What did you have to do to win?
I had to write a 250 word essay and submit a video discussing why I wanted to opportunity to own a gym. I don’t look like the people who usually own gyms but I had the desire and heart. I wanted it like I want to breathe. [During the second round] I did an interview over the phone and I cried after because I thought they didn’t like me. It turns out they made the decision on the spot that same day.
What motivated you to enter this contest?
Leaving a legacy for my son was the biggest reason and owning a gym was also a dream that Dell (my husband) and I shared.
Going through something like standing at the base of the World Trade Center when plane flying over your head and being the widow in the room that no one knows what to say to, made me feel like I’ve been dead for ten years. I’m living again! I had a birthday party for the first time in years because I had a reason to start celebrating.
This wasn’t just about winning a franchise. I get to be in a business that heals and transforms lives.
How is it working for yourself?
It’s empowering. You can’t be tired or get mad that no one else is going to do it. It’s the most challenging position I’ve ever had. Yes, it feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. There is no one else to take [problems] to, which makes me more accountable. I can’t leave it up to fate and there is no one else to blame.
Tell us about your 9/11 experience. How did it affect you and your career path?
I saw the plane hit the building and people jumping out of windows. In getting out of the building, I was trampled on. I remember reciting the 23rd Psalm, said goodbye to my family and tried to get where my mom would be able to find my body. I just knew I was going to die.
I was in this in-between world when it occurred to me what happened and that I was going to do something different. I asked myself “Is what I am doing [for a living] worth dying for? No.” With the gym, I know I have fulfilled my purpose on this earth. I made a promise to myself that my work has to matter.
What advice would you give to other aspiring business owners?
Everyone has a dream but something stops most people. It could be money or [fear of] failure. I believe “I can’t fail.” We have to win and that is what pushes us everyday. You’ve got to want to succeed like life depends on it.
It’s also important to stay ahead of trends and know that locations are key.
Don’t forget to have start-up capital. You will need it for payroll, supplies, tools, etc. We were able to pay the bills in the first 30 days with it. Your business also has to stand alone. Don’t use business money to pay bills – at least initially.
What’s next for you?
I can’t wait to open another Snap gym. We’ll need to find a community that needs a gym and will embrace us. I will continue teaching 4th grade social studies until next year. I would love to be a new Denise Austin and continue to share how I lost the weight. And I want to get married again and have more children.