Amanda June Giannakos loves to watch her daughter June move around the fitness studio, playing with the crazy freedom of a toddler. But when Giannakos opens up the fitness app she created with her mom, June’s grandmother, June will shout “Class! Class Stretch!” then hop onto the floor and take the form of downward-facing dog.
“She’s all over it,” Giannakos says.
Gabriela Schonbach, joining by Zoom, wonders why we lose this childhood sense of freedom and buoyancy when we become adults. “You don’t have to!” she says.
The three generations’ lives and work are intertwined, Schonbach taking joy in creating and developing fitness programs with her daughter, and now her granddaughter. “It’s so wonderful to get to spend time together,” Giannakos says, “but also to be building something together that we both really believe in and both think is so important for all generations.”
The app is called Movement by NM, a Vancouver-based project that combines the talents of mother Schonbach, a television executive producer at Omnifilm Entertainment, and daughter Giannakos, a yoga instructor and lawyer. The two launched the company in the midst of the pandemic in 2020 to be a fitness platform focused on what they call generational wellness—exercise that works for bodies across the course of life, from toddlers to parents to grandparents.
Giannakos greets me at the company’s offices on Water Street, wearing a classic pairing of black leggings and a black turtleneck with a multicoloured wool sweater, white boots, and a kind smile. Natural light from white-pane windows illuminates the neutral greens and blues of the rustic Gastown space, exposed red and brown brick and white shelves scattered with miniature jungles of plants. A set of gymnastics rings hangs in the open office space.
Schonbach grew up in Washington, D.C., the child of two visual artists, and through a series of accidents, she says, landed a job in television, going on to produce shows that explored the spiritual sides of art, movement, dance, yoga, cooking, fly fishing, and meditation. She’s always had twin passions for art and business, practising photojournalism while also managing people on film sets with Omnifilm.
“When Amanda was small, she was part of all of that creativity,” Schonbach says. Her daughter would beg to play hooky from school and join her on the set of a show, including one of her most well-known series, Namaste Yoga.
As a teenager, Giannakos answered fan mail for the instructional yoga show. Already an avid young gymnast and figure skater, she became a yoga instructor herself and continued to look for new ways to explore movement and share her passion for what fitness could be. She also earned a law degree at UBC before joining her mom at Omnifilm. While she is still a practising lawyer, her passion lies in growing her fitness media company.
Movement by NM was built on the belief that fitness should be sustainable, rather than a quick-fix to get chiselled abs in your 20s. “It’s not that you shouldn’t want to feel good and look good and like how you look,” Giannakos says. “It’s just so much more than that.” The team curates new classes, weekly schedules, and personalized plans so that clients “can feel like they are doing enough already, and we’re just offering them a little bit more every day,” Giannakos says. “Everyone has their own expression of what movement can look like in their life.”
“We are also very intentional with our language,” she adds. Instructors focus on helping clients to “find ease in your body” and “explore what your body can do.” Even in the more challenging workouts, like functional strength classes, viewers are told to “push yourself, but also take care of yourself.” The instructors don’t use shame or language that focuses on aesthetics. “The culture they’re creating is very welcoming and fun,” Schonbach says.
Starting a business in the midst of the pandemic presented its challenges, but the infrastructure at Omnifilm Entertainment allowed Movement by NM to maintain its vision. In 2021, the company pivoted from selling fitness videos to a subscription-based service with an accompanying app.
Another helpful factor was that the pandemic suddenly made at-home workouts more popular. Giannakos says people now see the value in complementing their gym memberships with at-home exercises. That being said, she believes, many online platforms are too heavily focused on aesthetics, and they don’t provide an accessible starting point for new users.
Along with the company’s focus on fitness for all ages, Schonbach brings with her a belief in work-life balance for women in senior roles. Both mother and daughter have raised their children in the halls of the production office. “When it comes to being a woman entrepreneur who does also want a family,” Giannakos says, “there’s this assumption that it will compromise our ability.” Movement by NM adopted Omnifilm’s family-oriented style. The wide-eyed curiosity of children, they believe, is an asset to doing business, not a hindrance.
“It’s exciting to be involved in a generational paradigm shift,” says Schonbach. The message of movement—feeling free to move and to just keep moving—“is a message that’s catching on with everyone,” she says, “and it’s not going away.”
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