Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and fitness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jeremy Kaplan, CEO of Ascend Athletics, located in Edgewater, NJ, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Ascend Athletics is a Strength & Conditioning company with the vision of "Raising the Vibration of the World." We specialize in athletic performance working with athletes of all different levels, from youth to professionals as well as the general population looking to get in the best shape of their life. Ascend Athletics has a duality to the meaning. The first is to Ascend in Athletics, to become the best version of yourself on the field, court, or in life. We define an Athlete as anyone with a body. The second meaning is to Ascend Athletics, meaning this is more than just about sport. It's about becoming the best version of yourself physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.
Tell us about yourself
Looking back, I have to say I got started on my business because I was in a tough place in life. I had some really bad experiences working as a trainer for other people. The past two gyms that I worked at went and ended very poorly. I resigned from one gym to go to another. When I gave my notice, the owners verbally abused me. Cursing me out. Threatening to fight me. They didn't want to pay me the remainder of what I was owed and then tried to shoot me the money. I left that gym to go to another gym where I was offered a lot of unfortunately empty promises (insurance, money for education, clients, etc.) I ended up getting fired from that gym and was in a place where I had to make a decision. I decided that I was going to try my hand in the independent field, and since I got fired, I would have more time to get off the ground because I'd be collecting unemployment. The owner ended up fighting my unemployment, which meant I had no money coming in. This lit a fire within. I knew what I had to do, and I got after it. In addition to all of this, I was in a relationship that I wasn't completely happy in. It ended about six months after I got fired, but during those six months, I used Ascend Athletics as a distraction. I put all of my energy into building this brand. From the moment I woke up in the morning til the time I went to sleep, I was working on building this company. From creating a logo, and brand identity, designing the website, doing photoshoots, running the social media, creating an app and back-of-house system, assessments, intake forms, employee contracts, writing bios, you name it, I did it.
I wake up every day like I'm on a mission. I know that I have huge goals for myself and this company. My goal is for Ascend Athletics to be as recognizable as Nike. I know that in order for that to happen, I must move the needle forward each and every day. I must do at least one thing a day to move it forward. When I feel great, I may do ten things. When I feel crappy, I must do at least one thing (even if that thing is just to rest, so I have more energy the next day). At this moment, my life is all about Ascending both for myself and my business.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
The biggest accomplishment of being a business owner has to be signing the lease for my first space. Ascend Athletics was launched on June 17th, 2021, and we signed a lease on our first commercial space on October 14th, 2022. The amount of work that went into it from inception to signing the lease is remarkable. It's one of the biggest feats in my life.
I must also say that another HUGE accomplishment as a business owner has been:
- The feedback we've been getting for our athletes.
- The growth that I've had in these past five months since opening the gym. It's not tangible, but I can see and feel how much I've grown. From the way that I think to my discipline, decision-making, marketing plans, understanding of the business, etc.
- Seeing the revenue increase month after month.
At the end of the day, business is about money. You need to make a certain amount to stay in business, support new things and earn a living. I haven't made a dollar in a long time, so it's encouraging to see. It's also a byproduct of doing a great job, people telling other people, and creating a massive impact which is what Ascend Athletics is ultimately about.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The biggest gift and curse is that you have to handle everything. No matter when, where, with who, how you feel, what mood you're in, or how your day is going. You're the face. You're the person behind it. You're the one who makes the business run. However, I'm a big believer in perspective and how you view a situation. All of the challenges you face help forge your best self. They build you. Give you experiences that not many get to have. They teach you lessons on how to handle the situation better going forward. They challenge you and ultimately change you. I don't back down from any challenge. I face it head-on because I know that it will ultimately help me Ascend to my highest.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Have a plan. Always have a plan. So many people (especially in the service industry) think that because they're really good at a particular skill, they can run a business. They think because they're a good technician (trainers, coaches, cooks, barbers, etc.) that, they can run a business. However, business is comprised of sales, marketing, market research, accounting, managing, scheduling, etc. In order to run a successful business, you need to know about all of the above. Prepare. Have a business plan. Create core values, mission statement, and vision statement, understand your expenses, have prices, sample schedules, etc. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
- Never stop learning! Have a great team of people around you. Get help. Have a mentor, a business coach, etc. Hire an employee. It takes money to make money. Mentors and coaches are there for you to run ideas by, bounce ideas off of, and plant seeds in your mind that will ultimately blossom into beautiful visions and ideas. They're there to guide you in the right direction. Use their experience, and learn from their past mistakes. Read books. Listen to podcasts. Never stop learning.
- Go for it when you're ready! It's not a rush. For me, I knew when it was the right time. I felt it in my gut. Obviously, I knew I didn't have all the skills I needed, but you grow through what you go through. I have had more growth since opening up Ascend Athletics on October 14th than probably any other time in my life. The best way in life to grow is to throw yourself into challenging situations and figure them out. If you're looking to maximize your life, grow as much as possible, become the best person you can be, and create a massive impact in the world, this is the best way to do it! Together we Ascend 🚀
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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