Co-Wellness : The Trend Emerging From Singapore That Is Set To Change The Game

In a city renowned for externally scouting inspiration to implement on its own sunny shores, Singapore recently emerged as a breakthrough leader of an innovative new trend, coined “Co-Wellness”. As the health and wellness industry lunges its way into the co-working space, co-wellness takes the existing hot-desking model and tailors it specifically to the practitioners of the ever-expanding sector.

“Disrupting the traditional gym and boutique fitness model, we’re hedging the movement could be set to have explosive success abroad – perhaps more so than in its originating region.”

How Does Co-Wellness Work?

Favouring a predominately freelance-based industry, co-wellness spaces bridge the existing gap between the need of physical space to train or treat a client base, and the prohibitive costs required – from initial capital outlay and long-term lease barriers – that traditionally freeze an individual out of the market. It’s an appealing call to action for the crop of health-focused freelancers who through hustle and passion have built their own personal brands and loyal client followings.

Why work ‘for’ someone, when now you can literally become your own boss, mitigate the risk potential and take complete creative control of your work – without having to leverage a boutique studios own agenda of brand development and client retention.

First To Market

First to market was the innovative team behind GuavaPass, the popular subscription-based platform in Asia and the Middle East, who in 2017 launched GuavaLabs – a flexible space featuring 4 multi-purpose studios, which invited freelance trainers and established studios alike to have a centrally situated location in which to host classes and workshops. Emma Harris, Chief of Staff at GuavaPass explains:

“the intention of GuavaLabs was always to be an incubator, a space where new wellness concepts could be tried and tested”

An added bonus of the GuavaLabs model? Access for studios and instructors to utilise the GuavaPass platform, with its 3,000+ Singapore based users to assist in class bookings and referrals – maximising exposure and marketing strategy.

Scaling Up

Taking the model, scaling it up – immensely – and adding in a “wellness” twist, came Core Collective, who in April 2018 opened their 23,000 sq ft co-wellness space, backed by local property developers, Aurum. Sensing the moving public interest towards holistic health – and acutely, the existing local market gap – Core Collective’s initial space (with chat of more to come) is dominating in its scale and scope to provide for holistic health practitioners, whilst still catering to the fitness aficionados. Sitting across no less than 3 floors, Core Collective features two levels designed exclusively with a fitness or wellness focus, plus an additional location available to host seminars, events and workshops.

On the wellness floor, there’s 17 treatment rooms, 5 consultation rooms and 6 premium suites, ready to host a range of allied health professionals including TCM doctors, nutritionists, chiropractors, massage therapists and psychotherapists.

Entering the expansive fitness level, you’ll find a balance of high intensity pursuits and somatic body practices supported. There are three custom built Pilates spaces, 4 small to medium size, multi-purpose studios and an extensively equipped gym floor where functional HIIT classes and multiple personal training sessions can take place at any one time.  

The Operational Effort

Both Core Collective and GuavaLabs do all the heavy lifting of menial management and operations for their residents, promoting a more productive workflow and efficient expenditure of the user’s talent and skill. Benefitting from the inclusions of services such as reception, booking systems, towel amenities and payment processes within the rental prices, the users engaging into the co-wellness model can focus on where their skills truly lay – in training, treating and engaging with their clients.

Dedicated To The Freelancer

In an industry that is dominated abroad by the rise of the freelancer – who come complete with their own personal brand, cult-like following and multi-faceted portfolio of skills, sans singular studio loyalty – co-wellness is a model that will, undoubtedly, see soaring success. For the roaming freelancer who expends energy criss-crossing all over town to operate out of varying studios, the appeal of flexibility, pay-as-you-use processes and tailored services for varying class and client demands – without any loss of creative control – is hugely appealing.

The security of having a regular location, supportive environment and engaged operations team, dedicated to helping you reach your highest attainable success, is not to be downplayed in an industry that can at times become isolating and challenging for freelancers.  

However, in the local market, a key debilitating issue is the barrier of freelancing within the Singaporean employment eco-system. Particularly for expats and non-permanent residents, Singapore regulations favour protocols for an individual to be sponsored by a sole company, making it difficult to freelance or contract out on their passion-led side-hustle – a typical entry point for many freelance instructors. For fitness and wellness employers, this demands instructors to be full-time employees of a single operation. The alternate option of becoming self-employed by means of establishing a private limited company, comes with its own barriers and a hefty price tag of initial capital. Core Collective intends to help ease the initially crippling process, by offering aid to those wishing to become self-employed.

“We’re disrupting traditional gym and clinic models to empower self-employment of our residents”

explains Michelle Yong, Founder of Core Collective.

Success In Singapore

With GuavaLabs shifting its focus into establishing their own branded workout offerings under the Still Group umbrella – Still Boxing, Yoga and 30/30 – and it being too early to establish profitability and success of the Core Collective experiment, the model here in Singapore, it has been suggested, may be slightly too early to market. It’s ultimate success, will be down to the education and acquirement of permanent residents who are ready to take the plunge into freelancing and who can capture the attention of a sustainable client base.

The End Of Boutique Studios?

With crops of new boutique studios still emerging, and the rapid expansion of existing studios, boutique fitness appears not to be slowing down. But the innovation of co-wellness spaces may indeed spark major impact to the sector. We are a society of fit-fiends and wellness lovers who favour variety. Who have had the opportunity, thanks to subscription based platforms such as GuavaPass locally and ClassPass abroad, to jump across studios and brands, without the hassle of commitment and development of loyalty to a studio itself.

Our loyalty lies with the workout, the “experience” elicited and indeed, the instructor operating within the studio walls.

When the reason you go to a select studio is solely due to your obsession with the instructor – would you retain loyalty to the studio itself? If the instructor could completely control their own schedule by operating from a co-wellness location, would you not just follow the instructor – as they are the one who is elevating you, getting the results and bringing on those endorphins? It’s a crucial point for boutique studios to ask themselves and an important upside to note for those who may be interested in investing in the model abroad.

Boutique studios will need to take stock of the immense value of their highly-reputed instructors and realise that in many circumstances, the workout may be forgettable, but the instructor is memorable.

Where in a competitive market in which client retention is already difficult to maintain, the need to nurture talented instructors – who if they decide to move into a co-wellness space have a trail of clients following their every move on social media – is more vital than ever before.