You Only Live Once, or YOLO, an acronym popularized by Drake a decade ago, has become a Covid anthem for the young, the old and the exhausted. As the pandemic continues to change our lives, work and travel, for many it has also proven to be a siren call for reassessment and professional bravado.
Pre-Covid American dancer and fitness expert Catie Miller owned and operated a popular barre studio in London’s trendy Marylebone district. Likewise, his long-time friend Boniface Verney-Carron ran an osteopathy clinic in Mayfair which occupied it seven days a week. Long before the word pandemic was a pillar in our daily vocabulary, Miller and Verney-Carron had spent several afternoons and evenings wondering how to develop their respective businesses. Both had built up huge numbers of followers, but faced the plight of many successful leaders: clients wanted to work with them specifically and only with them. With both parents with limited availability, there was one question in particular that kept coming up. How do you grow with any impact when there will never be just one of you?
It was this question coupled with another light bulb moment that led to their second acts. What Miller and Verney-Carron had realized was that customers were looking for more. “We both started to see this common theme,” says Miller. “Customers came to me realizing that there was something missing. But I wasn’t a hormone expert or able to offer nutritional advice, and all of these things I knew could help their long-term health and well-being. I started sending a lot of my clients to Boniface and vice versa. He would say to his clients, “OK, now you have to move. “
It was before 2020. Then the pandemic struck and their two businesses disappeared. Having spent most of their careers in the physical world, switching to the digital space was intimidating, but they knew they had to give it a try.
It was the start of the Oona series. Oona – a Gaelic original word meaning one – is a digital wellness community offering fitness classes (live and pre-recorded), podcasts, wellness tips, interviews, masterclasses and more.
Wellness is a saturated market for both online businesses and traditional businesses, but like everything, done right, you can excel. “There is so much information out there. But a lot of times if you google something you just can’t get anywhere, ”Miller says of the health and wellness tips. “You sit there for hours, but you don’t have a trusted source that you really feel connected to. So with Oona, we strategized not only with ourselves, but with a much larger team, asking the question, “How could we make Oona really useful to everyone?” “
And they wanted to get it right, creating fun and informative but also produced workout videos and podcasts in extremely high quality, professionally filmed in beautiful locations. A month later, they had already posted over 50 wellness videos and over 60 workout videos.
“We have nine instructors teaching on the movement side, and they’re all over the world,” says Miller. “So that’s another good thing, we can hit time zones anywhere. We have instructors in New Zealand, Australia, America, UK, and they teach multiple disciplines because we try to inspire our clients not to always keep doing the same thing, to change.
On the business side, the couple decided if they were going to launch this, they were going to give it every possible chance of success. “We contacted our friends and family. It was just a very tight group, just people we knew, ”says Miller. “And fortunately our network is really strong. Our investors, they come from the tech world. They come from experiences in running successful online businesses that have gone public. So for us it was really exciting.
In 2021, on launch night, Miller and Verney-Carron went out to dinner to celebrate. “And I found the original email I sent to Boniface, asking him, ‘Do you want to be a part of this project?’ And my email was so long, and I spent days getting it ready, really brainstorming my ideas so that maybe I could get him to think about it. And it was amazing to read it because the ideas were so small. And to be where we are now, and to see how much content we’ve produced podcasts, videos, workouts … All from that little idea, something Boniface and I had been talking about for so long. . And I just remember we were like, ‘Alright, let’s stop talking, let’s do this and see what comes out the other side.’