Delaware’s Active-Adult-Focused ‘Beyond Fifty’ Fitness Centers Re-Define Fitness

What could be more rewarding than building a healthy business that builds a healthy community? For fitness entrepreneur Christina Stanbery, building exactly that kind of business – her active-adult-focused ‘Beyond Fifty’ fitness centers – is her life’s work, and the rewards are clear – for herself, her growing business, and her community.

 

Delaware’s ‘Beyond Fifty’ Fitness Centers are the First State’s only fitness centers designed with the “over-age-fifty” population specifically in mind. Stanbery and her ‘Beyond Fifty’ staff are certified in active adult fitness to best understand the specialized fitness approach that aging adults need to achieve optimal results at reduced injury risk, including the range of movements and healthy lifestyle adjustments that the aging process demands. That unique knowledge set, combined with ‘Beyond Fifty’ staffers’ close study in areas like surviving cancer and managing Parkinson’s disease, uniquely equips ‘Beyond Fifty’ to craft personalized workout regimens for each client, based on each client’s fitness goals, baseline medical profile, and observed exercise form. Once clients begin their ‘Beyond Fifty’ workouts, gym staffers keep clients’ goals within reach by formally re-evaluating and adjusting fitness programs at the clients’ four-week marks and offering encouragement and advice informally throughout each client’s membership. And, thanks to that “personal touch,” as well as ‘Beyond Fifty’ facilities manageable size and age-appropriate fitness class roster, the gyms’ membership continues to grow.  

Today, Stanbery’s ‘Beyond Fifty’ business is firmly taking hold in New Castle County, Delaware, where she opened her first gym location in North Wilmington in 2015 and a second gym location in Hockessin in January 2019. But her business concept initially struggled gaining its footing, even given the steady growth in its “over-age-fifty” target market. Stanbery initially marketed the business under the name “Retired-N-Fit,” which, in retrospect, she believes may have led to public misconception that the gym was targeted at a nursing home population instead of its actual target, the active “over-age-fifty” set and, in turn, may have slowed the flow of referral business. Also, the gyms’ initial working capital structure – essential to float the business until referrals and word of mouth increased client numbers – threatened the gym’s survival.

Nonetheless, Stanbery remained committed to her business model. Stanbery was a veteran small business owner, a lifelong fitness enthusiast, and a certified personal trainer, and her nursing degree – focused in geriatrics –coupled with her life experience caring for her aging father at once convinced her of a gap in the otherwise full fitness market: there were no fitness facilities focused on the over-fifty set. To Stanbery, that gap spelled sure success for her business model, and her own background uniquely qualified her to lead that business to the growth stage and beyond. So, as a veteran business owner, Stanbery turned to a small business support that she knew could help her work through her business’ growing pains.

 

She turned to the SBA.

SBA advises entrepreneurs on everything from business plans to day-to-day operations to financing and working capital structure to breaking into new markets like exporting or online ventures through its own website, as well as through SBA-backed SCORE mentors and Small Business Development Centers in every state across the country. And, best of all, these services are offered free-of-charge or for a nominal fee to cover included materials.

 

In the 1990’s, SBA’s Maryland District Office helped Stanbery start and grow a gym in Virginia, and Stanbery knew that SBA could, again, support her efforts. Working with SBA-backed Delaware SCORE and the Women’s Business Center at First State Community Loan Fund, Stanbery honed her messaging to better target the over-fifty set, re-branding her gym “Beyond Fifty,” re-tooling her website, and retaining a social media consultant. WBC Counselor Bob O’Brien also helped Stanbery to re-structure her business’ working capital, consolidating debt with an SBA-backed 7(a) loan.

 

SBA’s 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program is the SBA’s primary financial assistance instrument. It provides loan guaranties on business loans, giving lenders the confidence to provide qualifying entrepreneurs secure financing on reasonable terms. The program operates through private-sector lenders who provide loans.

 

And, thanks to Stanbery’s own proven business acumen, perseverance, and market-driven business model, a little help from SBA was all that it took to take “Beyond Fifty” from earnest start-up to full-blown success. Today, with ‘Beyond Fifty’s’ second location steadily finding its footing, and WBC counselor Bob O’Brien’s continued insight on tap, Stanbery has her focus set firmly on the future, eying additional locations and eventual franchising as next steps.