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Laura Bunker took her love of fitness from a hobby to a thriving business

Laura Bunker
Dance fitness studio
Cokato, MN

When Laura Bunker started teaching REFIT® classes in Cokato, MN, a town of 2,700 just West of the Twin Cities, she offered them for free, out of her love for changing people’s lives. As Bunker connected with her community, her classes at Miss Wendy’s Dance Studio “grew and grew,” and she realized she had a business. She needed a way to start charging students, sign them in for class, store their waivers, and email them. Eventually, she created a monthly membership program that became a game-changer.

“I live in the smallest town. It’s kind of funny, I think from the outside someone might look at my business and think “Oh it’s so small, really.”  And it is. But I teach in a town of 2,700 people… and I have 400 contacts!  So I feel like I’m doing good.”

Bunker started her business, originally called SupaChick Fitness, by teaching classes daily in a space she rented from a local dance studio. Her classes have historically been mostly REFIT®, a movement plus music class, based on dance moves, and designed to be accessible to all ages and fitness levels. 

“I can tell you if I had to do paperwork for all those classes, I would not be offering as many classes as I do,” she said. “I do not want to maintain a hundred-some punch cards.”

Bunker said she was also looking for a way to communicate with clients outside of class: “If somebody forgot a water bottle, to be able to email everybody and be like, “Hey, this was left at class today;” or if I had a last-minute cancellation because of an illness or something.”

She tried out Punchpass through a free trial and was impressed by how easy it was for her and her students to use and how the software’s features, like the online schedule and email, created an instant connection. Bunker also liked that Punchpass offered her business the ability to scale and grow.

“People really liked it! It has allowed me to really connect and have people stay feeling like they’re in the know,” Bunker said. “They really liked just bookmarking my calendar and always being able to stay on top of things.”

“My tech-forward people love not having to grab a punch card or bring their checkbook to class,” Bunker said. “They literally grab their license and their keys and they can walk through my door. They know how many passes they have left. They always know if a class is canceled. So I feel like they feel like they’re more connected to me because they’re consistently hearing from me. I really like that.”

When the studio where Bunker taught changed from an attendance-based rent system to a straight monthly fee, she wanted to ensure she was consistently bringing in enough revenue to cover her rent and expenses. Bunker decided to start offering monthly memberships, and she needed her studio software management program to accommodate her new offering.

“To go from the basic plan to Banyan was quite a jump for my business,” she said. “So I just factored that (extra cost) into my memberships. I set a goal for rent + Punchpass + instructor fees + insurance fees. Then I did a big membership push at the end of last year,” she said.

What Bunker didn’t realize, was that a business move she felt she had to make, would become a huge hit with her customers.

“I literally did it out of necessity because I just didn’t want to think about ‘What if my classes are small this month? Maybe I won’t be able to pay my rent,” she said. “I didn’t like that kind of flux in my income. But I didn’t realize how much they would love it. When I said I was going to start offering them, I started getting emails every day like ‘When can we start signing up? When can we buy our memberships?”

Bunker estimates that 80 percent of her customers are now members. The key was pricing the memberships right, and the simplicity and ease of Punchpass, even for her most “tech-challenged” customers, she said.

The memberships increased attendance, filled classes, and generated energy and excitement.

“If they’re coming through the doors three times a week or four times a week and they’re getting this great deal—‘cause they do the math too—they’re like, “this membership is a steal!”—then they’re telling their friends, and so my clientele is always growing,” Bunker said.   

“One of my gals (she’s 72) she’s been with me for like, five years. And last year before I started memberships, she purchased a year-long pass. She just asked if she could pay me for a whole year because she comes to seven classes a week.  She’s amazing!  We all say she’s our fitness inspiration and we all want to be her. That year-long pass that she bought from me expired last month. And I was super nervous ’cause she can be very vocal too. She knows what she wants.”

“I said, ‘You actually don’t have a login; you can just do this online, and it’s super easy.’ I said ‘I’m going to email you a link to sign up and make your own account, and then you can buy it right there. You don’t have to come pay me in class, and you can make your reservation.’”

“And she’s like ‘Laura you’re asking me to… “And I said, ‘Trust me, it’s easy!’”

“She came to class the next day and she had done it all by herself.  She was high-fiving me, like, ‘I did it all by myself!’ And I said, “I told you it was easy.” 

“I was really excited to see her feeling empowered. It’s something so little… but for her it was big!  It was really cool. I was like, “Yeah girl! Get it!’

When the infamous year 2020 hit, Bunker’s business “didn’t just survive Covid, we thrived during all the shutdowns and cancellations thanks to the integrated Zoom option with Punchpass. Our memberships stayed strong and we stayed close as a community.”

“We’ve been growing and changing along with all the world changing around us and Punchpass made that easy! New instructors, new spaces, and new faces, but it’s been seamless with our Punchpass!”

Things have been constantly evolving at Bunker’s studio. Her business has grown so strong that they’ve been able to acquire the dance studio where they rented space for all those years! 

They’re wrapping up their 10th year as a fitness community and feeling stronger than ever!

“I love what I do, and I have the best clients”, says Bunker.

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