Now On creates easy way to host virtual classes during coronavirus


When the Denver yoga studio where Jordan Smiley works shut down because of coronavirus, he did what a lot of instructors have been doing and started hosting live yoga classes online.

In theory, it should have been simple. Pick a date and time, send out a Zoom link and, voila, virtual yoga.

But the reality was so much more complicated. In those first few days, Smiley spent hours setting up online surveys, gathering email addresses, creating Zoom links, letting people know how they could make donations and messaging back and forth with his students. Suddenly, he realized he was more of an administrator than a yoga teacher.

 

 

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“I could’ve stayed at it for 23 hours a day and I wouldn’t have been caught up,” he said.

His friend Dani Bee watched this convoluted process unfold. Bee, who owns a hair space in Denver, was also suddenly unemployed and had a lot of free time on her hands.

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She decided to do something to make Smiley’s life — and the lives of other out-of-work instructors, artists and facilitators — easier.

Bee, along with Kyle Huelsman, developed a new online platform that streamlines the process of organizing, creating, hosting and accepting payment for virtual classes.

The tool, called Now On, is the product of the weird and challenging environment we now live in.

 

 

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It’s designed to make it easier to access all the new virtual offerings that are popping up while closures and stay-at-home orders are in place, while at the same time helping now-unemployed people get back to work by starting their own businesses.

“They’re able to be self-employed during this time when a lot of us aren’t able to work,” Bee said. “It’s being able to show up for their clients, their community, their classes in a way that they wouldn’t be able to until they have a studio or a kitchen or whatever to go back to.”

Though the platform was born from coronavirus, Bee says she believes it has staying power for whatever the world looks like after this. For starters, there have always been people who are simply uncomfortable being around groups of people. And when it comes to physical activities like yoga, dance or fitness, some people are self-conscious or embarrassed about moving their bodies in public.

And with the way the economy is trending, some people may not necessarily have jobs to go back to, either.

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“What is happening right now is setting us up for a before and after; this is going to change us,” Bee said. “It’s going to be great to go back to a yoga studio, but it’s also super rad and accessible for individuals to run their own business, separate from a studio.”

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The platform is also inspiring people to use their talents and skillsets in ways they hadn’t considered before.

Before coronavirus, Molly Raney had a cottage food business selling homemade cookies and jams out of her Brooklyn home (Raney used to live in Denver). She also baked and sold her unique cookies to a nearby restaurant, which shut down because of the pandemic.

 

 

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Today, she’s transitioned part of her business to hosting online cooking classes. It’s not something she could have predicted she’d be doing, but it was an easy transition to make given the current circumstances.

“When I started lesson planning, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I have so many ideas for different types of classes to offer people,’” Raney said.

Bee envisions the platform being useful to anyone who wants to host virtual events — artists, bakers, chefs, makers, dance teachers, yoga instructors and beyond.

“We wanted to take care of all the startup work and automate it so that our friends and our community can get back to the things they love — dance, fitness, baking classes — the things they excel at that aren’t web development,” she said.

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