How a 2nd grade teacher turned fitness pro built a successful women’s focused studio (Interview with Jami Shields)

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Highlights from the interview

[25:27] – Mistakes to avoid when partnering with someone when opening your gym

[31:57] – How she opened her own gym – what it costed her and how she kept her costs down

[46:46] – The free way she leveraged her challenge through social media and got new prospects in immediately

[01:00:22] – The different results she had from running a premium priced challenge compared to a low barrier $50 challenge and what she likes better

[01:17:28] – The unique way she recently set up the point system in her challenge

About our Guest

From a second grade teacher, to competitive bodybuilder, to opening her own women’s focused gym

I am so excited because we get to talk to Jami Shields who is an inspiration for all of us, especially if you feel like you are making an unexpected life change into becoming a personal trainer or even a gym owner.

In 2008, she was a second grade teacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a military wife, and the mother of two kids who wasn’t necessarily a gym goer. She was on track to become a principal. 

After getting her Master’s Degree in Education and her principal certification, she thought her life was kind of figured out, but a series of events kind of changed her life and we’re going to hear how that happened. 

In 2009, she found herself running a half marathon. She didn’t really consider herself a gym goer. Then in 2010, she competed and won first place in a bodybuilding competition. Her pictures look amazing. 

In 2012, she opened the doors to her first fitness studio. Four years before, she was teaching and she had this fitness transformation. Now, she’s been a studio boutique fitness owner for eight years and has transformed numerous ladies’ physiques and helped them lose between 10 to 50 pounds. Check out those before and after pictures.

What’s interesting about her studio is how she really evolved the business to be sustainable and be a magnet for the female fitness market, which we know is one of the best markets.

The fitness industry has changed, so I’m curious how she’s been able to evolve her female focus gym to stay ahead of the market. She’ll also tell us how she runs her challenges to grow her clients. 

Edited transcription of Fitness Business Secrets Podcast, Episode 16

Kristy: It’s so exciting to have her on. Jamie, how are you doing today? 

Jami: I’m doing great. I’m just finishing up actually with clients that I was with all morning. It’s going to be a good afternoon. 

Kristy: That’s always good. It’s always satisfying working with clients. We know where you are right now. You’re this successful entrepreneur and an amazing studio owner who’s helping ladies, but you started with a plan to be a principal just in 2008.

How did this change happen? 

Jami: It actually started when my husband got deployed. He was in the army and he got deployed to Iraq. At that time I had two toddlers, so it was  just a super crazy and stressful time in life as a new mom, a full-time working teacher, and I was also in grad school.

I look back at those years now and I’ve no idea how I did it. I was just kind of going through life day by day, and wanting to get my husband home. 

Around March, one of my really good friend’s mother passed away from cancer. She had asked me to do the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia, which is 10 miles. Growing up, I was very athletic. However, I was not a runner. I actually still, to this day, hate running. 

She asked me to run this race with her in honor of her mother and for fundraising purposes, so I couldn’t turn her down. That’s kind of where it all started.

She asked me to run this race with her in honor of her mother and for fundraising purposes, so I couldn’t turn her down. That’s kind of where it all started.

Running actually kind of became my outlet when my husband was gone. I had to schedule these long runs because I was by nowhere in shape to do anything close to a couple of miles, let alone 10 miles. 

I started training for that in March, and I did the run in May. I decided that if I’m going to do 10 miles, I might as well do a half marathon because that just sounds better in my mind.

I am very competitive. Two weeks after I did the Broad Street Run, I did the Cleveland Half Marathon, and I felt like crap. My toenails fell off. It was not a great experience.

Kristy: I heard someone else’s toenails fell off and wasn’t sure if that was a one person thing. 

Jami: I do believe it was because it was raining. I had no issues training up to that point. It was running in wet sneakers and not realizing how that impacted a run versus great weather without wet sneakers. That’s what I’m going to blame it on. 

During that time, I watched my mind and body transform. With the situation that I had at that time, it really helped me psychologically and mentally through the hard times of not having my husband home and trying to do all the things on my own.

That prompted me to continue in the weight room. I liked lifting weights. I didn’t know a whole lot about it. I was more of a class person through my college years. If I did go to the gym, I would just kind of stay stationary on the elliptical because that was comfortable. 

So, I started lifting weights and just watching my body really transform and other people were starting to notice.

I was like, “This is pretty awesome. I feel great. This would be really great to help other people feel the same way with whatever they’re going through or whatever their goals might be.”

A girl from LA Fitness, which is where I used to go workout, approached me in the locker room and was like, “I watched you coming in here and you’re working out really hard. Have you ever considered doing a figure competition?” 

I had no idea what she was talking about. So, I said, “What do you mean? What are you talking about?” 

She was like, “The bodybuilding world.” My husband had talked about bodybuilding, but that was about it. I kind of heard him mention it because he was really into gym and fitness. 

I ended up going home and researching and looking at these girls. At that time, Nicole Wilkins was really big in the game and she’s actually still my inspiration today. I attend her fitness camps across the country, and she was kind of that body image that got me interested in looking sexy and strong.

So, I totally changed my way of training. I did a ton of research, and, initially, I was my own coach. I just kind of looked up all of the cookie cutter diets, workout splits, and plans that you can find on Google.

I totally changed my way of training. I did a ton of research, and, initially, I was my own coach. I just kind of looked up all of the cookie cutter diets, workout splits, and plans that you can find on Google.

I really just saw changes in what this was doing with my body, so I did decide to compete. I went to a posing clinic because I had no idea how to stand on stage and what I needed to do. I found a clinic in Baltimore that I had gone to over a weekend. 

10 weeks after starting to really train for this kind of competition, I competed for the first time in the OCB organization, which is an East coast natural bodybuilding organization. I competed in fitness modeling and figure, and I finished first in overall fitness model and third in figure. That was kind of it for me.

I had that moment of, “Wow. I’m on stage.” I’ve just worked really hard, and I was being recognized for this hard work with the trophy. 

That was kind of the turning point for me, being able to help other people just feel confident as a woman. I feel confident as a mother. I feel sexy and strong. 

My husband got home from Iraq and I was this whole new person.  He actually has competed and we’ve been definitely growing in this industry together. 

So, I continued to compete, and I ended up finding a local small gym.  There was a coach there who I hired that actually was in the whole bodybuilding world and she was a previous bodybuilder. 

I was driving there to do some training with her and the nutrition aspect of things. At one point, she had lost one of her trainers that was working and she just said, “Would you have any interest in getting a certification, coming on board, and helping train clients?”

I was like, “Are you serious? This is crazy. This is amazing.” I’ve always worked like a crazy person. I waitressed all through my years of teaching and college and grad school. I always had that other thing. So, in my mind, this was going to be just the replacement of that other thing.

Instead of waitressing, I was going to take on a few clients. So, I went through my certification, started that and everything evolved.

Kristy: I just think what you’re doing sounds incredible. So, this about the time that your husband was back. I’m assuming you had a little bit more support. 

Just to give the listeners context. You were still teaching, driving maybe 30 minutes to see this trainer, and taking on maybe five clients a week.

How old were your kids at the time? 

Jami: At that time, they would have been two and four. 

Kristy: That’s amazing, and you had a full-time job. You were talking about how your husband comes home and you are a totally different person, physically and what you’re focused on. Was he really surprised or did you guys have so many conversations and you’re sending him pictures? If you could just tell me, what was that dynamic because it sounded like such a big change?

Jami: I was in my early twenties at that time, and they were the hardest years of my life. At this point, there’s a lot of stuff I kind of blocked out. I got married and had kids really young and it was hard. 

He came home and I can’t really think about what the reaction was with my physique because it was more like, “My husband hasn’t been here for 18 months. I have kids that don’t know who he is.”

I can’t even really recall what his reaction was. Of course he was excited to see me initially, but it was really hard.

He was through a lot over there, obviously. When you’re there, the focus is on staying alive and keeping his troops alive. But, he came home and fell back into how things had been 18 months prior to him leaving when that was nowhere near the case.

