It seemed their back-breaking work had come crashing down amid the COVID-19 crisis. But these physiotherapists have managed to change their business model to get back on their feet.
For Kylie Monteith (Master of Physiotherapy ’04) and husband Adam, 2020 began with their premium physiotherapy business, Evoker, primed for success.
After nine years in operation, Evoker launched a third therapy space in Sydney’s CBD – a ‘six-star’ clinic housed in the WeWork co-working building in Sussex Street, overlooking the city’s spectacular harbour.
The unorthodox multinational-meets-small-business collaboration followed a long courtship and lengthy negotiation, but Evoker’s branding, state-of-the art fit-outs and outstanding client experience – not to mention tenacity – piqued WeWork’s interest.
“From the moment we heard Barangaroo was transforming from a bustling container terminal into an urban metropolis, we’ve had our hearts set on having a presence within this exciting innovative CBD area,” Kylie said.
“Our first clinic was housed in a humble industrial space on Sussex Street, where we marvelled at Barangaroo coming to life and imagined ways that Evoker might become part of Sydney’s largest redevelopment project.”
When complete in 2024, Barangaroo will accommodate more than 23,000 workers and residents, and host thousands of visitors each day. But for a small business, the barriers to entry seemed overwhelming.
“We saw WeWork was taking up residence in Barangaroo, and we pursued them relentlessly to integrate our offering into their space.”
The persistence paid off, and Evoker became WeWork Barangaroo’s first member, and a pilot project for the New York-based co-working company to potentially scale globally.
Evoker clients embraced the move.
“Joining WeWork really elevated our brand. Within two weeks our revenue – across all clinics – reached record highs,” Kylie said.
Then, just weeks later, their dream came to a crushing halt.
Physiotherapy was one of the many health services affected by the necessary, but ambiguous, COVID-19 social-distancing measures. The blurring lines of essential and non-essential services left clients confused.
Kylie said Evoker’s revenue fell by 65 per cent in one week, and there was also concern for the health of staff members.
“With 25 minutes of each 30-minute consult involving close physical interaction, we didn’t feel comfortable exposing our 11 full-time physios to the potential health risks of COVID-19,” she said.
“It was devastating, but we had to prepare our amazing team across all locations to stand down.”
Fortunately for Kylie, the culture she and her husband had created at Evoker paid dividends. Just one week after the heart-breaking discussion with the team, they had rallied to deliver a new offering for clients.
“Our Women’s Wellness physios run exclusive small-group reformer pilates classes, called ‘Clever Core’. They simply changed up the delivery and launched via Zoom,” she said.
It seemed to be just what their clients needed, and the first session – offered through WeWork’s virtual events program – was met with resounding enthusiasm.
“The feedback was incredible and emotional. There was a really warm and endearing feeling in that Zoom room that day."
“People are working in far less ergonomically friendly conditions and relish the opportunity to maintain physical health. Within a week, we had to double our class offerings.”
While the transformation has been deemed a success, Kylie is focused on life beyond COVID-19.
“We love what we do, so not being in town and physically seeing, engaging and talking to people in our space is hard. We can’t wait to be back.”
UQ graduate and physiotherapist Kylie Monteith exercising in the Evoker space.
In the meantime, the true business cost of COVID-19 remains unknown.
“Our premium offering means our overheads are high. Our clinics feature award-winning design, and our equipment is state-of-the-art.”
Evoker houses an Alter G anti-gravity treadmill that is worth about $70,000. The treadmill was developed by NASA to defy gravity and allows patients to quickly return to running after injury, or prepare for marathons without the same impact load.
They are usually found within universities or in the gyms of elite sporting teams.
It’s this exceptional offering – along with their warmth, care and level of competency – that has attracted politicians (including a former prime minister), business leaders, billionaires and professional athletes to Evoker. The team also boasts fruitful partnerships with sports teams, such as the Houston Texans (NFL) and the Sydney Swans (AFL).
They are confident these devoted clients will return.
“While these times are incredibly challenging, we know they will pass. In the meantime, exercise, music and wine are getting us through!”
Still, Kylie admits Zoom COVID-Core sessions will have a life after lockdown.
“We intend to keep delivering our Zoom classes at the end of this. We just might have to re-name them.”
Visit Evoker's website to learn more about their services.