How Bam Bam Boogie's Bami Kuteyi Bounced Back When Coronavirus Cancelled Her Classes

"We got such incredible feedback on how our online classes literally saved people’s mental health during lockdown."

Bustle UK has switched up its regular money series How I Made It Work, to better reflect the uncertain financial times caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of women who've achieved financial stability discussing the lessons they've learnt, each piece focuses on a woman who has had her financial situation transformed by the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. They'll share what their new normal looks like and how (if at all) they're making it work.

This time, HIMIW hears from Bami Kuteyi, founder of dance business Bam Bam Boogie and creator of the Twerk After Werk™ fitness classes which celebrate African and Caribbean music and dance styles. After Kuteyi was forced to cancel all of her classes at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK, she decided to set up an online dance studio, which attendees have credited with keeping their mental and physical health up during lockdown.

Age: 27

Location: London

Occupation: Founder/Master Trainer at Bam Bam Boogie

What was your working life like before the coronavirus outbreak?

Before the coronavirus outbreak my business life was 90% offline. I was teaching our Twerk After Work™ classes in London six times a week, travelling the world to certify instructors to teach these classes, DJing events, showcasing at fitness festivals, and doing charity work. In addition to this, three times a week I was working out of our office space in Stratford curating and hosting other community wellness events for corporates such as Facebook and University Arts London.

I would also spend about 30% of my week speaking at or attending networking, business, tech and wellness events to help promote my business through word of mouth. I am a Young Ambassador for The Prince's Trust so I would spend time going to speak at events on their behalf or meeting with potential donors.

How has the coronavirus outbreak changed your working life?

The outbreak has truly changed my working life forever. Now I work 100% online and can work from anywhere in the world. My schedule is actually busier than before because we have doubled down on our Bam Bam Boogie App and created a virtual studio where we have over 100 classes per month and a community of over 2,500 people.

It’s also opened my mind to the global opportunities that come from an online community. For example, we had someone from Brazil train with us online to become a Twerk After Work™ Instructor when previously that wouldn’t have been an option.

When the lockdown hit and gyms closed, I had no choice but to transition 100% online. Within 48 hours we had gone from cancelling all classes until further notice to an exciting launch message about our new online studio, which we pushed out everywhere – with Facebook and Instagram being our highest-converting marketing platform.

Although extremely scary and stressful at first, with no idea how transitioning all our clients online would work during a global pandemic, we got such incredible feedback on how these classes literally saved people’s mental health during lockdown. With feedback like this and a growing community of people all over the world, we will definitely keep our online studio going forward even as lockdown restrictions ease.

How has the coronavirus outbreak changed your financial situation?

On March 22, our daily revenue dropped completely to £0 and we just got inundated with emails of jobs/events being cancelled. However, by April we had a record breaking month with a 79% revenue increase (compared to Feb 2020). As lockdown restrictions ease and with seasonalities in the wellness industry, we have now seen revenues stabilise back to pre-outbreak levels but still trending at least 20% above our better winter months.

I’m so grateful for my digital marketing background and my passion for utilising tools such as Facebook and Instagram. Twerk After Work™ is such a connection-based activity it’s important that people get a feel for the classes at in-person events such as fitness festivals, but with Instagram specifically I was able to give people all over the world a free taste of the class through interactive videos.

In saying this, although our future looks bright, we are still concerned about our financial situation going forward due to the uncertainty of the economic situation as a whole.

Has the government made financial support available to people in your industry?

Yes they did make it available, however I was not eligible for any of the grants or schemes. But I was successful in receiving a grant from Enterprise Relief Fund by Princes Trust and NatWest.

Do you feel government measures have been sufficient for people in your industry?

Not for people in my industry who are small business owners, who do not own property or have not raised 250k in funding. It’s like we're the untold story and were completely forgotten about when putting together any of these schemes. It’s also quite concerning that pubs were able to open before gyms/wellness/community centres as this is what people need to lift their spirits and get them back to a great headspace after such a tumultuous time.

How are you managing the changes to your financial and professional circumstances?

Managing my finances a lot more closely, leaving the house less, and not travelling as much have definitely helped. In terms of my professional circumstances, I am trying to remain “light” in the sense of not signing any new long term agreements for a physical space and keeping the bulk of our services online.

What would help you feel more secure financially during the coronavirus outbreak?

A clear action plan for entrepreneurs/industry experts on how we will actually get back to “normal.” Right now it seems as though everyone is just dipping their toes in the water seeing what this new normal feels like, but we need more support. Something like a “back to action” financial package with a monthly stipend to support small businesses during one of the biggest economic downturns in history. Free services and training from large corporations during this break have been beneficial, but I would love to see them offering more grants and growth opportunities.

How do you feel the coronavirus outbreak will affect your working life long term?

My mindset has changed completely now. I do miss working in person with my team but I think it’s great to see us working remotely and having more time to do the things we love since we no longer have to spend hours a day commuting.

It has also made me learn so much more about how social media, in particular Facebook and Instagram, is such a powerful low cost marketing tool. It has helped my small business reach people all over the world for little investment — you just have to get creative. These tools have helped my community feel more connected than ever, and now I'm curious about becoming a full-time digital nomad working from different places in the world whilst still fulfilling my purpose of forming fearless females.

Do you think your experiences during the coronavirus outbreak will change your approach to your business or working life?

Yes, this experience of having all of my resources such as gyms/ community centres such down has shown me that as a business we must become more self sufficient and have more control over our platforms. That way if there was ever to be another pandemic we would already have all our own resources in place. It felt like quite a panic having to suddenly promote every single day on Instagram — there was one point where we were posting over 30 times a day across our accounts to ensure we were remaining visible at the peak of people’s attention on social media.

Do you think your experiences during the coronavirus outbreak will have an impact on your relationship with money?

Yes, firstly pre-outbreak I was spending way too much of it on things that really were non-essential. Secondly, I now see money as a tool that needs to be used for long-term gain not short-term. Ever since the lockdown started, I’ve been thinking more about investments and residual income because if I had an abundance of both of these, I wouldn’t have felt as insecure about finances when the lockdown hit. Lastly, financial literacy. It’s only during this period that I've had time to actually research more about financial opportunities such as grants, loans, investments and interest rates.

While money is important in keeping our businesses and personal lives thriving, I’ve also realised that it’s not everything. No matter how much wealth you acquire you can never buy health and after surviving my first ever (and hopefully last) global pandemic, I have truly learned that money is not everything. It’s important to enjoy life as much as possible whilst you have it.