It was probably harder on me. That transition of, “There’s this other person now.” 

When it comes to you saying like, “The good thing is I have all this sexy chick that I’m coming home to.” That was great, but that’s not really what I remember because everything else was so much harder.

He was very  supportive because he was big into the gym before he left. I kind of had these tough situations with being young and being a new mom. My husband is amazing now, and he would agree. So, I definitely do not like throwing him under the bus here.

It takes guys a while to grow up. When we were younger, I was doing the mom things where he was still kind of doing his thing. He would go to work, and then go to the gym. 

I started to understand the importance of why he was doing that because I was feeling that need and craving of “I need to go to the gym.”

I started to understand the importance of why he was doing that because I was feeling that need and craving of “I need to go to the gym.”

When he came home, it was kind of like, “Now, I kind of have a gym buddy.” Because I’m like, “I’m going to go to the gym after work.”

He’s always been super supportive through all of this as far as transformations, jobs, and changes.

So, he actually got out of the army and I opened a studio. I thought we were going to lose our house. It was crazy. 

Kristy: I could understand and I was going to get into, and we will when we get there. I know we’re kind of still in the beginning of your journey, but we will get to that because I don’t think people realize how much financial stress it can put on a family or a person.

Thanks for filling me in on that because I want people to understand that when you see someone successful, there’s so many sacrifices and it’s been hard. I look at your page and I think you guys are a beautiful couple.

You and your husband are beautiful, and your kids are adorable. It just looks so happy. 

Jami: That’s social media for you. 

Kristy: It’s not to say that it’s bad or something, but just to say, “You may have been through challenges.” 

Jami: You have lots of challenges. I still have challenges. 

Kristy: I hear you. So, your trainer invites you to be a fellow trainer, and you take on clients, and now, you’re actually on the other side of the fitness business.

How did that feel?

Jami: It was definitely great because I was able to help other people. Being a teacher, I worked in the inner city schools. The whole purpose of me getting into that atmosphere was to help those kids, and it was hard. I go home super depressed because I couldn’t help all of them.

At that point, it was one or two a year where I felt like I could really connect with them, really impact, be a mentor, and make a difference. 

I’m still teaching. I’m still very much so educating people on how to just live their lives the best that they can on all different aspects of wellness.

They want to learn and come to you. They want to be better. As a teacher, they have to come to school, so it’s not always sunshine and rainbows on that end.

 It was great just being able to start to build confidence in people. I think that’s the number one thing that I like from the beginning. You have these women come in to see you where they’re overweight. They feel unattractive. 

It was great just being able to start to build confidence in people. I think that’s the number one thing that I like from the beginning.

They’ve just been ‘mom’ or ‘wife’ for years. Just getting them to build their confidence back up and feel better about themselves before even all the physical transformations happen.

What I remember getting into it was seeing these people feel stronger and smile . It was a great starting point for me and a great opportunity to just kind of have that. 

I was able to replace the waitress thing and be able to see some clients, whether it be before work at 4:35AM. I’ll teach all day, maybe do one or two clients after, and then a couple sessions on the weekends. That was working every day.

I worked at this little diner in my hometown for like 12 years because I started very young there. The owner and my husband and I became very good friends. He owns a lot of buildings in our area, so he rented out a lot of commercial properties.

He was really big into the gym too. Him and my husband were always talking about the gym. Then, when I started to get into that mix, I became part of that conversation. 

He had this old barn that he remodeled kind of into a two story functional space. Him and his crazy obsession with working out thought, “Well, I’m going to go to these gym options and buy a bunch of equipment for my son and I to just work out in this space.”

He called me one day and he said, “Jamie, I know you’ve been really digging into this training. I want you to come check something out.” 

So, I went to visit this space and I opened the door. I’m not kidding you. From floor to ceiling, it was piled with just pieces of massive commercial gym equipment.

I looked at him and I said, “You run restaurants. Do you know that you have enough stuff here to literally have a gym?” 

He goes, “That’s kind of why I brought you in here.” 

Basically getting me started, this man brings me in and allows me to do everything and anything I want. Instead of paying a rent, I paid a percentage of what I sold for packages with training, and I also offered an open gym basic membership because it was 10,000 square feet.

It was very big. It was two stories, and I was giving him all of that. As I brought in members that I didn’t work with that were just using the facility, that was kind of his rent. 

We did that for two years until I built up the business enough to say, “Let’s do a legit lease and make this more official.” I took over the business name and all of that, so it was a very unique situation. I ended up doing that for about six months.

I had the hard conversation with my husband saying, “Look. I can’t do this and teach and try to be a mom anymore.” He wanted me to teach for one more year, and I said, “No. I’m not doing it.”

I was like, “I have a summer to basically make up my teaching salary.” Because that was that whole time frame of like not teaching school and having a couple of months to really focus on building the business. 

So, that’s what I did. I’m definitely a diver. When I set my mind to something, I’m like, “This is what I’m doing. I’m going to make it happen.” 

Kristy: It sounds like it. When you started the gym and the barn, was that in 2012? 

Jami: Yes, that was in 2012.

Kristy: How much longer later did you get a lease? 

Jami: I did the breakdown of the monetary situation, initially for two years. Then in 2014, we did an official lease and I took over the business name, so it became mine.

My vision started to evolve more into wellness, not so much bodybuilding. I had another baby. Life. was just taking a different path and course. I was more  interested in healing your body. 

My grandfather had gotten diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, so I took some education courses on dealing with cancer and foods to eat and nutrition aspects. It was a whole different vision. 

Then, I decided to start looking at properties that were available in our town to do a complete move. I ended up doing that in 2016. 

In November of 2016, I rebranded and moved my entire studio. The whole concept of everything I had been doing changed. I kind of started over in a sense, but all of my clients followed me. I just changed the entire focus and vision from that point on.

So, I was Absolute Fitness. That was my initial name. Then, I rebranded and moved in the end of 2016 to Fit Forward, and I’m still in that location today.  

Mistakes to avoid when partnering with someone when opening your gym

[25:27] Kristy: Incredible. It sounded like you felt you could really start from a new vision regarding the things you wanted to keep and to let go of the things you didn’t want to keep.

What were the things you wanted to keep and the things you didn’t want to keep and why?

Jami: The building itself was super old. I tremendously love the guy who helped me get this all started. However, when you have that relationship with somebody, it becomes very gray.

The more successful I became and the more the business grew, the more I was taken advantage of. Things were just not pretty. I didn’t feel like home. My business is my home away from home. Just a lot of things that were not good.

He was having random trainers that he knew come in and start training in the facility. It was just ugly. Those trainers were males, and they were not very nice to me. Yet, I was paying the bills and it was a very toxic environment. 

Not only that piece, but then the inefficient heating and cooling. I was paying thousands of dollars a month just to heat and cool this barn. It just wasn’t conducive to a gym. 

Anyone who knows the term the bodybuilders use out there, the term that you’ll hear is ‘meatheads.’ I can definitely say there were a lot of meat heads in the gym that I had started with.

That’s just how it evolves. It was very big in that bodybuilding world. Those were the kind of clients that I initially started to attract. The owner of the building, this friend of mine, was having other kinds of meathead-type guys come in as trainers to train.

It was just the environment that I did not see myself in anymore. I didn’t like it. I didn’t get the warm and fuzzy feeling when I would show up every day. It was my business, but it was awful. 

The only thing I knew that I could do was completely get out of that, and I did. I left them and all of that behind.

I did not take them with me. I took one of my trainers with me to my new space. It was her and I who started in the new location.  

Kristy: That’s huge. It sounds like you went to a 10,000 square foot barn where you had a lot of meatheads and male trainers, and a culture that you couldn’t control despite it being your business.

Now, looking at what Fit Forward is, it seems totally different because it’s very female focused. It’s a much smaller space. How did that become?

Jami: First of all, I knew I couldn’t afford 10,000 square feet. I wanted a storefront. I had things that I wanted as far as the location. I wanted it to be newer, so I got to build out the space that I have. I wanted it to be in the community and more known and accessible.

