3 years ago, I am sitting at my desk working for my previous employer and I had this thought come to mind, “There has to be a better way.” There HAS to be a way to serve more people, there HAS to be a way to give employees more opportunities, there HAS to be a way to drive more results, and there HAS to be a way to create EXCITEMENT around strength.
With the help and support of Ryan Manczuk, a fantastic trainer in Saint Louis, we came up with the name Lift-STL. All of a sudden, those thoughts became something real. Together, we created a business plan which tackled all of the issues I listed above, and we developed the principles that Lift would stand on. The PLAN is the most important piece of work that kept me on track through this process. The plan guided every decision I made.
We came out of the gate hot. We aimed for the moon and ended up with what seemed like nothing at the time. I still can’t believe investors were not confident in a young trainer believing he could start a 30,000 square foot gym right out of the gate….
As crazy as it is, I still believe they made a mistake, but I also understand their reservations at the time. Rejection tested my resolve to start this venture. It also forced me to go back to the plan and strengthen it.
I cut the size of the plan in half and I went back to the investor group. Denied again. I took this rejection personally. “They must not think I have what it takes” I thought. For a brief second, I started to believe this. However, with the help of other successful businessmen in Saint Louis, and my business coach, Charles D’Angelo, I came to understand the reality that business is not personal. Charles also showed me that the only person that decides if I am good enough is me.
I knew at that moment I needed to do this without investors. With the help of my beautiful wife, who will be gifting me with our third child in January 2020 and has supported me from the beginning, I was able to put up enough assets through my personal business and home to acquire an SBA Loan. The plan was cut in half once more, but all of the Principles that were laid out in the beginning stayed intact. I am very proud of that. Not once did I change the plan to fit into a situation that did not represent the overall vision for Lift-STL.
Most banks would not accept my application for the SBA Loan, but I kept searching until I found one who would. Finally, Midwest Regional Bank said Yes! At the same time that I was accepted for an SBA Loan, I thought that I had found the perfect building and location for Lift. 3942 Laclede Ave. in the Cortex District in Saint Louis, MO. I had done it! I worked on signing a deal at that location for 8 months and I was 100% confident in my decision. Fast forward to the week of signing the lease. Cortex decides there will not be a gym going in that location. All of the work, the time, and the money lost (or so I thought).
At this point I am beside myself. Kind of pushing for another location, kind of thinking about taking a break because my wife and I just found out we were pregnant. Then, I had a thought come to me once more. I see Club Fitness is changing their model and creating bigger gyms. Does this mean they are leaving their smaller gyms behind? I reached out to the property managers for 8356 Musick Memorial Drive and my suspicions were correct. At this point, I was financed, and the plan was ready to go. We were able to reach a deal within several months. All of the rejection, all of the mistakes, all of the planning, and all of the lost money was for not. I couldn’t see it at the time, but those lessons were serving a bigger purpose the whole time!
7 years ago I was washing cars at Waterway Carwash. In less than a month, I will be opening my first gym in the heart of Brentwood, MO, and my plan is to make it the best gym in the city of St. Louis! I’m not going to feed some bullshit that “Anything in this world is possible.” I think that is cheesy and false. It would also ignore the fact that I have had a lot of help, a support system, luck, and grace in my life! But I have also felt alone through this process, I have been laughed out of investor meetings (like a bad episode of shark tank), I have experienced misfortune, and I have felt like giving up. I did not start with a lot, except the capacity to know EXACTLY what I wanted, and I am determined to stand by that desire until I realize it.