Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and fitness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Melinda Hughes, Owner of The Strength Shoppe, located in California, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

The Strength Shoppe, a boutique strength training studio, delivers customized one-on-one personal training sessions using slow-cadence strength training, which is a safer, more effective, and more efficient form of exercise. We specialize in working with people who have medical conditions or injuries are well as those who may not have a lot of time for exercise but would still appreciate the benefits of an exercise program, such as busy professionals, parents of young children, and those who dislike exercise. Melinda, our founder, has a Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition and offers one-on-one nutrition services. Our clients have access to an online membership portal, The Inner Strength, that includes video lessons and pdf workbooks that help them optimize their health. Health coaching is provided with The Strength Shoppe health courses to ensure the success of all participants. Our clients range in age from our twelve-year-old baseball enthusiast working on how far he can throw the ball to our senior clients increasing bone density or regaining the ability to walk unassisted to our SUPER seniors in their 90s staying strong and living their lives to the fullest.

Tell us about yourself

I founded The Strength Shoppe during the recession in 2011. I had never believed in something so unwaveringly as I did when I opened The Strength Shoppe. I did not have a business degree or entrepreneurial experience. I did not have starting capital. I did not have a business mentor. But I had something to give to people that would make their lives better. I took a cash advance on a credit card and grew the company as I worked. And I am proud to have a flourishing company focused on service to others. Most of our clients have been training with us for many years. The Strength Shoppe has been life-changing for our clients in terms of quality of life (recovery from stroke, rehabilitation after back surgery or knee/hip replacements, regaining the ability to walk unassisted, having the strength to get off the floor without using the counter, enjoying vacations and the activities they enjoy as they get older without contending with pain, eliminating chronic pain that is so debilitating it keeps you up at night, etc., etc.). In addition to physical strength, The Strength Shoppe provides resilience and emotional strength. When our clients are able to strengthen their bodies through intense, focused sessions, they gain a stronger sense of self and increased confidence. The Strength Shoppe is special. Friendships between clients have been formed as well as bonds between clients and trainers.

The Strength Shoppe (and what it gives to the community) is what I am most proud of in my life. My senior staff members have been with me since 2011. My team has grown in the last few years, and they value The Strength Shoppe as much as I do, as they are able to make a full-time income with part-time hours, which allows them the freedom to pursue other passions and artistic endeavors and to live their lives with the freedom to realize their dreams. My employees are highly empathetic, lovely people who truly invest in themselves when working with our clients. They are proud of their contributions, and I would move mountains for them. I am motivated each day by the results our clients see and by the people that I am fortunate to work with every day, including my husband and co-owner, Arjen van Eijmeren. My husband pours his heart and soul into creating compelling and entertaining video content that will engage our clients, so they can easily learn and apply the lessons to their health and their lives.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

In early 2020, The Strength Shoppe provided only in-studio personal training. Due to COVID-19 closures, both of our studios were shuttered. Our revenue dropped to zero, and we had a team to support, rent to pay that was not discounted, and clients who relied on our service for pain management and quality of life. When I look back to the personal and professional challenges of that time, I find it a miracle that The Strength Shoppe survived the pandemic. But we didn't just survive. We now offer more services, have more team members, and serve more clients than ever before. During this time, LA Magazine named us the "Best Workout" for 2021. I was able to prove that withstanding pressure and tension can make you stronger, which is what we do every day in our studios with our clients. Statistics say that 30% of fitness studios permanently closed during the pandemic, and The Strength Shoppe survived. I definitely became stronger during that time.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Separating myself from the business! I invest so much of my time, energy, finances, and love into The Strength Shoppe that separating myself from the business becomes difficult. In many ways, The Strength Shoppe feels like my calling. It's the way I can show up in the world and give what I have to give to make the world a better place. When you give so much to something, you must put thought and intention into separating your identity from that thing. I'm like a mother that must constantly let go of her little baby as the baby becomes an adult. Sometimes it can be difficult to trust that others will do their best and bring their special skills to the collaboration, and it can be difficult to let go of control so that the organization lives without me, which is my ultimate goal.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Make sure it's something you love. If the passion is there, you will withstand the storms.
  2. Don't share your dreams with dream killers. Some people will not support you. Don't talk about your business with those people. Many times unsupportive people are just afraid you will fail, and because they love you so much, they will want to dissuade you from putting yourself at risk.
  3. Don't compare yourself to others. It's really easy to compare your chapter one to someone else's chapter thirty and become discouraged. Everyone is not at the same stage. Everyone does not have the same path. Follow your path by following your heart, and don't worry about what everybody else is doing.

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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