This barn that I had was there since the 1700s. It was really old, so people didn’t really look at that as a gym. Word of mouth just got out there and so on and so forth. The normal people in the community are driving by that place and they’re not really making the connection of, “Hey. This is a gym.”

I wanted it to be where people knew what we were and knew where we were. That was the start of wanting just something new. I wanted to completely get away from having open memberships because I wanted to know what was going on and to make sure the equipment was taken care of.

I didn’t have a lot of cash flow. I’d only been in business for four years, but I really started from nothing. I have no idea what I was doing. Half the time, I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. 

I wanted it to be about the experience. I wanted women to come in and feel confident, comfortable, and welcomed. Just to have that smaller niche or tribe to focus on.

I wanted it to be about the experience. I wanted women to come in and feel confident, comfortable, and welcomed. Just to have that smaller niche or tribe to focus on.

Like I said, it came kind of down to what I could afford financially. I started with just under 3000 square feet. I went from that massive gym with all this equipment of everything that you can imagine to something that is way smaller.

So, I had to be very picky with what equipment I actually put in there that I needed. I didn’t want to clutter the place.

I was very particular with equipment options. The space that we are in, if you walk in our doors, to the left side of us, there was still a vacant space that could have been rented at any time and built. Somebody could have used that for their business, but I waited on it to see how things went.

We actually just expanded last year into that space to do some group fitness. That was kind of the add-on that we’re still working through. 

Kristy: Congratulations.

Jami: Thank you. It was great. It was a good move for me. I don’t regret it one bit. It’s just a total different clientele. People that really wanted to focus on taking care of their bodies and longevity, working through any diseases that they had or post-pregnancy weight loss. 

Those moms getting into a place that they feel comfortable versus either not going to the gym, trying to do some workout at home that they’re not consistent with, or hopping on the treadmill at Planet Fitness.

Teaching women how to be strong, build muscle, look sexy, and all those good things that go along with it. 

Kristy: How much more square feet did you add on with the additional space?

 Jami: Just under 900 square feet. 

Kristy: So, you went from a little under 3,000 square feet to maybe you’re at 3,800 or 3,900 square feet.

That’s a pretty good sized space. If you don’t mind me asking, how much would you estimate the costs to renovate the space, put down some deposit, and pay for all the equipment to get your new gym going?

How she opened her own gym – what it costed her and how she kept her costs down

[31:57] Jami: That was the other hard part, being somebody who hasn’t been in business very long and going through the whole yearly process like the taxes and all of that stuff.

It was really hard for me to get help and money. I didn’t have the cash, so it wasn’t like I was putting out this money that I had been saving or invested to make this move.

 It took me four months to get a bank that will actually give me a loan to get some equipment, and I’m talking bare minimum. I’m sure that you know the answer to this. So, I was able to get my studio going.

Now, some of the negotiations with the landlord were great because this space had been there. At that point, it had been eight years since this building was built, so it was still sitting. The middle part of this strip was still fitting vacant. 

We were able to negotiate a decent amount. I actually got the build out. I don’t even  know the term, but basically the concrete floors, your dry wall and the bathrooms. They actually covered that for me, which was really nice. 

Kristy: That’s awesome. 

Jami:  I’m trying to think of just other random little things like mirrors, floors paints, and the equipment. Coming up with a business plan was hard. You don’t realize all the things.

I was able to get in there with $40,000. To me, I could have gone way over and more. That’s refurbished equipment. It was a process of going to gyms that were closing and were doing the auctions, and renting a U-Haul to pick that up. 

I only have two pieces of equipment in my gym that I started out being brand new.  Just one piece of cardio equipment is over $10,000. It’s insane. So, I was able to open my gym with a $40,000 business loan.

Kristy: That’s pretty good. What concessions did your landlord give you besides the buildout? Did they give you any free months? 

Jami: They did not. 

Kristy: But, the build-out is incredible because I could imagine that would have cost the landlord $50,000.

Jami: When I signed off on that, it was $97,000 to do the build out in my initial space. I would have never been able to do it. 

Kristy: Wow. Did you have to pay rent from day one? It sounds like the first day you put your equipment in there, you had to pay rent.

Jami: Yes. 

Kristy:  How about deposit? How much deposit did you have to put down? 

Jami: The deposit was a first month rent and a last month rent. I’m trying to think back to when I first started with that initial. I want to say it was almost $3,000 — $2,900 and change. Those times two was what I had to put down. 

Kristy: That was for the initial space that was a little less than 3000 square feet. That’s not bad. Did that include utilities or anything?

Jami: No . I pay for all the utilities. 

Kristy: That makes sense. So, you get your stuff in there, pay the first and last rent, and no free months, but at least you have an incredible build-out.  

Then, you go to options or they have the secondhand resellers. Did you go to one of those people to get equipment? 

Jami: Yes, I did. There’s a warehouse not too far from me. It’s about 45 minutes away. 

Kristy: Great. I think I had a question about the equipment you chose. 3000 square feet sounds like a lot of space compared to some studios, which are super small.

What equipment did you decide to go with? How did it frame how you decided to do a train since you couldn’t have everything you wanted?

Jami: We ended up purchasing your basic cardio equipment. We did two treadmills, a recumbent bike, a stationary bike, an arc trainer, and an elliptical.

Those were the pieces of cardio equipment that we first started with. Actually about six months ago, we kind of revamped some things whenever we were adding that group fitness room. So, I’ve since gotten rid of some things and added some things, but to start with that was the cardio.

I look at it as, “We’re trainers, if we know what we’re doing, I don’t know why a client would want to pay us to get on a bunch of machines.” 

So, I needed to be very conscious of what machines I was going to buy because of the space.  Just know that most of our training was going to be more free weight, barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, and TRX, the functional stuff. 

We did a sled leg press that also converted into a hack squat, so that was a dual. We had an abductor and adductor machine, so that was also a dual. We have a hamstring curl, a leg extension machine, pull down and a seated row machine, and a pull up and a dip machine.

They’re all combos, so they at least do multiple muscle group work. Then, we have a cable rack or a cable machine, a Smith machine, and two squat racks. I think that was it to start.

Kristy: I didn’t really get to ask you. I think it sounded like in the barn gym, you did just floor access. Then, you just did personal training, but no classes there, is that right? 

Jami: Correct. In the months that permitted, so basically I’d say maybe seven or eight months of the year, we actually would do some boot camp classes outside, but nothing consistent.

We didn’t have a group fitness schedule or anything like that. 

Kristy: When you moved over to this new space,  it doesn’t sound like you set up a class. Did you just do personal training?

Jami: In my mind, when I was making this transition, I obviously was going to be losing a lot of membership revenue, which was just money coming in that I didn’t have to work for. 

Before I left the barn, all of my memberships without any training and any trainers’ or contractor cuts of what they were bringing in that covered, and then some might rent out that space. 

When I was leaving there, I didn’t know off the top of my head. This is where my goals are coming up as a business owner is learning all of those things. My rent there was $2,500, and it was $25 a month for a membership.

If we did some math, that would give us a rough estimate of about just how many paying members there were, and that wasn’t including any of the training clients. 

Kristy: So, you get about a hundred hundred clients paying $25 to get $2,500 to cover your rent, and you’re like, “I don’t want to lose that $2,500 in revenue.”

What did you end up doing? 

Jami:  In my mind, I was like, “We’ll just add group fitness.” I know it’s going to take a little while to build up, but I feel if we have some fitness classes and we can get some people to pay a lower rate than training, that can at least help make up for some of the money that I would be losing from those memberships.

I didn’t want to offer open memberships at this studio space because it’s just a completely different environment. So, I’m like, “I’m going to hire all of these group fitness instructors.” 

If you looked at my space now aside from the group fitness room that we have, it was just one a long open space. It’s longer than it is wide when you open the doors, but it’s just one room there. It’s not broken off into sections or anything. 

When we set the space up, we did the classroom flooring and the back probably for a third to a quarter of the space. We left that open and we mirrored it as if it was a classroom setting.

Then, we put all of the equipment up in the front part of this space, so it was kind of separated without a wall. However, that was a big old flop. 

