When athletes—be it an NFL quarterback, or a working mother of two—want to bring positive change to a workout routine, they seek out a personal trainer. When an aspiring or existing business needs that same kind of inspiration and motivation, the owner should look to a Small Business Development Center.
That is what Chris Stevenson, owner of Stevenson Fitness, did, almost by chance, in the summer of 2010 while finalizing his plans to open a new 7,000 sq. ft. fitness center in Oak Park, California.
Stevenson, a man of many talents, grew up in Ohio and graduated with a business degree from a liberal arts university. He is a martial artist, who competed at a national level, with a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and in Hapkido. After college, he moved to California and found himself waiting tables, doing stunt work in the television and movie industries, and teaching martial arts. This continued, until his mom, one day, said, “Chris, you have a degree, you should use it.”
Stevenson took his mother’s advice to heart, achieved his personal training certification, and started working, both in a private studio as a personal trainer, and at a sports institute, helping athletes with rehabilitation. Shortly thereafter, he began subleasing space from the rehabilitation facility for his own personal training business. Just like Mom suggested, he combined his passion for fitness with his business degree.
In 2005, Stevenson launched a private training studio, which had five contracted trainers. “This was my ‘hard’ business,” said Stevenson. “I was not calculating profit margins, etc. – we gave great service and what we lacked in business smarts, we made up for in hard work. Plus, we were all great trainers!”
Through a friend, Stevenson was led to a Small Business Development Center, hosted by College of the Canyons. The timing was impeccable, as Stevenson was looking for financing to buy equipment for his planned 7,000 sq. ft. facility, with child care, a cardio room, a group exercise studio, and a fully-equipped weight floor, plus an Active Rehab Center. Stevenson was introduced to Ben Tenn, an SBDC counselor, with a wealth of business experience. “Ben helped me manage by the numbers,” said Stevenson. “He helped me with the organizational chart, closing sales and motivating employees.”
Stevenson’s experience with his first studio, coupled with Tenn’s business advice, provided for the successful opening of Stevenson Fitness, which embraces the motto “Your Community, Your Gym.” Stevenson has achieved considerable recognition for his participation in the community, and by providing a family-friendly fitness center. September will mark the fitness center’s two-year anniversary. “We are an ‘A’ business, but a ‘B’ as far as operations are concerned,” said Stevenson. “Now, my focus centers on improving operations, reinvesting in the business, and planning for our second location.”
Tenn is still advising Stevenson, and likened this first fitness center to having a baby – you are always going to have to be watchful, no matter how many years go by. Overall, Stevenson’s goal is to have three fitness centers in three nearby communities, with multi-club passes for members to enjoy the benefits of each location. “It’s been pretty awesome…there is always paranoia, but where I once saw things day to day, I’m now learning to see farther into the future.”