Oranj Fitness: A Holistic and Balanced Approach
“Never take yourself too seriously,” says Sheila Chutskoff with a laugh. As the founder and CEO of oranj fitness, the wildly successful business boasting fitness and yoga studios in several Canadian locations, Chutskoff has managed to build a seriously strong brand while never taking herself too seriously.
The idea for oranj fitness sprouted when Chutskoff was working as a regional marketing director for lululemon athletica, a well-known Canadian-based yoga activewear company. During her many visits to yoga and fitness studios, she began to see the need for a studio model that could incorporate many different aspects of health, wellness, and fitness under one roof.
“Boot camp, spin, yoga and more – all in one place. It was what people were seeking, and I started it nine years ago in Kelowna with the first oranj fitness studio. Within six months the concept had taken off as guests began to realize they could meet all their needs in one space,” says Chutskoff of the first oranj fitness studio. Within months after opening, the new studio was not only hitting but exceeding revenue and growth targets, and Chutskoff quickly realized there was a significant opportunity to grow the brand beyond one location and community.
Kelowna, a beautiful community in BC known for attracting tourists, provided an ideal spot for Chutskoff’s idea of business expansion to succeed. One of her guests happened to be NHL player Scottie Upshall, a former resident of Fort McMurray, and it was with his encouragement that Chutskoff began considering opening an oranj fitness branch in Fort McMurray.
On November 15, 2013, oranj fitness opened its doors in Fort McMurray in the brand new neighbourhood of Eagle Ridge, a predominantly residential area home to thousands of families. In a community with a strong youthful demographic and an average age of 31, oranj and Chutskoff rapidly found success.
“When we opened there was a line out the door,” says Chutskoff. “It was really humbling to see, and I felt so welcome and excited to bring my business and our services to this amazing community.”
The model that had proven so successful in Kelowna proved equally successful in Fort McMurray, with oranj quickly becoming a staple in the lives of local residents who embrace the philosophy of never taking yourself too seriously and being perfectly imperfect. The ambiance and attention to detail of the studio, like granite touches and crystal chandeliers, impressed guests with its beauty; but it was the team and services at oranj that truly created the kind of brand loyalty only sincerity and authenticity can develop.
“Like attracts like,” says Chutskoff of her team of employees, who strive to provide excellence in everything they do. “It’s a fun place to work, and our employees often attract their friends, who may also be in the fitness industry, to come teach at oranj. We build a strong team through our employees, and the strength of that team, in turn, attracts our guests.”
Oranj Fitness in Fort McMurray offers services tailored to the audience it serves: child care for moms, group fitness classes, and four studio rooms offering yoga for stress relief, boot camp for cardio workouts and more, all developed to best serve its clientele in a young, bustling and busy community. With a “spa meets fitness” vibe, the oranj fitness studio has a retail space for quality-brand fitness and fashion apparel (including lululemon, HardTail, Manduka, and others), a vegan super-food smoothie bar, full amenity showers and facilities and an overall sense of high-end luxury.
“Oranj isn’t about fitness competitions or supplements, but about seeking a holistic and balanced life,” Chutskoff says. “A happy, long and healthy life – we work to help our guests achieve that goal.”
Chutskoff notes that people want to be part of a community, and in a place like Fort McMurray where new people are arriving daily, a place like oranj fitness can provide that sense of community.
“We aim to provide a great guest experience every time,” she says. “We care about our guests, and we treat every visitor with a personal touch. You can feel the energy when you arrive in the studio, and you are immediately embraced in a welcoming atmosphere. In order to retain guests, we need to make sure every visit is a great one!”
Like many other businesses in the Wood Buffalo region, oranj faced some challenges in 2016 when the Horse River Fire caused the evacuation of the entire community, with the majority of residents forced to remain outside the community for a month and businesses to close for extended periods to undergo restoration.
“We knew that was a difficult experience for our guests, just as it was for our employees,” Chutskoff says. “We organized a fundraising event called Hand-to-Hand, with oranj committing to match funds raised by our studios in other communities. In the end, $40,000 was raised with half coming from donations and fundraising efforts in our studios outside Fort McMurray, and the other half coming directly as a contribution from the company.”
The funds raised were distributed directly to Fort McMurray fire evacuees during a yoga class in Edmonton, where members of the oranj team placed oranges wrapped in hundred dollar bills into the hands of displaced Fort McMurray residents. Additional funds were distributed to evacuees in other areas, and the Hand-to-Hand initiative once again connected individuals with a sense of community even when they were displaced from their own.
When oranj was able to reopen in Fort McMurray on Canada Day, 2016, the opening was greeted with tears and laughter.
“Our guests told us they missed us, and there were many hugs shared on that day,” Chutskoff says while remembering the experience of reopening after the long closure. “We came together as a community again, and our reopening helped people to slowly begin to return to some sense of normalcy after so much disruption in their lives.”
Oranj’s commitment to community is clearly evident in their ongoing philanthropic programs such as Mats for Metta, which donates one yoga mat to local schools or charities for every one-year unlimited membership purchased, but their commitment to community is truly found in every aspect of everything they do.
With oranj fitness studios now located across Western Canada, the business continues to offer franchise opportunities to potential new owners and advocates of the oranj philosophy of providing health and wellness services with a strong commitment to developing and contributing to the community in which the studio is located.
“We want to leave the world a better place,” says Chutskoff of the business that has become not only a success but a phenomenon in the communities where the studios have been warmly welcomed and embraced. With a laugh, she says: “After all, at oranj fitness we want to create a world where the status quo is boogying!”