Kristy: What made it a flop? It sounds like you had the space, the trainers, and the right type of store front. What was a flop about it? 

Jami: I think it comes down to just now even being a few more years in the marketing regarding who you talk to and where you are putting this information out.

It also had a lot to do with how the space was. There were certain classes that you couldn’t offer because you have personal training going on at the same time that you have classes. I found myself having to schedule one or the other, but what’s really the point of that?

The classes that I couldn’t even offer like yoga, for instance. I couldn’t really offer yoga because we’re listening to hip hop. We’re blaring the music and the energy is great. 

I think it was a combination of the two. I was known for my niche still to this day. Now, I’m a pound instructor, so I am kind of known for that in my area, but I’ve never really been a big group fitness person. 

Personally, I love training. I love lifting heavy things and teaching women how to feel strong and empowered. My niche is personal training. I think that also has a lot to do with the marketing of the people I was talking to or who I was getting as an instructor.

Personally, I love training. I love lifting heavy things and teaching women how to feel strong and empowered. My niche is personal training.

It was just not the right time. However, we increased revenue by 40% in my first year in that space. 

Kristy: Oh, wow. So, you’re saying that when you move to the new space, you increased your revenue 40%. What was your revenue when you were running the gym at the barn? 

Jami: For the last year at the barn, we were at about $135,000 to $140,000.

Kristy: Wow. 

Jami: I cut all those trainers. It was me and one trainer who moved forward. I had to hire two other trainers that year, and then we had those instructors for group classes for six months. 

Honestly, pretty much shortly into it, I realized this is just not going to work because I was torn from either training clients, which was where we were making the money, to trying to put these classes on that just weren’t working at the time. 

I can say that that transition and the timing was great. However, my approach to adding the group fitness into the mix at that time was just not good.

Kristy: It sounds like there was a lot going on. I could understand that it takes a lot of attention to make everything really spot on. You were hiring instructors, moving in, and getting familiar with the facility. 

So, it also sounds like you started those group classes because you had those hundred members willing to do some type of low end membership.

Did they all come over? What did you do when you stopped the classes? 

Jami: No. Where that barn was located, it was surrounded by industrial trucking companies, so it was a lot of males grunting and yelling, and coming in at 3:00 AM. It was definitely different. 

I put out there the option to come train with us. I wanted more people to come over and to transition.

They were paying $25 a month and they were guys who didn’t want to swallow their pride and say, “I’d probably really benefit from a treatment.” They were kind of in their own world. There wasn’t a whole lot of community building in that space. 

The dynamic of the people and the atmosphere were very different. So, I really didn’t bring any members with me. It was my training clients. The clients that I trained were the ones that followed me over because I’m five miles away from where I was before. 

I didn’t move far for that purpose because the training was paying the bills. 

Kristy: I can see that. How many training clients came over with you? 

Jami: Nobody was really hurt. As far as numbers, I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head, but I did not lose one client when I moved.

Kristy: Would that probably be around 20 or 50 clients?

Jami: I’d probably say probably between 35 to 40 clients. 

Kristy: That’s a good base to start with. I can see how that really helped you kind of just get going because you have the rent and a trainer to pay.  

So, you started off with maybe 35 clients. I think this is the question everyone’s wondering. You had a storefront, and I had a storefront too. I don’t know if you had a different experience, but I thought, “This is a holy grail. This is going to be worth $1,000 of an advertising every month.” 

For me, I didn’t find a lot of people that came into my store. It felt like they came in because of Yelp, Google, and referrals.

The free way she leveraged her challenge through social media and got new prospects in immediately

[46:46] Kristy: What did you end up finding in that first year that brought new clients in?

Jami: Even though I was only five miles away from my other space, the town technically changed. I grew up in a really small town. So, when I moved to my studio, I actually moved it to the township where I grew up in.

I’ve pretty much lived here my whole life, minus a couple of years of college, even reconnecting with people I went to high school with. The owner of the salon that I go to, we moved in right next door. I partnered up with them, and they’ve been wonderful.

 I’ve known the owner of this salon for 22 years. She’s been doing my hair since I was 15. We partnered up a lot. We still cross-promote all the time.

Facebook is my best friend, even though I hate it sometimes. If you’re not on social media as a trainer or as someone that wants to open up a studio, you’re out of your mind because it’s free.

That is where most of my clients are, either from Facebook or referrals. I don’t get walk-in clients. Occasionally, somebody might stroll down from the AAA on one side of us and then a salon on the other. 

It was just a lot of Facebook. I’ll pop in and the parking lot will be full of people over at AAA. I don’t even know if I’ve gotten one client from them in three years. That’s insane because they’re busy. 

For me, I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of money in advertising in the past years, and I just don’t do it anymore.

I put my money in Google AdWords or analytics, and learn Google that way and group Google ads. I also put it into Facebook. If I didn’t have Facebook, I would not be where I’m at today. That is for sure. 

I put my money in Google AdWords or analytics, and learn Google that way and group Google ads. I also put it into Facebook. If I didn’t have Facebook, I would not be where I’m at today. That is for sure. 

It comes down to just the start of me competing and putting up my own personal progress. I started competing after two kids. I then had a third baby, and got back on stage nine months after that. So, I competed between two and three kids. 

That was a testimony in itself. Posting my own progress through all of that has really been my backbone to my business. I would not be where I’m at without it. 

I have to say thanks to Facebook and all the crazy headaches that social media can get us. That’s how you and I connected. Thanks, Mark Zuckerberg. 

Kristy: I think a lot of us are wondering about Facebook. I like to give it an ask because it is an interesting relationship. I ended up doing a lot of Facebook ads one year and it was so expensive, but we did get people. 

It sort of became the question of, “Am I actually making money, breaking even, or losing money on this?”

Do you do paid ads or is it purely just free posts on your page? 

Jami: Recently, I would say probably by the end of October last year, we were doing an event or a special class or a challenge. I would do some paid posts, which I did find were helpful, but I set my budget really low.

I’m a big sucker for spending a lot of money on advertising because I haven’t seen a ton of the return. You go out and spend thousands of dollars on some radio stuff. I did some print stuff initially, and I will never ever do that again. That was a couple of years ago. 

I just feel that it’s so expensive, and like you said, “Is this worth it?”

In fall last year, I started to do a continuing ad with them. That’s more of just a sponsored post that gives like a little bit of a preview of what we offer, what we’re about, and a little description kind of thing.

However, now that you’re asking me, I don’t think it’s worth it. Maybe I need to go in, change my account, and cancel it. 

I know where we’re going to talk about challenges, and I can get into how I kind of utilize challenges to really market my business at this point.

Honestly, I’ve had my best luck with them posting organically and for free. 

Kristy: I think everyone’s wondering because if someone says, “Facebook worked for me,” and they threw $1,000 out of you, you’d be like, “Of course it worked for you.”

Jami: My budget is never even in the triple digits. It’s a double digit budget for me when I use Facebook for anything. I would never even think about spending that kind of money. 

My business is still on the smaller scales though. I’m not saying it’s like Orangetheory and those bigger chain franchises. I’m sure that it’s great for them. 

Kristy: It sounds like you added classes and you have a healthy client base. How many training clients do you have now? How many group class clients do you have? You could even give a range in general. 

Jami: Right now, we have about between 70 and 80 training clients. We just started offering our group fitness classes in November. We actually did kind of a third year birthday celebration, grand reopening, and pushed that all out at the same time. So, really around the holiday was when we started adding classes.

I have an education background, not a business background. I’m still learning so much and there’s so much that I don’t do well that I’m now to the point where I’m like, “I can’t keep making these excuses of, I don’t know how or I don’t want to.”

I hired a business coach and I can tell you that that was the best decision I could have ever made. She really helped me launch the group fitness, very slowly adding classes, not filling a whole schedule, and then having to pay instructors when you have no one show up or only one or two people show up.

Right now, we only have 11 classes on our schedule and we’re slowly continuing to add. In two weeks, we’re adding one more. I’m slowly adding so that I don’t get ahead of myself because I want group fitness to be successful this time around. Especially since I just paid to have this addition, I’m like, “It’s got to work this time.”

