July 20, 2022

Small Business Showcase | My Gym St. Vital

It’s not just a business, it is a passion project for Savita Bawa-Verinder and her husband Ivan Verinder.

Even then, referring to it as only that — a ‘passion project’ — doesn’t truly capture their love for what they do.
In 2017, Savita and Ivan both left their careers – Savita worked at the management level in human resources while also teaching business and marketing; Ivan was a business analyst for National Bank – and dove headfirst into their current venture as co-owners of My Gym St. Vital.

Aimed at promoting physical activity, arts, math and sciences in a fun manner to children – some as young as just a few months old – My Gym was recently announced as the winners of Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Manitoba Chambers of Commerce Small Business Showcase.

“At My Gym we have you come in and we see what you do, what you like exactly and what you don’t like and then we’re going to grow it, challenge it and foster it in a fun way that you are going to want to be engaged and keep coming back,” said Savita.

“It’s really taking the kids’ interests and working with that and challenging them so that they want to do more. It’s celebrating their successes when they have them and working through the challenges when it’s tough and telling them to keep on going because it’s going to happen. And when it does happen, we’re there to celebrate it.”

My Gym St. Vital was chosen from five finalists and was awarded a Blue Bombers sponsorship package valued at $50,000. All eligible businesses had to be for-profit companies, located in Manitoba and have less than 50 full-time employees. They were judged on the following criteria: Involvement and value the business brings to the Manitoba community and whether the business was a good fit to partner with the Blue Bombers.

Savita and Ivan have seen their business grow beyond their St. Vital location through several mobile locations, including in Carman and East St. Paul, while also visiting day cares, schools, women’s shelters and even Blue Bombers tailgate areas on game days.

They offer 11 different programs for babies up to age 11 that range from gymnastics to ‘Ninja Training’ to their STEAM program (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) to dance.

The variety of programs is appealing not only to the kids, but to the parents who are often having to shuttle their children from one location to another for different sports and activities.

“For the longest time if kids wanted to do something they had to go here or there to participate and it was very specific,” said Savita. “You went to one location if you wanted to do gymnastics and another for soccer. Here at My Gym kids get an opportunity to see what they’re going to like and we offer all kinds of activities through the summer, too.

“I remember growing up and we were building forts, or I was riding my bike every single day. This gives kids the opportunity to do even more and beginning at an early age. A lot of kids now aren’t building forts or riding their bikes or playing soccer or going to camp. They’re sitting in front of a tablet playing video games or watching a streaming service and I feel the sharpness of the mind and that muscle gain is gone.

“It’s just a place you can come – and whether you’re a kid or not – you just can’t not have fun here. It’s just a great feeling and you get this great energy, and you see the kids have so much fun and share in their proud moments with the child and the parents.”

The benefits to the children are instant, but Savita and Ivan have seen first-hand how My Gym has helped parents, too.

“I just got a phone call from a parent who said ever since her kid started coming here, she’s been opening up after just not wanting to do anything before,” said Savita. “She said she couldn’t thank My Gym enough.

“We had another mom come in and she was so happy she was crying because she couldn’t believe how much her kid had improved. It’s not just teaching them, it’s taking an interest in them and helping them grow emotionally, mentally, socially and obviously, with the growth in motor skills. It really becomes like a family.”