Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and fitness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Marcia Wever, Owner of St. Louis City Fitness, located in St. Louis, MO, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
St. Louis City Fitness provides safe, effective, and empowering wellness programs with a whole-person approach to corrective exercise and bodywork. The goal is to help clients strive towards the healthiest versions of themselves at various stages of their lives. Our team works cohesively together so that well-being and fitness are sustainable and enjoyable parts of life. Wellness services offered include private, duet, and small group classes in personal training, Pilates, GYROTONIC®, Yoga, Meditation, Neurokinetic Therapy, Reiki, massage, and other bodywork to help meet clients where they are at and take them where they want to be. In-person, in-home, and virtual services are offered to fit the lifestyle of each client.
Our clients stay with us for decades because we understand that maintaining healthy lifestyle changes over time. A person's health and motivation to be well are affected by life changes: pregnancy, surgery, a new diagnosis, life stress, pain management, injuries, menopause, and so much more. This is why we prioritize offering diversified services through experts that aren't only good at what they do but have a collaborative spirit! Working together is what sets us apart and allows us to meet the physical, emotional, financial, and social needs of each client.
Tell us about yourself
I started teaching group exercises and personal training while in college at the University of Illinois. In 1980, of course, this was a new field at that time, especially for women. This experience helped me understand that I wanted to finish my business degree and work in Fitness and Wellness full-time. This started my journey of working in all aspects of fitness, from commercial to corporate.
I worked as an instructor and as a manager for 15 years at universities, large commercial fitness centers, corporations, hospital-based programs, in-home training, and small independent fitness centers. In addition, during this time, I became an educator for other instructors and began certifying fitness instructors and personal trainers for the Aerobic and Fitness Association of America.
I realized most instructors were underpaid, were not respected by their employers, and had no say in how they developed as a professional in the industry. During this time, I also started my own business, City Fitness, to offer continuing education to instructors and to teach in-home clients and group classes. In 2001, I quit my full-time position for Wellbridge, a high-end commercial facility, expanded City Fitness by rebranding as St. Louis City Fitness, and went out on my own.
My goal was to offer a nurturing place for instructors and trainers to enhance their skills, provide service-based programs to clients, and be paid a living wage as an instructor. Since that time, we have moved the business six times and expanded our services. Throughout this journey, I have built a team of the most talented young fitness professionals in the metro area who believe in the same philosophy of wellness.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Watching the growth of young trainers into highly skilled, talented fitness professionals is definitely one of my biggest accomplishments. I love helping to educate trainers and nurture their skills. Over the past 35 years of working in the fitness and wellness industry, I've had the honor to mentor and train through AFAA, certify group exercise, and personal trainers. This experience has made me a better instructor and a better person. Some of the instructors that I met when I moved to St Louis in 1991 still work with me or recommend their friends to come to work with me. To me, that's the definition of success! My clients are also a great accomplishment for me. Some of my clients have been with me for over 25 years. I consider my clients part of the SLCF family. We are always there to support each other through the good times and the bad. Wellness is about mind, body, spirit, and community. I hope to bring all the dimensions to my clients.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Balance is the hardest thing about being a small business owner. Trying to balance revenue with good customer service. Balancing your personal life with your business responsibilities. Balancing what is best for the trainers and the clients. Helping the clients find balance in their training and taking care of their health. Balancing my needs with the needs of my clients. If you can achieve balance, I believe you are a success.
Integrity is also of utmost importance to me, and in this day and age, maintaining your integrity and being profitable is difficult. Many fitness centers try to sell trendy products, sell an image, and sell unrealistic promises. I have been tempted over the years, but my integrity always wins!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
First of all, follow your passion. When the hours are long, the money is scarce, and the decisions are difficult, knowing you are doing something you love and care about makes it easier. You spend so many hours of your life working that it is important to do something you really believe in and care about.
Second, surround yourself with highly talented people but also people you really respect, and they respect you. I always tell my clients, "I don't just want to work side by side with the best, but I want to work with good people."
Third, don't just plan to grow a business but plan to manage growth! Having success in business is great, but if you grow too fast and don't manage how you grow, things will fall through the cracks. Consistency in service is very important to clients. You will see trendy fitness centers come and go. They start out as a new novelty, but once they are busy, many times, the quality of service diminishes. Unfortunately, the business model for these types of businesses is a cash cow. Milk it until it is no longer profitable, and move on. So if you are in it for the long run, plan your growth.
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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