How we kind of marketed that to start with was just to our current training clients, who we could push into a class that would supplement. 

The big thing was not to replace because I would lose a ton of revenue if I had people going from training to taking classes and not keeping their training schedule. Then, maybe adding in a recovery class or more of a cardio-based class. 

We started with just kind of promoting it to our clients to say, “We’re going to give you this great introductory kind of VIP membership rate to add four or eight classes a month.” Then, I did some campaigning on Facebook and Google to the people that will hopefully get to know that we have those to offer.

I think it comes down to a lot of budget. One of my big things for actually coming back to this whole, “do we add a group fitness,” was that personal training is expensive. We don’t live in an area where a lot of people pay for it.

I don’t live in an area that’s very health conscious at all. Every other month there’s another Burger King or McDonald’s popping up when I’m like, “When is the good healthy farm to table places coming?”

I feel like I’ll be wishing that for a long time. It’ll be me that has to open it or it’s actually happened. That’s not too far off down the road.  

I just lost my train of thought. I was up at 3:30AM and I work at five, so I’m like, “What were we talking about? “

Kristy: It’s been a lot of great information.

Jami: I’m probably rambling on, so I’m sorry. 

Kristy: It’s no problem. It’s just interesting to understand how to get a personal training gym and how to correctly add those group fitness classes. It sounds like you’re doing it gradually with some small promotion, and building up and targeting your current clients.

We had to bring people for free. We had our clients bring in friends, so they could come and try classes for free.

We offer our first class for free, kind of like an intro, so they don’t have to jump right into something. You asked me the number of people in group fitness. I would say we’re probably sitting at maybe 20 to 25 clients. 

How much do you charge? What’s the average cost for group fitness versus personal training?

Jami: For group fitness, your walk-in rate is $15, which is just like a drop-in. 

I actually just got back from a business retreat with the mastermind group that I’m with and business coach. She put on a retreat just last week in Williamsburg.

I’m actually going to restructure my group fitness here within the next couple of weeks starting April 1st. That will change to actually increasing my drop-in rate to $20. Then, giving the same kind of deal on my monthly memberships for classes just to get those people committed and into that membership.

It’s easier to track revenue, what you need, and what you can kind of push for. 

Kristy: I’m imagining you want to get them into monthly unlimited. How much does that cost? 

Jami: We offer three different rates right now. It’s four classes a month. Essentially, taking one class a week, which a lot of our current personal training clients use because they’re just adding in that extra day.

We have one class a week, four classes a month, that is $49.99, and eight classes a month, essentially twice a week, for $89.99. Then, we have unlimited classes for $129. 

Kristy: I like it. Is that what you’re going to do or what you currently do now, and that’s not changing?

That’s what I currently do now. What I’m going to change is the $15 drop-in to $20. The monthly would go up to $60 instead of $50 for four classes, $99 instead of $89 for eight classes. Then, I’ll keep it at the $129 for unlimited classes. 

I see. Do the training clients get a discount? 

Jami: They do. Those numbers I gave you are for the people that just come in and take classes.

Our current clients get basically around $10 to $15 off that. Their four classes a month would be $39.99, so they’re only paying $10 a class. Their eight classes a month is $74.99, so they’re paying less than less than $10 a class. 

So, there is an incentive there for them.

The different results she had from running a premium priced challenge compared to a low barrier $50 challenge and what she likes better

[01:00:22] Kristy: That’s really interesting. That’s how you run it. For the challenges, when did you start adding challenges and how has it been working for you?

Jami:  I’ve actually been doing challenges since I was at my old location. I started with just doing one a year, at the beginning of the year when everybody wants to lose weight.  

I did a course on challenges just to kind of dig in more with challenges, how to make them more successful, how to change it up, and how to price point it, because those have been really big struggles of mine. The struggles of, “How do I get more people or a different kind of demographic of people?”

I’ve been doing challenges since 2013. We’re just starting on our seventh year of challenges. Since I’ve gotten to the new space, I’ve incorporated more throughout the year, so we really have one typically every season. If not, even more than that that’s a shorter duration or something super specific. 

Our start of the year is what we’re actually in right now, just a transformation type challenge. We’ve done strength challenges, Spartan challenges, some extreme ones like the Four Week Fat Loss challenges, and something like Mommy Transformation challenges. 

I’ve tried to start to really target a certain group of people because it’s getting different kinds of people into our business. However, my most successful challenge is what I’m actually in right now. 

I got the idea from another studio that I met. He owns a gym called The 12, and it’s on the West Coast. He was a speaker at one of the conferences I went to over the summer. I try to connect with all those people because you can learn so much. It’s crazy. 

Where are you now with challenges? What have you found that works really well, and what do you usually use them for? Do you get clients in or do you use it for upselling? 

I definitely do a little bit of both. I feel like they help with retention because it gets people excited and motivated again. We use them and we usually offer some sort of a discount. 

I don’t like to use the word discount because I don’t like to get in the habit of saying, “We discount our services.” Incentive is a better word. We incentivize our current clients to take on challenges.

I don’t like to use the word discount because I don’t like to get in the habit of saying, “We discount our services.” Incentive is a better word. We incentivize our current clients to take on challenges.

We absolutely want to bring in new and more business that way. Up until this point, our challenges have been a more high ticketed price because we’ve always incorporated personal training because that’s my niche. So, I think it’s been harder to sell to new people.

When they see a higher price tag, you’re looking at a 12 week duration of something. If you’re looking at three times a week, it ends up being over a thousand dollars. I think that’s kind of scary. Even as a customer, I would think that’s a lot of money.

We’ve had great success with our challenges. This time around, it was how can we get more people in and give it more appeal that might be less on the price tag. 

I follow a lot of people on Instagram, especially people that I’ve connected with at different conferences. I’ve listened to different speakers present on different topics. 

There’s a guy that owns a couple of studios out on the West coast. I saw him start to promote a transformation  challenge. It was a very low cost buy-in and it was a cash price. I’m always struggling with, “What is the prize going to be? What are we going to do? How are we going to determine the winner?”

Keeping that different depending on the challenge that you’re doing to do. Transformation challenged is more of the body fat loss, inches lost, and the visual difference. To me, you use those transformation challenge photos for your marketing. If you don’t, you’re crazy. You need to.

 I ended up going a more cost-effective route where anybody could join the challenge. It was only a $50 buy-in, and all of that money gets put in a pot. At the end of the challenge we have three different areas. The top three people actually get to kind of divide that up.

The number one winner gets 50% of that money, number two gets 30%, and number three gets 20%. It was a cash buy-in, low cost at $50, and there are three different categories that you can earn points in over each week. 

The challenge is 10 weeks long. Each week we do body fat measurements, inches, and attendance, which has been amazing.

That has been kind of the turning point in challenges for me this time around because of the competitiveness, and even the camaraderie. It’s just fun. If these ladies are going crazy, they’re coming to three classes a day and joining training sessions.

At the end of the week, they can be the one that’s accumulated the most points on visits. So, there’s definitely a different approach to the challenge. 

It’s been super successful so far. We’ve kept engagement up. We have a private group on Facebook. I’ve done a couple live kind of Q&A’s where we hit different topics of wellness and fitness ,and kind of open the floor up to them to say, “What do you want to pick my brain about this week?”

That’s kinda how I’ve addressed those different topics, by doing the live videos on Facebook and those closed groups. 

What was really awesome this past week was I did a bonus point week. I’m kind of going back to that Facebook and using it to our advantage, and I’ve got a lot of competitive women in this right now.

I said that each day they were able to earn an extra bonus point if they posted either a picture or a video of them inside the studio on social media. They went crazy. It was amazing. This week I’m kind of sad because I’m like, “Where’d all the social media energy go?”

I’ve had four new people come to classes just from seeing their friends posting at the studio. I had some videos where one woman was talking about having back surgery and how she’s gotten so much stronger. I have one woman who has never been able to do a sit up and now can do sit ups, and just talked about that.

