We celebrated Independence Day, the founding of our great nation, earlier this week. From the very beginning, Americans’ can-do spirit has been an integral part of what makes our country great. This week Alexandria Stylebook also celebrates Independents Week, and that American spirit is alive and well today, locally, too. It’s what drives us to take that leap of faith, pursue that dream…and open our own businesses.
The American Independence Business Alliance launched Independents Week, which encompasses the 4th of July each year, to celebrate this entrepreneurial spirit, recognize small businesses’ contributions to the community (fun fact: independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales to the community than chain competitors), and to affirm citizens’ role — your role! — in shaping a community’s future.
In honor of Independents Week, I’d like to share a little bit more about FOR, and hope to surprise you with a few of my answers!
When did you open?
I opened my business October of 2004. My “gym” was on the 4th floor of our town home in Old Town.
What made you start your own business?
The fact that I was doing nothing to help others kept nagging at me. As a fitness aficionado from Southern California, it was a natural passion for me to teach others about the love of fitness. I grew up outside playing tons of sports. Finally, like Amy at Red Barn Mercantile, a very bad experience at my last corporate gig led me to “jump off the cliff”. I’ve never looked back.
What had you done previously?
I worked in politics and corporate public affairs. I had both lucrative and high-level jobs for my age. My dream was to become Carly Fiorina (the former CEO of HP). I aimed to climb the Capitol Hill ladder then catapult myself into corporate boardrooms.
How did you prepare to make the switch?
I talked to my friends. It was a small group of friends who finally convinced me to take the leap.
What is your favorite part about owning your business?
It gives me energy to hear the stories from our clients about how much Fitness on the Run has changed their life for the better. We offer a culture of learning. Our style of fitness, we realize, is different and far-from-traditional big box gym or class-only studio. We believe deeply in our mission to help people move better for a long, fruitful and happy life. A relationship with FOR is a lasting one where our clients learn extensively about their bodies and how to move and fuel them.
What was the most surprising/difficult thing you’ve learned?
Owning the business is about how well your systems are. We can program the perfect training sessions and help people meet their fitness goals, for sure. Yet, if we don’t have the right systems set up, it can make owning a business painful and it would show to clients.
Tell us about a local independent business you love and why?
Looking at businesses like King Street Jewelers, Le Cuisine and Donna Lewis who have been around for a lot longer than we have, who have weathered many economic downturns and trends motivates me to keep going. Brad, Nancy and Chris are seasoned and amazing business owners.
What changes have you seen since you’ve been in business?
The internet is king. We are a very high contact people-centric business. The fitness industry is evolving with many more online coaching and online programming offerings (sign up for 5 minute of abs, download a nutrition guide, online coaching). We are hoping our human touch will continue to reward those who walk through our doors. There is not magic fix that the internet or a fitness gadget can provide. It is a health and fitness journey we “sell” to our clients.
What are you most excited about right now?
Our 15th year (we are in our 14th now) will be better and more rewarding than any other year we’ve been in business. Our culture of learning, community and getting strong are just the right mix for a 15th year bash!
What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?
I am in charge of my own schedule. I set my own deadlines. It also means, though, when something goes wrong, I’m the first call. Yet, I must admit being in business with the team of FOR professionals is more rewarding than anything else. We learn together. We have fun together (look for our next happy hour outing at the sand volleyball courts July 21!), celebrate births and mourn losses together. And we care for our clients together.