Episode #337: Alison Rootberg & Steve Feinberg, Wellness 4 Every 1

Episode #337: Alison Rootberg & Steve Feinberg, Wellness 4 Every 1

Alison Rootberg & Steve Feinberg


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Pete Moore: This is Pete Moore on HALO Talks NYC. I have the pleasure of welcoming, Steve & Allison from Wellness 4 Every 1. You’re going to be intrigued with how these programs are being rolled out, affecting kids nationwide and tapping into government money and passionate donors. And so on, on, so forth in order to make sure that we bring people into the halo sector from day one and they change their mindset, their behavior, and we’re going to solve obesity, loneliness, and diabetes in the next 30 minutes. So let’s get rolling. If you got a tank top, you might want to put it on for this podcast. 1, 2, 3, let’s roll. Steve. Allison, give us the background here. How’d you guys meet up and align with this purpose.

Alison Rootberg: Wellness for everyone was founded in Chicago and we primarily provided programming to students. Pre-K through high school. My background is as a professional dancer, and so I kind of went on a journey in fitness, from dance to yoga, to running, to marathons. And then when the pandemic hit, we had a lot of challenges because we had to shift to virtual programming. And when that happened, I got synced up with Steve in New York, and I’m going to pass it over to him to talk about how we started working together.

Steve Feinberg: Cause it’s a fun story. So for those of you who don’t know me, I’m, I’m an international fitness presenter and I’ve been on the national circuit for several years now. And I’ve made a lot of relationships in different cities. I have a protege and a mentee named Rena who runs studio fit Chicago on Armitage in Chicago proper. And she hit me up one day and said, I I’d like your help with this Instagram live. If you could pipe in from New York and co-teach with me and let all your people know a sweat life is doing this thing for wellness for everyone. And we’re raising money for, you know, to continue the programs during this very difficult, critical time when the schools were closed and nobody knew what to do. So I tuned in and we did a back and forth where we split the screen and taught my hip box program, the power music, cardio boxing program that I created.

Steve Feinberg: And it, we raised a small pile of money and that’s 45 to 60 minutes. And that left an impression on Allison. And she remembered me when they needed a virtual boxing teacher. So I began coaching to Chicago from New York and we continued to acquaint ourselves. And then when she wanted to expand, I became the person to do it here. That’s amazing. So as, as you kind of rolled forward and saw, you know, the frustrations in the market and, and the, kind of the quality of the programming that, you know, these kids are getting access to, you know, did you put together a business plan? Did you kind of run some numbers? Did you say, look, this is so obvious. You know, I’ll put some slides together, but you know, I’m really going to start focusing on these grant programs that yeah, I’m sure a lot of people don’t know about it. So kind of explain, you know, one the initial frustration and what, what said to you both, you know, Hey, I could fix this and then two, here’s like a very interesting way to actually get it funded.

Alison Rootberg: Yeah. So I would say the initial frustration was that we saw a huge need for improvement in Chicago, Chicago, public schools. But now we work with New York public schools and New Jersey public schools. And, and really what’s happening is the public school systems do not have funding for these programs. So students are not receiving art, music, dance theater. And what we discovered after working with these schools for years to provide arts programming was that physical education was the most underserved least funded programming. So that’s why boxing became really important. And just getting kids excited about physical activity and you see a change immediately, a one hour workshop, like the kids’ eyes light up, and you can tell that their whole perspective has changed.

Pete Moore: So talk, talk us through, you know, the magnitude of these grant programs and then how you, you know, actually like, get this out there. Do you have, do, do certify, you know, trainers, artists, instructors, how, how does that, how does that work?

Alison Rootberg: I’ll talk about the funding and I’ll let Steve talk about the staff. So we founded wellness for everyone to create a new funding source. So yes, we apply for all the grants and government funding that other organizations are utilizing, but it’s not enough. So we host monthly fundraising events. That’s what Steve and I met doing one of our boxing fundraisers. And we also work very actively to find strategic partners that want to provide programming to the community. And this can literally be anybody from a college student to a large corporation because the funding is very affordable. So every program it’s $4 for one kid to have a one hour class. So lots of opportunities for everyone to get involved. And we also work with really high quality instructors. So I’m going to let Steve talk a little bit about that.

Steve Feinberg: Yeah, so we, we call our people teaching artists because they really are artists at what they do. They go through thorough background checks. We’re a, we’re very responsible to the quality of services we provide from yoga to dance, to breeding and meditation, to adult programs for the community like informative cooking classes so that they can manage their household in a healthier way. And then the kids have their own cooking segment and we get parents and kids doing things together, which is a really beautiful thing. This, the most important part of what our teaching artists do besides provide a wonderful, positive professional exercise experience is we make sure that we address their socio emotional learning you know, the, the, the socialization, the way they react to each other, especially in such a creepy virtual time, like COVID really was locked down in the beginning.