There were like the blooper pictures that were not good, where you tried to take a bunch of pictures and you wanted to post the best one. One of my clients, she actually posted the funniest one of her basically getting hit in the chin with a wall ball. 

She was like, “I’m going to throw this ball down.” She wasn’t thinking of the force coming back up and it hit her, but we got a picture of it. She posted that. 

It’s creating a lot of engagement on social media with other people asking questions and people in all these different networks. Of course, I’m posting regularly, but only my people are seeing that.

It’s been great. This challenge has been awesome. It’s much different from any of the  other ones that I’ve run. I’m already thinking, “What’s my spring and going into summer challenge going to be this year?”

Last year, we did a Spartan challenge, so we all pushed to train up for an actual Spartan race in June.

It was a very targeted demographic of people. We’re still kind of working on that because of what we had originally planned. I’m kind of now seeing how this challenge is going and thinking maybe we put a lower price tag and find a way to keep that moment for sure.

Kristy: Could I ask more about the mechanics of how this worked? So, you did a lower price at $50. What do they get? Do they get any classes? Do they get a meal planner? 

Jami: No, they don’t. That’s just the buy-in. From there, the clients that I got to come in to do the challenge are all just purchasing whatever services they want.

They’re still paying for their services. I have some people who are just doing classes and some that are doing nutrition. I have some that are doing training, classes, and nutrition. Basically, they get to purchase whatever services they want to reach the goals they’re looking for or to win the challenge.

It’s a different way of setting this up than what I’m used to, but I really like it because, honestly, I feel less stressed. The last few transformation challenges I did and the workshops that were involved, that was just targeting different areas of wellness where I set them up at the gym.

It just feels less stressful I think because there is no very specific challenge package that they purchased. It’s whatever services that they want. I didn’t have to go into my software program and add any new information in there. It was just, “Here’s this $50 of cash sitting in an envelope until the winners are decided at the end.”

I just feel like it was a lot. It was no planning really on my part at all, other than the marketing and getting it out there.

In the past, I’ve put together a lot of programming, workouts, and nutrition. All of that stuff has been part of past challenges.

However, for you to be successful as the client, you want to come into the gym more than once a week. So, it’s expensive. When you’re putting it out there for everyone to see, you see these prices of $700, $900, or $1,200 for a challenge. I think it’s hard to draw people in that way.

Kristy: How did you end up marketing this specific challenge where the $50 was a lot lower? Did you do anything different besides your usual Facebook promoted posts? 

I did not. I just have 2,500 contact leads, people that have come to me in the past or event leads that I’ve gotten, and an eblast system.

I use MailChimp, which I still don’t pay for. That’s a nice tool for people to build their email lists. I use that and put that into different target groups on how I promote them, whether they’re current or past clients, or people that we’ve just gotten their information because they entered the drawing at one of the trade shows that we went to.

I hit that target and then obviously Facebook personally. I hit it through the business, the Instagram stories, Snapchat, and Twitter. Then, just put flyers up within the studio.

We take the flyers to local businesses that we’ve partnered with, and they’re always happy to put the promotions that we’re doing up there as well. 

Jami: That’s huge. When you think about opening a studio or you’re looking to go that direction, just get into the community, be a part of your chamber, and connect with other small business owners. It’s super helpful for sure. 

Kristy: What is the name of your challenge for this one? 

Jami: This one is a Total Transformation Challenge. 

We go into that Facebook group to talk about wellness in general, such as, “What does that? What all goes into that?”

When you ask the question, “What is wellness?”, they think immediately it’s usually fitness or maybe nutrition, but they forget about all the other aspects that we live through every day. The environmental, social, and financial aspect of it. The thing is that people don’t necessarily think about when they hear wellness.

When you ask the question, “What is wellness?”, they think immediately it’s usually fitness or maybe nutrition, but they forget about all the other aspects that we live through every day. The environmental, social, and financial aspect of it.

There are a lot of habits changing and mindfulness. I really try to dig into the meat of what that means during this challenge too, which is the only time of the year I really do that because everything else is kind of shorter challenges and more hyper focused on one specific kind of concept

Kristy:  Do you do the large prize giveaway for the other challenges, on the topic specific ones?

We do. Actually, for the transformation challenges in the past, we did an overall winner package. We did a photo shoot. We got a TJmaxx gift card, a salon gift card, massage spray tans, and did makeup and hair. We actually did a big thing to kind of set them up to just feeling amazing.

It’s great marketing because you have your before picture where everybody’s miserable and looks frumpy and grumpy. Then, you have this photo shoot with really nice quality images to use for marketing and testimonials. That’s where you’re going to gain your clients as being able to provide.

People can relate to those before and after pictures to people. They’ll be like, “I kind of look like that person. I would love to look like that.”

It just gives it a little bit more of a realistic feel and for them to be a little bit more motivated than they would be if they opened up an oxygen magazine where every girl looks amazing.

“I could never look like that.” That’s what I used to tell myself. What I preach is, “You don’t want to look like that girl in there. You want to look like the best version of yourself.”

Absolutely. You’re really encouraging that. For the higher end challenges that you did where it wasn’t the $50 buy-in, how did they get to be part of the challenge? Was it by buying a package?

How did the other challenges work? 

Jami: For the other challenge, I usually did three, so a low, medium, and high. I set up price points based on how many times a week they were going to come in and train. I swear, by the way, I don’t have the current buyers. I’m just choking on my saliva.

Anyway, I don’t want to get sidetracked because I could totally go into talking about that. 

So, kind of lower, medium, and higher price point based on how many times a week they were going to come into the gym. Sometimes I would do an option where they could do one-on-one training or small group training, so, again, kind of a pricing break if they did the group training.

I would sell it based on the length of the challenge. Let’s say a new person would come in and they would just pick from first, second  or third. I usually market them as the bronze, the gold, and the platinum package or something along those lines. It’s kind of giving it a little bit of fluff. 

For my current clients, basically what I would have them do is they would actually just put whatever contract they were in or we would just put that on, and then they would actually purchase out that package too. 

I would also do an incentive, so I might drop the price like $50 or something like that for our current paying clients. Then, they would  just resume their contract once that challenge time.

Kristy: I love that because I had that conundrum before where we had the current clients who were on this big package and we didn’t really know what we would offer them. Do we have to give it to them for free? So, that’s a great solution. 

The unique way she recently set up the point system in her challenge

[01:17:28] Kristy: You’re currently doing the $50 low barrier offer challenge. I’m curious for the next 10 weeks. How does it exactly work regarding points and how do they track their points? Do you have a poster in the office that puts everyone’s points every week?

Jami: Yes. I calculate their points at the end of each week. They’re earning points on the three categories that I mentioned earlier: body fat, inches and attendance.

Basically, in each category, 10 points is the max that you can earn, and 10 points goes to the person that has either lost the most body fat.

Kristy: So, you are telling us how you did the point system for your challenge. You said you calculated it every week. Body inches, fat, body percentage, inches, weight loss. Does that sound right?

Jami: It’s body fat, inches and attendance. We’re trying to get these ladies away from needing to be on the field to determine whether they’re seeing progress or not.

We’re not even using their weights. We’re doing the body fat that they lose, the inches that they’re down, and the attendance as far as how many classes or training sessions are coming to in the studio.  

It sounds like you got a lot of excitement. It creates retention.

How about regarding new prospects? How many more new prospects have you seen during your promotion for the challenge? 

From the promotion for the challenge, we got six new ones, which for me is actually decent. We got six new people, and then we got all of our current people. The big thing that I’ve noticed about this is how excited they are, and we’re just finishing up our sixth week.

People are really starting to see some big changes, and they’re putting it out there. Their friends and families are seeing it, and that’s where they’re bringing in that free time to come try a class. 

People are really starting to see some big changes, and they’re putting it out there. Their friends and families are seeing it, and that’s where they’re bringing in that free time to come try a class. 

We’re actually getting business based off of just running this challenge from outside people because of how excited the people doing the challenge are.

I forgot to ask more about the points because I guess I don’t know how to get points yet.  

