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Covid lockdown 2.0: 'We've had to completely change our business'

By Sarah Jenkins
BBC News

image copyrightJJK Fitness
image captionJoe Kelly said he had to "adapt and completely change" his fitness business due to a second lockdown

As England enters the third weekend of the second lockdown, businesses are looking for ways to diversify to give them the best chance of surviving the shutdown.

The BBC has spoken to three businesses about how they have adapted and adjusted to the tighter measures.

It's gym life, but not as we know it

image copyrightJJK Fitness
image captionThe independent gym owner said he introduced "drastic changes" when the second lockdown was announced

Joe Kelly set up his gym, JJK Fitness, in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, in 2016.

During the first lockdown in March he started online training programmes, including a YouTube channel, and rented out gym equipment to members.

In order to continue providing these workouts, he did not furlough any staff.

He also undertook a renovation project on the gym and said the quieter months and the government's bounceback loan "allowed us to do the refurb I've always wanted to do".

"We introduced an outdoor studio space which really helped us after lockdown eased," he said.

image copyrightJJK Fuel
image captionFor the second shutdown Mr Kelly has turned the gym's kitchen into a meal delivery and click and collect service

Mr Kelly reopened the facility in August with more members than ever.

He said it was his "positive mindset" that got the business through the lockdown.

"The gym costs about £25-30,000 a month to run which is a lot to find when you're not open and still paying your landlord fees," he said.

"I knew a lot of people would stand still during that time, so I was just focused on staying positive and planning the next steps for the business."

Just before lockdown 2.0, Mr Kelly had opened a kitchen on-site to prepare healthy meals for gym-users, which he almost immediately had to turn into a takeaway-only service when eating in at restaurants was banned again.

He said "drastic changes" were made, including altering the menu, setting up an online ordering system and working out how to manage deliveries.

He has also started socially distanced one-to-one personal training sessions in parks.

"We had to adapt and we've completely changed our model now. It's important for people's mental health to get them out of the house."

'My business crumbled'

image copyrightAvi Knizik
image captionWedding photographer Avi Knizik set up a bagel delivery business with his daughter, Poppy, during lockdown

Suffolk-based wedding photographer Avi Knizik said his business "crumbled" in the first lockdown.

"I usually do anywhere between 45 and 60 weddings a year - but it's all hit a wall," he said.

"After 12 years building up a very successful business I thought 'what am I gonna do?'"

With his new-found spare time, the 46-year-old began baking bagels with his nine-year-old daughter Poppy.

image copyrightAvi Knizik
image captionMr Knizik sells a variety of different flavour bagels, each with a vegan alternative, as well as salt beef, pickles and cream cheese

"I started baking when I was about 13-years-old and I used to run a bakery in Ipswich before moving into photography," he said.

"This was my bread and butter so I decided to start experimenting with different flavours and vegan alternatives.

"We started a Facebook page offering door-to-door delivery and we have sold out every week since 20 June."

Mr Knizik said his Bagel or Beigel business, based at home in Mendlesham, has "gone from strength to strength".

"You could say that it is a lockdown business - one that launched out of necessity during a difficult period. But it also launched with the rekindling of a love of baking for others."

'We were overwhelmed'

image copyrightEve Petrusic-Houghton
image captionSmall business owners Eve Petrusic-Houghton and Claire Woodend said they were "overwhelmed" by the support when they joined forces

Eve Petrusic-Houghton and Claire Woodend both own independent businesses in Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

Ampthill Deli & Kitchen boss Mrs Woodend had discussed joining forces with The Ampthill Cakery's owner Mrs Petrusic-Houghton last year - but both said lockdown gave them the push they needed to bring their idea to life.

The pair started their delivery box service, Graze by the Deli, earlier this year and said they were "overwhelmed" with the response after having to close their shops in lockdown.

"We were doing over 100 deliveries each weekend - all while Eve was heavily pregnant," Mrs Woodend said.

The 30-year-old said her husband and toddler joined her for deliveries as she "couldn't keep jumping up and out of the car".

image copyrightGraze by the Deli
image captionThe pair said it was lovely seeing "joy on people's faces" when delivering boxes during lockdown

For the second lockdown, the women have had to deal with the cancellation of events they were due to cater for, with no rescheduled dates due to the uncertainty of lockdown being extended.

"It was a big disappointment," Mrs Woodend said.

"But we adapted and are now offering Christmas graze boxes which we can deliver to workplaces for their socially-distanced festive parties and we're even doing boxes for a socially distanced hen-do."

The business partners said although 2020 had been "tough and unexpected" they saw it as a "blessing in disguise" as they have discovered their passion.

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