Let’s get the awkward stuff out of the way first. Hi, I’m Julie Harrish. I am the co-founder of 6IX Cycle Spin Studio and 6IX Flow Movement Studio here in Toronto. To say the last 18 months have been a challenge is a laughable understatement. The last 18 months have been the wildest roller coaster ride imaginable. The highs are high, the lows are low and the in-between is a winding road filled with twists, turns, bumps and many unpredictable moments.
How it Started
When I left my corporate job just over four years ago to take the plunge into entrepreneurship and boutique studio ownership, my goal was simply to help people improve their lives through movement, music and sweat. The grind to get where we were on March 15, 2020, was grueling and long but at the same time, so damn rewarding. We helped countless people, clients, and staff alike, discover confidence, and strength they didn’t think was possible. We helped people get through break-ups, life changes, losses and celebrate their biggest wins on a stationary bike in a dark room.
On Sunday, March 15, 2020, my husband and cofounder, Sheldon, and I made the difficult decision to close the doors at 6IX Cycle and “temporarily” pause in-person classes. The safety of the community was at the forefront of this decision but what I couldn’t get out of my head was how much the 6IX community still NEEDED us. They needed spin classes to help navigate the situation, blow off steam and to keep them healthy should (God forbid), they catch the thing that shall not be named. Thus began…. our first pivot. The very next day I came up with a plan. We would rent out the studio bikes and deliver classes through some form of online media, and in the meantime, while we prepared and maintained the bikes for at-home use, I went on Instagram Live with an “off the bike” HIIT class to keep the people in our community moving together.
All 50 of the 6IX Cycle bikes made their way to condo living rooms across the GTA at the end of March and we immediately went online with classes. First on Instagram Live, then on Vimeo Live and finally to our very own On Demand Platform, 6IX On Demand. Sheldon (fondly known as Studio Dad) learned how to edit videos, incorporate direct audio input, and improve production value daily. We recorded a variety of classes and even introduced some off-the-bike options for those who didn’t have access to a bike at home. We held contests and challenges and did everything we could to keep our community together while we were all stuck at home. 18 months later, 6IX On Demand Platform is still alive and well. We have been able to bring the magic of the 6IX Cycle community to our friends across the country and even around the world.
Pivot #2, 3 & 4
After a brief reopening in August/September 2020 we entered the next phase of the pandemic also known as “lockdown 2.0.” Like everyone in the province of Ontario, we were heartbroken. Moving together IRL for 8 short weeks was EVERYTHING and the thought of going back to the digital world, to be frank, made me feel like I was going to barf. Cue Pivot number two. Desperate to keep our community moving together, we reached out to our friends across the street at what was formerly Miss Likklemore’s and they graciously allowed us to use their patio space for outdoor weekend rides. We packed up 18 bikes, speakers and Plexiglas dividers and headed across the street for six more weeks of sweating (and a few noise complaints.)
Pivot number three arrived as the fall weather hit. While indoor classes were not permitted, gyms were allowed to operate at a reduced capacity. We invested in a projector and a big screen and rented out the spin room for 6IX On Demand classes to those looking to ride somewhere other than their living-room. It was as close to the in-studio experience we could provide. Pivot three ended with the first Ontario ‘Stay Home Order’, and we remained in the digital space until March 2021. Pivot number four lasted an entire 2 weeks with 6-person outdoor classes and silent disco headphones on the 6IX Cycle patio on Queen St W. While it was nice to spin in person, some of those rides were so cold we couldn’t feel our extremities, but it does go to show the resilience of people and how far they are willing to go to do the things they love. The 6IX community continued to show up and move together.
The Final Pivot?
Pivot number five…hopefully the FINAL Pivot (pertaining to the pandemic at least); brought back more outdoor classes. On June 14, 2021, we opened 6IX OOS (6IX Out of Studio), a temporary outdoor facility at Stay Gold in Parkdale. Complete with a tent and 16 bikes, 6IX OOS brought the community together once again. We laughed, we cried, and boy did we SWEAT before moving the operation back indoors (hopefully) for good on September 3.
Resilience is Everything
Life is unpredictable at the best of times, throw in a pandemic and all predictability goes completely out the window. What doesn’t disappear though, is resilience. The pivots, the hardships, the rollercoaster (and hey, I didn’t even mention that in the midst of all of this we opened an entire second studio and concept, 6IX Flow-more on that soon but come join us for music based, beat driven, candle-lit, sweat-infused hot yoga indoors in Dundas W)…all of it taught me that I am resilient AF and there is really nothing that can hold someone back if they are passionate enough. I also learned the true power of community. The 6IX Cycle community rallied behind us with every pivot, every decision and subsequent mistakes and they SHOWED UP for us in our time of need. I am grateful for everyone who stood by and continues to stand by as we tread in these unknown waters. I say it in class often but 2020/2021 it rang true in real time “Show up for those who show up for you.”