Jaimi Ellison was playing basketball for Smith College in Massachusetts when she tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). After receiving reconstructive surgery, she transferred to UC Santa Cruz to be closer to home. Not two weeks after she entered the fitness industry, Jaimi was hit by a car on her bike, which she was riding in an effort to rehab her knee from surgery. “It was this accident and the events that followed which inspired me to get into the fitness industry as a business owner,” Jaimi recalls.
Jaimi has been a personal trainer since the age of 23 and was just 27 when she had her grand opening in April of 2009. Now thirty-one years old, Jaimi is the owner of Santa Cruz Core Fitness + Rehab, an integrative wellness center offering personal training, massage, chiropractic and acupuncture services, nutrition counseling, and various health and fitness classes.
Jaimi also worked with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in her area and was able to get a loan through their network to start her business. SBDCs provide a wide array of technical assistance to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs supporting business performance and sustainability and enhancing the creation of new business entities. The SBDCs are made up of a unique collaboration of SBA, state and local government, and private sector funding.
In June 2009 during the economic downturn, Ellison was conducting 80 sessions a month for her clients. She knew she needed help scaling up her business and she turned to her local SCORE chapter, which she had found through a Santa Cruz Chamber Mixer. SCORE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Because their work is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and a network of volunteers, they are able to deliver their services little to no cost.
After reading all the counselor profiles online, Jaimi found a match that worked for her and her business. Over the last two years, SCORE Counselor Jack Zahorsky has met with Jaimi over 50 times. Ellison is now up to 1,200 sessions per month. She employs four people full time and has 20 contractors.
“While her determination and drive helped Jaimi get started, it was her curiosity and passion that led her to ask and listen to SCORE advice when needed,” said Zahorsky.
In addition to running a successful business, Ellison gives back to the Santa Cruz community. She’s raised money for the Second Harvest Food Bank, sponsored a number of athletic competitions in the local area, and serves on five chambers of commerce in Santa Cruz County. Santa Cruz Core Fitness + Rehab sponsors the Santa Cruz Triathlon Association (SCTA), a nonprofit supporting local triathletes — runners, swimmers, and cyclists.
Zahorsky nominated Ellison for the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship’s (USASBE) 2013 Woman or Minority Entrepreneur of the Year award, which she subsequently won. This award recognizes an individual woman whose actions and achievements, within an entrepreneurial environment, exemplifies true entrepreneurship and serves as a model to others.
Jaimi is no stranger to awards. She was also the recipient of numerous awards, including “Best Personal Trainer” by the Santa Cruz Weekly and the Santa Cruz Goodtimes; Best Aerobics Instructor; Best New Business (2010 and 2011); and Best Women’s Gym.
“The SBA, SCORE and SBDC have been such an incredible help to my business. I have gone to business planning workshops, seminars and countless hours of 1 on 1 counseling,” said Jaimi. “The SBA, SCORE and SBDC are about the little guy especially when the odds are against us in a world that is turning less local and more corporate.”