisen was a hard-working fitness professional with multiple revenue streams. She was a personal trainer, a fitness instructor and Barre Master Trainer at a studio in Toronto and a Puma brand ambassador. She had also recently started an online fitness and nutrition program. And she was planning a summer wedding after a nearly two-year engagement.

How She Pivoted Her Business to Her Home

Jojo and her fiancé had just returned from a trip to New Zealand when the pandemic hit. They went into quarantine thinking the lockdown would last two to three weeks. Unable to teach or train people with everyone stuck at home, she thought, "What can I do to help people feel good about themselves?"

She started offering free classes live on Instagram. When she realized people were willing to pay, she did classes to raise money for charity.

But as the lockdown continued, Jojo said she "didn't to want to de-value my services and make it free forever." She quickly pivoted to offer the Body by Jojo four-week Challenge, a structured program of both live and recorded fitness classes for a fixed price. “With fitness, people need a financial commitment. If you've put money towards it, you're more likely to complete it."

"I was able to pivot," she said. "I had done a little online stuff already and I knew how to navigate it. We had a lot of family chats where it was, what do I do next, should I add more classes? A lot of those scenarios you can't run through on your own—you need that sounding board."

How She Adapted Her Business

Jojo was able to leverage her existing website, Body by Jojo, which included an e-commerce platform for payments and booking classes. She got an upgraded Zoom account, a microphone and a new computer with a good webcam. She also had to invest in equipment like dumbbells, kettle bells and booty bands.

Once she realized that her industry wasn't returning to what it had been, Jojo built a studio in her basement, putting in new floors and a branded wall background for videos.

The Challenge is now on its fourth round and going strong. Social media and word of mouth are Jojo's most effective marketing tools, both of which are free.

"I'm not a perfectionist. I know that things are not going to go perfectly right off the bat. Just push yourself to make those business pivots. You'll get there by trying things, not by worrying about what may not work."

How She Pivoted Her Wedding

In April, they were notified that their wedding venue wouldn't be holding events in the summer, and they received a refund of their deposit. Unfortunately, they lost other deposits with some smaller vendors, like the florist and make-up artist. They considered postponing their wedding, but they didn't want to face another year of wedding planning.

They now plan to get married on their original wedding day, outside at her parents' house, even if social distancing restrictions mean they can only have immediate family present.

"An intimate wedding can be just as lovely and meaningful," she said.

And a small August wedding meant they could buy a house earlier than planned.

How She Purchased Her Home

"We always wanted to buy a home, but we knew we had a wedding to pay for, and even though you budget, you never know what the end cost is going to be. We were nervous to be doing both at once so we decided to wait on buying a home," said Jojo.

"We really wanted a 20% down payment so we wouldn't have to get mortgage insurance. Once we were able to reallocate some of the wedding money to the house, knowing we were having a smaller less costly wedding, we started looking seriously."

They found a home that they loved and put in an offer conditional on financing. Because Jojo is self-employed (her fiancé is an employee,) she had to show the lender her books for the past 3 months. It was more challenging than normal to qualify for a mortgage and took longer than expected. "We also budgeted for furniture and an emergency fund, but I didn't really know about closing costs until I started looking for a house."

Now that she's settled into her new home and studio, she tells others who are thinking of buying a home now to “sit down, do the numbers, and figure out how much money you need to save, because it can happen sooner than you think."

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