Each week, you have the ability to earn the maximum of 10 points in each category. Let’s say you were a challenger and you lost the most body fat, the most inches, and you came to the most things at the studio that week. You could earn 30 points.

We have 25 people in the challenge. Right now, you’re only on what we call the drawing boards. We have one of those big floppy teacher whiteboards because of the teacher in me. I have to have one of the big whiteboards. 

We have one of those in the studio so that our top 10 people are listed up there every week. That’s kinda how you know where you fall. We also include the winners of each of those categories for that particular week, but doesn’t mean that they have the most points. 

You can earn 10 points if you have the best score in each of those categories. For example, the person with the second most body fat loss is going to get nine points. The next person gets eight, seven, six, all the way down to one. 

So, 15 people aren’t even earning points at all in that category if they don’t fall in that top 10. Does that make sense?

Kristy: I think you’re going to have to explain more to me. I’m going to blame it on others who’ll need to understand more, but I actually don’t get it yet.

Jami: It’s crazy. I actually had to do one of my live videos on the challenge group page on the second week because people were like, “Wait a second. I thought I understood, but I don’t really understand it.”

I had to do a video of really trying to break down and explain the points. So, 25 people come in, and they do their thing every week. I have all of their documentation and numbers. I add everything up on Fridays for the previous week, so people are going to fall into the categories. Which of these people lost the most body fat?

Let’s say Kim lost the most body fat this week. She gets 10 points. 10 points is the max points that you can get each week in any of those categories. You’re earning in all of the categories. Then, let’s say Jen has lost the second most percent body fat. She’s going to get nine points. 

The next person that lost gets eight, seven, six points, all the way down to one. The only people that are getting points are in that top 10 across the board. 

Then, we go to inches. It’s the same thing. Let’s say Amy lost 20 inches and she’s lost the most inches. She’s going to get 10 points. Sarah lost 18 inches and she’s next to Jen. So, she’s neck and neck up there, but she’s not quite there. So, Sarah’s got it. She’s getting nine points. Next person under her was eight, seven all the way down. Are you following?

Kristy: Yes. I understand now. Is it the same for attendance? 

Jami: Every week is the same for attendance. The person who came the most gets 10 points. The second person gets nine. Then, the next person gets eight, seven all the way down to one. . 

Kristy: Do they get more points for doing personal training? 

Jami: They do not. That could be something in the future though. You’re kind of onto something.

Kristy: You’re also working harder in your personal training session than in your Zumba class.  

Jami: That could depend on how much energy you’re putting out during your workout. There’s a tool called Myzone that is phenomenal.

You can actually push yourself pretty hard in these classes. However, I’m with you. I’m all about personal training.  

Kristy: To be a devil’s advocate on the point system, because we know a lot of people do it in different spurts. What if I was one of those people who lose just a consistent amount every week? So, it’s not a lot at any point. 

What does that mean? Even though I may have lost more than most, I probably would not get any points because every week it’s a small amount. 

Jami: No, because we are basing it off of your first day.

Kristy: So, it’s week to week.

Jami: The only thing that’s week to week is your attendance. Regarding your overall body fat, we’re going to look at that from when you started because it’d be really hard to differentiate the 10 to the one.

Seven days isn’t a lot of time to do a whole lot, so it’s accumulative. Those are from  the start. Thank you for asking that question though, because that probably clarifies a little bit.

Kristy: I’m like, “Wow. They’re really losing so many inches every week. That’s amazing.” I get it. That’s interesting. 

I’m curious. Did you come up with this approach because that guy told you or you just decided to do it this way?

Jami: He was posting for people to sign up for this challenge in all of his stories on Instagram. I flipped through those occasionally throughout the day. It kept catching my attention and I’m like, “I wonder if this would work.”

This goes back to me not having that business mindset or maybe it’s just personality. I’m very optimistic that it’s going to work. My husband is usually the one that’s like, “Don’t do it. It’s, it’s an awful idea.”

 And, I’m like, “No. It’s going to be great.” 

This probably goes back to me not always making the best decisions, but I was thinking maybe this would work for us. Why not give it a try? For me, challenges are fun. I want them to be something that kind of remotivates our clients.

We have such a family type community in our business that at this point, I can get feedback in a good way. I can get constructive and true feedback where they’re going to be honest with me and not just be like, “I really like you, so I’m just going to tell you it was great.”

That’s not the answer I’m looking for. It’s not gonna help anybody here. It’s only 10 weeks. It’s something different. We’ve never had 25 people do a challenge before. It’s usually around the 10 to 12 range. We’ve pretty much doubled that just by lowering the price to sign in or join in.

Now that we have classes to offer, it’s even more cost-effective because you could pay $130 for unlimited classes every month versus $1,200 to come in and train three times a week for 10 weeks.

It kinda just depends on the price point for people too.

Kristy: Well, I think it’s late in the day. I get up for like 12 hours. I’m really getting a lot of information from you, so I get it.  I was just understanding the challenge. 

I think my main question is, how did you come up with it? You saw that guy do it, and you’re an optimistic entrepreneur. He started in New York, and then in Hawaii. That’s cool. 

Jami: Yes. I would like to be in Hawaii right now. Aren’t you locked down now anyway? Are you quarantined to your house yet? 

Kristy: That’s a good question. Well, I’m in New Jersey in the New York area, but I’m from Hawaii. New York is the worst. You just don’t really want to catch a train. 

Jami: Everyone’s just losing their minds. Let’s be honest. You don’t want to go there on this podcast. You might have some people saying, “I don’t really want to listen to her.”

All I say is keep going to the gym, keep eating healthy, and you’ll be just fine. 

Kristy: Just wash your hands and you’ll be fine. You guys are going to be safe. I’m glad it’s not really affecting your challenge because some people are worried for their gym. 

Jami: I’m still worried for sure. 

Kristy: I could understand. Everyone is worried.

Backup plans during quarantine — benefits of using Zoom and Facebook Live

Jami: It’s really scary for a small business for sure because even a month without having my doors open would completely crush us. I’m just praying for the best and having that Zoom backup plan. When things don’t work, you have backup plans.

You hope that Zoom works. You can do it in the comfort of your home right. 

Kristy: I think Zoom is benefiting. Zoom can definitely supplement just in case. It sounds like you’re in the middle of this challenge. How long did you promote the challenge for?

 You mentioned you got six new prospects or signups from it.

Could you tell me the total hours that you put into promoting it, and how many weeks? Was it six weeks that you started promoting it? Maybe ten or three weeks?

Jami: Honestly, you have to figure especially for a challenge like this and even across the board, marketing wise. I don’t start it too early because, especially with a transformation challenge that you’re starting new years, people are not in the whole losing weight mode.

They’re in the, “I need to get my Christmas shopping done. I’m going to all these parties.” You kind of have to figure what time of year it is and what the people that you want to be coming in are doing.

They’re not right now looking to lose weight or for anything.

After Christmas and maybe even after January one, we do a holiday damage control event every year. It’s the first week in January, and that’s kind of where we lead up to that event. It’s usually starting the week before Christmas, and we kind of throw a challenge idea in there. 

Then, after Christmas is really when we start pounding it pretty hard.

We started this challenge by the end of January. Three or four weeks because you want people to want to do it now. They don’t want to wait that long. They want to get started now, or it’s the wrong time of year.

I think there’s a lot that goes into what it is that you’re putting out there and the time of year. Holidays are tough. I don’t know if you can probably relate. I think most fitness owners can. Your holidays are rough. Very rarely do I get new people in the month of December prior to Christmas.

I’m pushing gift certificates and things like that. It’s money coming in at the same time, but you can’t really factor that into your monthly revenue because they haven’t really signed up for anything yet. They haven’t even started coming into your studio.

The holiday months are definitely tough between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’ve actually tried to do a holiday hustle challenge in between the holidays. Just to keep people accountable, coming in and excited, and a little motivated as much as you can get people motivated those that month.

About a month I would say, and sometimes even less than that, I’ve had really good success with only pushing it out with a two or three  week period.

