“It just so happened that I was recovering from knee surgery,” explains Verney-Carron. “Discovering Catie's approach to movement in general, and Barre in particular, was a real moment where I thought, finally, someone gets it! It's not just about fitness it is about the body, its composing system and their interactions, its circulation, and more.” Miller soon found out that Verney-Carron ran the neighbouring osteopath clinic and noticed the changes in the emotional and physical wellbeing of her entire family, who quickly became loyal clients. When COVID-19 forced them both to close their practices, it was a chance for them to join forces and take things into the digital world.
Logging into my Oona portal felt like unlocking a chamber of secrets on all things fitness, health, and wellbeing. I’m someone whose preference between live and on-demand content shifts based on my mood and the amount of time I have, so I really enjoyed looking at the upcoming barre, pilates, and yoga classes that I could book myself into or just relax and watch the educational on-demand videos from the library. I’ve been in enough online classes now to know that keeping participants engaged is hard work, which is why I was pleased to hear a “Welcome, Ina!” from my Oona Barre instructor the moment I joined the Zoom class. She also called out to members of the class throughout the session, offering corrections and alternative options. “Our instructors are the beating heart to the Oona Series platform. They are our direct touchpoints to our members and take such pride in leading their classes and connecting with the community. We are all growing on this journey and feel comfort in knowing that,” says Miller.
One of the things I loved as part of my membership was getting access to the short videos that really opened my eyes to certain topics around mental and physical health. I enjoyed the bite-sized content—specifically the videos around recognising stress as a form of addiction and easy tips for improving posture during your work day—and how I was able to put my learnings into action right away. “I feel that this is our USP,” says Verney-Carron. We believe in a very holistic approach to health and life in general. Biodiversity in our food, exercises, mental stimulation, and introspective work. We share those ideas on a daily basis with our patients and clients and it was a natural step for us to try and reach more people.” I speak with Miller and Verney-Carron to find out more about the key to turning a friendship into a business relationship and just how the pandemic has impacted our physical and mental health.
Could you tell me more about your backgrounds and roles within the company?
Catie: My name is Catie Miller and I am the CEO, co-founder, and creative director behind the Oona Series brand. I am a former competitive dancer certified in Barre, STOTT Pilates, pre- and post-natal, and TRX. In 2013 I decided to elevate my love for dance, well-being, and community by launching a pop-up studio in the heart of London, Mayfair. My 10+ years of experience in movement, health, and fitness encompass a holistic approach with a strong focus on community-building, support, and empowerment, which build from my dance roots. In 2015 I launched a flagship studio in the heart of Marylebone bringing an incredible community of like-minded individuals together. COVID brought a lot of change to my life and rhythm but keeping my community together was always at the forefront. In December 2020, we pivoted to a solely online platform and this is where Oona Series was born and came alive! Our very first online session in lockdown had 100 participants from all over the world! It was truly an extraordinary experience, moving as one.
Boniface: I am the grateful co-founder of Oona Series. Catie, her husband Danny, and I had become friends through our original careers and after COVID-19 changed life for us, Catie pulled the trigger and bounced back with the Oona idea. She approached me based on my qualifications as an integrated osteopath with special interests in newborns, infants, pregnancy, and women’s health in general and, functional osteopathy. All this has led me, 20 years on, to focus on somato-emotional release, using all three branches of osteopathy—structural, visceral, and functional—and acupuncture. The last 20 years taught me humility, reinforced my curiosity, and helped me explore the vastness of sensoriality. Health is a third physical, a third mental, and a third social well-being. I dug deeper and deeper in mental health, sociology, and anthropology and revealed a real limitless passion. Within Oona Series, my role as a co-founder is to meet Catie in symbiosis. I love to share what my patients have taught me in short videos and seek for conversation with the incredible people that have inspired me along the way.
Who is the typical Oona customer?
Boniface: Well, the truth is that we can analyse some digital data and the info we gather from it is that the typical Oona customers are ladies between 27-48 years of age. We are working hard to expand to a wider demographic and community as Oona Series is truly for everybody. I can relate to the incredible power of barre especially, as it assisted in my rehabilitation from surgery but also Pilates and yoga, especially for men. It is important to remember that the equation for our biomechanical system is Mobility + Stability = Healthy. What does this mean? It means that muscle strength without flexibility, coordination, and control is not just a waste, it is also a very certain journey to injury!