Steve Feinberg: Getting Hollywood squares to participate was a unique challenge that even I, as a professional had never faced before. And I, I thought I’d see everything in the fitness industry up until then. So that’s something that we’re, we’re particularly proud of the way we empower kids to love movement. It’s not just about burning calories or getting moving it’s about inspiring them to continue to do it. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> let me ask a question. Just I’m thinking back to my high school at WSPA Clark and there used to be, you know, some teachers that were so protective of like what their, their area was, you know, and, and, you know, I thought, I can’t remember the name of the class, but used to go in like, used to know, teach how to, you know, make a, a tuna melt and a, you know, sewing and, and art.

Pete Moore: There was some overarching name for it. I can’t remember what it was called. But like that a whole home ack whole neck dude. Thank you so much. I was thinking economics, economics. What’s the first, yeah. Whole me dude. I love that class. And I was like, you know, you know, I’m a finance guy now, but like, I, I felt like there was like a creativity, like button that kind of went on. He like buttoned, it kind of went off or got like, was kind of being nurtured through home EC. And, and back in the day, you know, I was like the captain of the basketball team. So it wasn’t like, what’s your favorite class home EC, like, you never said that. Right. Cause you couldn’t, now you can say it as much as you want cuz people will understand and I’m sensitive to my emotions.

Pete Moore: Right. But not back in the day, Mack was like, yeah, I’m going to whole Mac, I’m making a, you know, Turkey melt or something. And I’m, I’m sewing a, a, a sweater or scarf for my mom or my grandmother, but I really liked it. That’s not what I was going down, but thank you for reminding everyone. What home EC is. My question is when you bring these teachers in, are they kind of coming in as like the ninjas of the SWAT team or as like the, are the rest of the teacher population kind of embracing this? They’re like, oh, awesome. We got these experts coming in or like, oh, like, oh, oh, they got a grant and you know, they’re coming in here and they know more than we do. Like how have you kind of managed through that? Or is it over time? Do they people understand like, Hey, whatever’s best for the kid. Like, let’s just get these experts in here and stop like putting up these like barriers or, you know, you know, obstacles to bringing in the best.

Alison Rootberg: It’s interesting because before the pandemic we received a lot of pushback and staff in schooling, usually administration was on board. And so we would set up a meeting with all the classroom teachers, but they usually had like a lot of resistance because they wanted to do what they usually do. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and then after a few weeks they would be totally sold into the program. But what’s fascinating is that currently the school climate is so challenging and students reintegrating back into school has just created a whole new dynamic. And it’s literally like, we’re the superheroes coming in to save the day. And they’re like, please, anything you want to do tell us what we need to do. And so we’re getting yoga mat donations and we’re getting all sorts of cooking supplies and really just working with each school to see how we can build each of these. And we are getting a ton of support from the schools. And really it’s just about finding more funding now because the schools on board, we have all this staff and we’re just really excited to keep expanding and bringing this to, to more schools.

Pete Moore: So let me ask you a question because a lot of things related to, to grants or a lot of things related to any kind of financial investment, you know, everyone says, okay, show me what the return on investment in that was, you know, every dollar I spent, what’s my cash flow. What’s my EBIT dollar. What’s the return on investment of this club or studio? How quickly is this ramp up? Obviously you can’t quantify everything you’re doing and what the results are. So have you been in a position where people say, you know, okay, you gimme some case studies and you can gimme some, you know, quotes or you can gimme some data, you know, or what, what kind of KPIs do you say? Like, Hey, look, I know this is good. You know, it’s good. Like gimme a break on the metrics. So I I’ll tell you from my experience in the virtual space, when, when I did this, we had all of the students fill out surveys at the end of their six week sets with us.

Steve Feinberg: And I did it. I conducted it as I was supposed to during the last day of their sessions that was supervised. And they were able to fill it out at the same time and the teacher was in the room. And you can, you can hear and see the comments and you can look at the data from a student when an 11 year old tells you that they wish they had another class next week, that they got a, it’s a five out of five on excitement and participation that they, the teacher was a five out of five, their communication with their fellow students improved from week one at a two out of five to week five to week six at a five out five. Those are, those are real metrics. They may not be, you know, numerically oriented financially, but they certainly carry the weight of empirical data. And that’s what we see. Yeah. That’s great. And, and Allison, over time have you know, have donors or on some of these grants that you fill out, are they, you know, one, how, how long does it take to fill out a grant? And two, you know, is there a section that says, you know, you know outcomes and, you know, you know, conclusions.

Alison Rootberg: Yeah. So we all, all the grant cycles are a little bit different. So I would say typically they’re an annual cycle. We track three pillars. So we’re looking for developing self-awareness skills, building community and creating inspiration. So just like you were talking about with home EC to us, our dance program is not about creating a professional dancer. If we do amazing, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, all of these programs are more about developing problem solving skills and learning to think creatively and working together. And so I, I would say another data point that really proves this is working is every year the schools expand their programming. So maybe one year they start with just two classes a week. And then the next year they want the program for everybody kindergarten through fifth grade. And then the next year we had sixth, seventh and eighth grade.