This is a longer challenge. So, I did it longer than just a couple of weeks. 

Kristy: So, about four or five weeks then for the longer 10-week challenges.

Do you do a special event to kick off and end the event and the challenge? 

It depends. I have done that. However, what I have found with all the challenges is it doesn’t seem to be affecting me or the business as much because I have a bigger group.

Jami: I don’t want to say that people have kind of fallen off, but every time I’ve done a challenge, there has been a little drop-off where they kind of just lose that motivation and momentum within themselves. It’s usually this time of year, to be honest with you. 

With people’s new year’s resolutions, you’re trying to get them and have them see results and make those changes.

Kristy: I was just curious if you do an end of challenge event and how important that is and even a start of challenge event. I know that you mentioned you did Facebook lives because usually people have a lot of questions.

Do you address those through Facebook live or do you do a live event? 

Jami: In the past, I’ve done the live event because I feel like that’s important. It’s a big kickoff. It’s kind of where we get that momentum and the energy going. 

However, when do you do those? When is a good time to do it? Because I struggle even still with events that we have or special classes. Do you do it on a weeknight? Do you do it on a weekend? In the morning and the evening?I still struggle  with that. 

For me, I found that no matter when, I still can’t get everybody there. So, that kind of stinks. That’s a good question. As far as the ending, we’ve not done a group gathering kind of pulled together, and that’s a good idea. 

I think I’m actually going to do that for this one. Try to pull everybody together and maybe not even put the numbers on the board on to see.

Right now, we have more people that are neck and neck, so it’s crazy. Every other week, it’s like one hops in front of the other and the other one. I kind of think maybe I will erase the whiteboard and say like, “On Saturday at 10:00 AM, you have to show up to the studio. If you can’t make it, then maybe we do a live video on Facebook there for people that can’t make it.”

I’ve turned just this time to the live videos on Facebook because I was finding that with the workshops, the meetings and stuff, not everybody was coming. I’m now using more of my time. The goal is to make best use of your time. 

I’ve turned just this time to the live videos on Facebook because I was finding that with the workshops, the meetings and stuff, not everybody was coming. I’m now using more of my time. The goal is to make best use of your time. 

I’m now repeating myself 10 times because people couldn’t make it or it’s not a priority to them. That was very frustrating because I’m super passionate about this industry and what I do. Obviously, I’ve been talking and I don’t even remember what I talk about, but I just keep going. 

Kristy: I can tell you’re passionate and that’s great. That’s why you do well. 

Jami: Yes. I take it personally. I put a lot of time and energy into creating workshops that go along with these challenges for content, information, and for people to ask questions, only for half the group to not come.

So, it’s like, “How can I do this and still deliver the information?” I do still have a decent attendance on the live video, so like I’m consistent with what time of the day. I do them on Sundays at 7:00 PM so they can plan for it. 

I remind them and then I’ll sit and wait for five  minutes online to see how many people hop on.

Kristy: Yeah. I’ve done that before. 

Jami: Facebook is definitely the most influential. 

Kristy: I see. That makes a lot of sense. It sounds like basically, your low barrier challenge is $50 to buy in. Then, that gets used for the cash prize. Your hope is either there’s more current sales from current members, or you get new members in. 

Then, every week it calculates points. You put that on the board, and only the top 10 places for each week for changes in body fat percentage, attendance, and inches. Basically, get a maximum of 10 points. 

Then, Sundays you do a Facebook live at 7:00 PM to answer questions or do a topic.

Yeah. It’s a topic, and it’s based on what they want to hear. I put those posts out there, mostly from the beginning, and I was able to kind of plan throughout the 10 weeks of what to talk about. 

Jami: Even as things come up that they have questions on or they want to know more about, I just kind of jot it down and then touch base on that each week.

Kristy: I love it. That’s really clear. I know you mentioned you had six new prospects that became members in some way. What about total revenue? Did you see a big jump in total revenue with adding the low barrier offer challenge?

Jami: To be honest with you, not really. The reason I can say that is because a lot of the people that joined our class are the class members, meaning that they’re just coming in and paying for classes. They’re not paying for training.

They set themselves up on our unlimited package. It’s kind of putting me in the other direction for a hot minute. However, using this time to have them promote themselves and push through social media like I have with all of my challengers. That actually is crazy. 

Just even talking through it, my unlimited class members have brought in people. I have had new signups from those particular individuals, so that is a win for me. 

When it comes down to these people that are all about getting in as many classes as they can and they’re only paying $130 a month, and I’m paying out instructors, I would say no, I don’t see a huge increase in revenue because of maybe just the setup of how I have it going this time.

It’s been great as far as the reasons behind a challenge in the sense of  momentum, energy, camaraderie, and them getting excited and telling their friends. I look at it as a win, even though it’s not the bank accounts going up like crazy from this.

Kristy: It sounds like a win just because I used to ask myself the same thing when I ran challenges. It was really time consuming. “Is it worth it?” There’s a lot of attention that everybody needs for their challenge so that that takes up just a lot of one-on-one time, and they’re not paying more to ask you more questions or feedback and stuff.

Calculating the points could probably take an hour at least every Friday. 

Jami: Oh, it does.

Kristy: So, there’s that  question. I felt when at times I didn’t put as much energy into a challenge, I would see actual revenue fall or I would start to feel the overall energy.

It starts to feel crappy halfway through. It happened. That’s why every time I’m not willing to give up on challenges because I love it.

For me, they’re exciting, but it’s always like, “What can we do differently? What can we do better? What can we change? What is the feedback from the people in the challenge giving us?”

They’re a pain in the rear ends, to be honest, as this person that’s planning it and setting it up. This has been the easiest one I’ve done. I spend an hour typically on live on Sundays, and at least an hour doing all the totals and all that stuff.

You have to factor in taking the time to actually measure all these people every time or week that they come in, so it is time consuming. However, I  definitely feel less stressed. It’s less work on my end now with this one. 

However, moving forward, I don’t know what that might change to or what might spark my interest. Who knows? On someone else’s story where I’m like, “That sounds like a great idea.” 

I take it back to my team and I’m like, “Hey, guys. What do you think about this?” 

Jami: And, they kind of just look at me like, “Just tell us what we need to know. What else do you want to do?” 

Kristy: I understand. “What do we need to know? What are we selling?” For your point system, I wonder if you can add in some different things. One thing I  wonder is if people are bringing in members, maybe you can give them bonus points for bringing in people.

Jami: We just did. It kind of fell in the same timeframe as the challenge because of the time of year, but we just did great, which was the first time I ever did something like this, and it was awesome. 

For the month of February, we did a share the love month, so we raffled off a pair of Apple air Apple AirPods. It was based off of referrals and bringing in your friends. You could bring in your people and your referrals. 

So, you got your name in the jar if you brought someone, and you got another, if they signed up. That actually brought in a lot of referrals, which was a lot of fun.

That kind of went hand in hand with the challenge because it fell kind of in the same timeframe. I liked that. I still have time left in this challenge because last week I posted a picture thing. This week is kind of back to normal. Maybe next week you could get an extra bonus point if you bring in a friend. 

Kristy: Or they could even bring a friend to a personal training session?

Jami:  Yeah. Same thing. It has to be a different friend. We can’t bring in the same friend. 

Kristy: You just have to make the fine print.

Jami: It’s crazy. 

Kristy: I love it. Well, this has been a lot of fun. I have learned a whole new way to do a challenge, so I’m excited. I love the unique point system and I liked that it just kind of keeps everyone really motivated. 

Thanks for taking the time. I know it’s been a long time, Jami. We’ve been on the interview for a bit, but it’s been awesome and I’d love to hear how your challenge ends up.

If anybody wants to reach out to you, how can they reach you?

Jami Shields

Facebook: Jami Shields
Facebook Page: Fit Forward
Website: FitForward

Jami: Yeah. I will definitely let you know. Thank you so much for inviting me and having me on here with you. I’m excited to hear what you’re going to do with this. I’m sure you’re super excited. 

Kristy: I will keep you updated. Thanks

Jami: Please do.

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