Catie: Our clients are wonderfully unique, but of course, they also share common values and goals—Oona Series attracts health-conscious individuals with a passion for learning, growth, and connecting with others. Our virtual resources speak to those who lead a busy lifestyle, but also want to feel empowered and in control of their mental, physical and social wellbeing. You'll find a wonderful mix of dedicated members in our community; these go-getters are committed to embracing self-development tools each day, whether that's an hour-long Wellbeing Masterclass or a 5-minute meditation. At present, Oona Series has a particular resonance with female clients due to our platform's roots in Pilates and Barre and our ongoing celebration of Women's Health matters. Nonetheless, we're passionate about challenging the narrative that such fitness disciplines are for women alone. Functional movement and holistic wellness are not just relevant for every one of us, they're essential, and that's where Oona comes into play!
What has been one of the biggest challenges of running your business?
Boniface: How long do you have? Catie, Danny, and I have big ambitions. We want to do a lot of good with Oona. It is an accurate reflection of us and the people we share an ethos and goal with. Meaning, we gave it all from the start. It is the only way we see our business take off and thrive but it means that we have to be on all fronts all at once. Oona has grown very quickly; we produced a huge amount of content in one year whilst still working. Catie still teaches and I am still in the practice most days. Thankfully, Catie managed to build and secure an amazing team. From our visual production team, to marketing and sales, and a few other gems for design, we have curated an extraordinary team who believe in the Oona vision collectively—this is our superpower! We wouldn't be where we are without the Oona team that is made up of nearly 14 people. I think that our biggest challenge now is to be more visible, heard, and trusted. We feel so strongly about the depth, honesty, and professionalism of our content that we want people to use Oona and feel it for themselves.
You now have instructors from all over the world. How did you go about sourcing talent?
Catie: The team of instructors have all individually impacted my own personal journey and I have had the pleasure of teaching alongside each and every one of them. There is something I can learn and take away from their individual teaching styles and building the team was a very proud moment in my career. The feedback we receive from our members is that we teach collectively with fluidity, consistency, depth, and passion. This is important to us as ‘instructing’ goes far deeper than lesson planning and executing the class from start to finish. Our Oona team is deepening the method and connection to our physical, mental, and social health.
Boniface: My part is more about sourcing my guests for the Oona podcasts series. It has been a real treat actually. Thanks to Oona Series, I have a platform that allows me to approach people I love, admire and ask them to share an hour of their time with me. I genuinely feel so privileged and I can't wait for more connections and exchanges on the subjects that I am so curious about. My goal is to stimulate curiosity; I strongly feel that it is one of the key predisposing factors to happiness.
Are you noticing common trends with physical and mental issues since the pandemic?
Boniface: The pandemic is truly and simply weird. The virus is difficult to canalise and understand and everything about it creates one very difficult feeling to deal with on a daily basis. There’s uncertainty and most people thrive with some kind of idea of what is going on and where they are heading in life. COVID-19 totally destroyed that on all fronts—health, the economy of course, but it hit the much deeper purpose of life. Where and how do I live and why? Now to these existential questions, one can't find answers but one can start conversing and sharing one's feelings and research, and only then does an answer start shaping. May we remember that this answer is also in constant motion and morphism and we need to be ready and accepting of that.
How do you foster a sense of community amongst your members, especially in a virtual world?
Boniface: The Monthly Masterclass! This is where we learn when we connect directly to our members. It is Catie and I, raw and true. Whatever the subject, we do our research, we share our own feelings and ideas and we hope for the participants to share theirs and that when we all grow within ourselves we, in turn, grow as a community. It is a magical space within the Oona Series platform.
In your own lives, how do you manage the balance between work and family life?
Catie: This is a forever work in progress but we are grateful to be surrounding ourselves and our families with constant conversations and eagerness for self-development and learning. Boniface and I share a wonderful friendship and so do our respective other halves--we talk at the dinner table and share ideas collectively about business, relationships, and parenting. They say it takes a village and we are constantly working on this so-called ‘balancing act’.
What's in store for Oona in 2022?
More fun learning! This is a place we would like people to show up, try their best, and enjoy harvesting the results. Here we salute work, effort, and desire to become who you are. Don't let other systems indoctrinate you, free yourself from the known, and come to challenge yourself and us. In addition, we are launching five new guided programs to deepen the results and understanding of the Oona Series platform alongside a new member area and app launching in February 2022! It is looking epic and we cannot wait to share this with our global community! Our first destination retreat will be taking place in April 2022 at The Six Senses Ibiza. This will be a truly transformational experience.
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