Establishing a good fitness regime is rarely compatible with taking care of a small infant. Charging from creche to circuit training can cause enough of a headache; package in inflexible fees and booking arrangements and it seems likely to become a full-blown migraine. Fortunately, postnatal exercise club Busylizzy has created a flexible solution that’s suitable for parent and progeny alike.
Co-founders Julie Yates and Sarah Monk first saw the opportunity to create a different kind of fitness club when they were looking for baby classes. One of the things they noticed was that there was an inherent inflexibility about the way mum and baby groups were structured. “We always found it a bit hit and miss,” says Yates. “The traditional mum and baby groups seemed to be stuck in 1985.” Not only were many baby classes held in unsuitable locations like dusty and draughty village halls but parents would often be expected to cut a cheque for a term of classes, something that seemed rather anachronistic by 2009. “I don’t know about you but I can’t remember the last time I used my chequebook,” she adds.
And the future business partners found going to the gym wasn’t much better: any time they wanted to attend a fitness class they would also have to worry about childcare. “I had to try and juggle creche bookings,” Yates says. “My little ones didn’t always want to go to the creche so I’d have tears.”
It occurred to Yates and her co-founder that there had to be a way of combining fitness and baby classes in a way that was better for both parent and child. “There’s no reason when you’ve got a three-month-old baby that they can’t chill out on the matt or a duvet while mum does Pilates or yoga,” she says. “So we put all these things into the pot and Busylizzy was born.”
Before long, the nascent franchise was coming to fruition. “It took about three months working from my kitchen table at home and recruiting instructors,” says Yates. “Because of my background in leisure, I didn’t find it too daunting.” She began tracking down independent teachers from local magazines and classes, asking them to work under the Busylizzy brand and explaining their plan to bring a multitude of parent and child classes under one roof. “People soon came round to it and it was one of those ideas where people were like: ‘Why hasn’t this been done before?'” she adds.”
Considerable attention was also paid to Busylizzy’s branding. “As we’ve grown, it has proven to be a real clincher,” Yates says. The main focus with the branding was finding something that seemed fresh and stimulating but that wasn’t heavy on babyish iconography. “This is somewhere parents go, exercise, meet like-minded people and enjoy some classes with their children,” she says. “We wanted to get that across in our branding without it all being cutesy and full of teddy bears, toys and rattles.” After conducting focus groups and putting the contract out to tender, Busylizzy found its current designer, who has continued to guide its branding to this day.
But whilst its unique approach to design has certainly made it popular with its customers, Busylizzy’s broad range of classes is undoubtedly what has helped it stand out. “Each club has access to 21 classes and they can put any combination of those classes on their timetable,” Yates says. The classes are split into three different groups: the first focuses on ‘Mummy & Me’ post-natal fitness, offering things like Pilates, yoga and buggy fitness. The baby classes focus on calming and nurturing activities – encompassing things like reflexology, massage and painting – whilst sessions for toddlers provide more active classes, including Hip Hop Tots and Mini Explorers. “We span the first four years that parents have with their little ones, pretty much up until school,” says Yates.