Gill Whelan says clients seeking more than fitness in Omicron wave

Posted on January 27, 2022 | By Ashley Fitzpatrick | 0 Comments

Gill Whelan and her business Whelan Wellness made headlines with exponential growth through the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The business, started in 2020, stood alongside a handful of other quick-pivoting health and wellness operations in offering online classes that became a go-to for the isolated. But how are they faring today?

As the pandemic has dragged on, Whelan says it’s actually the more holistic programming she offers that has been sought out by clients. Beyond her fitness classes and the peer-community she fosters, her subscription service comes with access to sessions with a registered dietician and a registered psychologist, among others.

“Throughout the ups and downs of the pandemic—through things re-opening and things going back and forth with different alert levels, different restrictions or not—our community has stayed really strong in numbers,” she told Atlantic Business Magazine.

“This has been a constant that people can turn to.”

ABM highlighted the early success of the wellness business in its pages last year. The rapid month-over-month expansion in clients did eventually level out in 2021. The total number of clients even dipped slightly in the summer months, Whelan said, though that’s not unusual in the sector as people look to spend more time outdoors in the summer season. There were returning clients back in the fall.

Financial sustainability of the business has not been a question at any point, she said. And, in more specific terms, her client count for her slowest month in 2021 landed in the 3,000s. “So far, so good,” Whelan said.


Gill Whelan – Submitted photo


In the fall, she was recognized by the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE) with an entrepreneur of the year award in the “Momentum” category. And she was managing a sudden jump again in clients soon after, as the Omicron variant arrived.

Her work from 2021 into 2022 has focused intentionally on providing a sense of stability, she said, with people collectively feeling the strain of the ongoing pandemic. The Omicron wave was, “like a fresh, new gut punch” felt throughout the online community.

Whelan also said she’s not immune to any of the stresses but leans on her own programming for her own wellness. Day-to-day, she said, she invests in the ideas she promotes to her clients, including that you take care of yourself first before trying to take on additional challenges. You also lean on your peer group when you need to. “Take care of yourself first so that you can take care of others so that you can show up in every capacity that you want to show up in your everyday life,” she said.

She always intended her business to be more than a platform for fitness classes. And the partnerships she established to allow for more services have remained strong to date. Partnerships continue with: Corner Brook, N.L.-based Megan Humphrey Yoga; Mike Porter of Positive Edge: clinical psychologist Dr. Shannon Edison, based out of The Beacon Centre in Paradise, N.L.; chef Alexandra Blagdon and The Alder Cottage cookery school; dietician Andrea Stokes and more recent additions. Whelan Wellness has a newer agreement, for example, with Outport Acres, a business offering to-your-door microgreen subscriptions from Musgravetown, N.L.—a boon for Whelan’s in-province clients.

Whelan sees potential for new growth after the pandemic period, in linking to more services that help to promote movement, mental health and creativity, as well as arranging for more one-off and in-person events. While COVID-19-related restrictions eased for a time in Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, she led a weekend test retreat, a paint night and, in the holiday season, extra sessions of cookie making and a Zumba dance party. It brought people together and helped clients in reducing stress.

“I think that’s the reason for our staying power and that’s the reason for our continued growth: It’s people just helping people and that’s the whole goal,” she said.

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