Fit for Business

John and Tammy Wright (Photo by Kevin Allen)

John and Tammy Wright (Photo by Kevin Allen)

ABC Wellness and Fitness Center

Owners: John L. Wright, Tammy Wright

Location: Waldorf, MD

Product: Gym and fitness center that offers personal training, group exercise classes, nutritional guidance, weight training area, and fitness boot camps

Fitness Services Launch: 2006

Fitness Center Launch: 2009

Launch Costs: $200,000

2009 Revenues: $70,000

2010 Revenues: $140,000

2011 Revenues: $160,000

Projected 2012 Revenues: $210,000

Now: Fitness training facility in addition to on-site child care, nursing lounge for mothers, and classes for lifestyle change; community outreach focused marketing and promotions

Next: Form strategic partnerships by contracting services to government agencies, churches, and local business, including offering organizational memberships

When John L. Wright’s neighbor grew frustrated with the lack of progress she experienced while working with a personal trainer, she turned to him for guidance. Wright, a former semi-professional bodybuilder and former dietician in the U.S. Army Reserves, took on the task of creating a customized fitness and dietary regimen. “We changed her nutrition and we made her accountable,” says Wright, who had been laid off from his managerial position at a food and facilities management company.

That chance business proposition between Wright and his neighbor eventually birthed Anointed Body of Christ (ABC) Fitness Center & Day Spa L.L.C.
(www.abcfitnesscenter.com), a Waldorf, Maryland-based gym that Wright, 50, runs with his wife, Tammy, 40, a member of the National Guard with more than 21 years of military service.

ABC Fitness has grown organically over the years, with the Wrights testing the needs and wants of their customer base. The couple initially launched their fitness training business in 2004 by offering mobile service, which included nutritional guidance and one-on-one personal training, to clients in the comfort of their homes. Customers were charged up to $65 per hour with the average session lasting one hour and with most clients signing up three times per week.

In 2008, the Wrights opened a small studio, allowing them to provide group training classes. By 2009, thanks to an aggressive grassroots community-based marketing strategy, the business grew to occupy a 5,000-square-foot facility located 45 minutes outside of Washington, D.C.

Today, the couple’s ABC Wellness & Fitness Center offers group fitness, one-on-one personal training, nutritional guidance, and weight training stations, in addition to on-site child care, a nursing lounge for mothers, and classes for lifestyle change. Tammy says the gym is not religious-based, but it is driven by the belief that the body is a temple, and it should be taken care of.

“At least 70% of our members have come from community [outreach],” she says. For example, the husband-and-wife duo hosted a cancer awareness gala in 2010 to bring attention to the different forms of the disease impacting their community and offer preventative measures after someone they knew was diagnosed with breast cancer. Tammy also teaches Zumba classes throughout the community to spur brand awareness and get the community moving.

The couple’s total capitalization for their brick-and-mortar fitness center was $200,000, of which $50,000 came from personal savings and the other was $150,000 from a community bank loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 7(a) loan program. The couple admits that at the time the odds were not in their favor. Indeed, between 2008 and 2010 small-business loans from large- and medium-sized institutions dropped by more than 8%, according to the SBA.

It was ABC Fitness’ agile beginnings that positioned the company to receive a loan. “[With a mobile business], you have a proven track record, you ‘sold’ the business before you built it so you know there’s a market, there’s a demand,” says Carol Roth, business strategist and author of The Entrepreneur Equation (BenBella Books; $24.99). The Wrights’ proven track record as a mobile business demonstrated a sustainable and viable business model.

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