This week we talk to Debra Strougo and Eric Von Frohlich, the founders of Row House, an Xponential brand and boutique fitness franchise that offers a low-impact, cardio enhancing, full-body strength workout for all fitness levels.
In this episode Debra and Eric tell us about the challenges and successes starting out, how they built the brand from a few locations into a franchise and what the future looks like for the company and the industry as a whole.
To to get involved with the Gyms Coalition that Debra mentions in the episode check out this link here: https://gymscoalition.org/get-involved
Connect with Debra here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/debrastrougo/
Connect with Eric here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/eric-von-frohlich-7a93b525/
This episode of The Fitness Founders Podcast can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and anywhere you get your podcasts.
Kevin: How is it going everyone? Welcome to the Fitness Founders Podcast. I’m Kevin Mannion, VP Marketing here at Glofox. This week we talk to Debra Strougo and Eric Von Frohlich; the husband and wife founders of Row House, an Xponential brand with location across the US that offers a low impact cardio-inducing full-body strength workout for all fitness levels. In this episode, Debra and Eric will tell us about the challenges of starting a boutique concept, how to scale the brand from just a few locations, and what the future looks like for the franchise and the industry as a whole. Let’s have a listen.
Debra and Eric, welcome to the show.
Debra: Thank you so much for having us, Kevin.
Eric: Nice to be here, Kevin.
Kevin: Yeah, it’s great to have you, and obviously, I’m very excited about this episode. Row House is a brand that I’ve admired for a long time so really looking forward to delving into the early days and your growth and what you’re doing now, so really looking forward to this conversation.
Eric: Excellent. Looking forward to it as well. I think the early days are, there’s this story out there that we wrote this business model up in 2008 on a napkin, and we both take credit for it. I’m sure like most things in life, it’s a special blend of what we both brought to the equation, but we both invented Row House so you could certainly pull on that string a little bit. But one of us had the insight that the gyms were filled with treadmills and elliptical machines. There were different modalities that were coming to the forefront of the fitness industry, but rowing was the thing that was actually probably the best piece of equipment that no one really knew how to use, so just to make sense that someone who had to be a background in education and teaching would crack the nut on group fitness for rowing.
Kevin: Yeah. Tell me more about this like are we winding the clock back to 2014 or when did Row House start?
Eric: We started in 2014 but we wanted some operational experience so we figured we needed to open a gym and get some operational experience and things that we knew which is primarily personal training in group fitness. So we opened a strength and conditioning gym with a brand of CrossFit underneath us, and that was 2012. And then after 2 years of operating that, we’ve made every mistake we could possibly make like everyone else who starts a business. Your enthusiasm is maybe just proportionate to your skillset but we figured it out pretty quickly. Then we felt comfortable that we had the management and operational experience and shops to open up a second branch, and that was Row House.
Kevin: I guess was that the initial plan or did you fall in to the rowing or in 2012 was it always the plan to do the rowing?
Debra: Yeah. I mean we can go a little further back I think before we go forward if you don’t mind. The key was knowing our users and knowing that there were a lot of people out there and there still are a lot of people out there that need a really good perfect workout and don’t know how to achieve that. And when we look at rowing, it’s a great all-in-one workout. And so, if we go back, each of us was in that fitness space working with users, working with people who were looking to get fit quick, who were struggling with their lack of activity and trying to find the right modality, and that was since at least 2000. And so, really getting to know that user and seen their struggles when they went on a high-impact program, or when they went on a cardio program that wasn’t full body, or when they got on a spin bike when we were teaching our classes in cycling. We really got to see that those users would benefit from a rowing-based program. So, the idea was there in that it was a big white space opportunity. A lot of people are calling it the blue ocean right now. The idea was there that we wanted to crack that nut and find a really good entertaining way to bring this wonderful piece of equipment to the forefront of the market. But, again, as Eric was mentioning, we knew that as fitness instructors and people that were touching the actual users in many gyms and brands, we didn’t have the operational experience. And so, it did become a very long, many, many, many years before we even opened our doors to build up the tools that we need to succeed to grow a brand.
Kevin: Yes, it definitely a long overnight success.
Eric: There was definitely… on the background. We were both teaching group exercise. I was doing consulting for books and magazines in fitness media. I had a personal training business as well. I’ve been in fitness since my early childhood as a passion, and the industry kind of grew up around my own interest. It was a lifelong journey to launch a concept.
Kevin: Get there, yeah. When you launched the concept in 2014, was that initially one location?
Kevin: And how much of the concept had you figured out on day one and how much did you build overtime?
Eric: That’s a good one. I think Deb can speak to that most accurate way. I think if you look at the original business plan from the napkin in 2008, it’s essentially played out exactly what we thought it would be. That’s not to say it was easy to get there. There were major flags and sticks that we had to put on the ground and hold to stand because otherwise it might have been neglected.
Debra: We definitely have hurdlers. One of the horse hurdles was that as we knew, no one know how to use a machine. We put 8 in a room when we first opened and everyone approached them as if they were alien object. And now you look around, it’s 2021, and a lot more people are using rowing machine. We have more brands in the space. We have been told that we were pioneers in the space of rowing because we actually shows to surrounds ourselves around the vocabulary, the program, and all of these types of things, what type of metrics are we using for rowing, for spinning. We actually were one of the first people, if not the first people, that was able to get data off of the rowing machine. There was never a way to get data off of the rowing machine before. We worked so very much hand in hand to get that data off of the rowing machine. And once that happened, now we have all of these brands that are also pulling data off the rowing machine so that people are able to track theirs, assess, and were able to communicate and educate people as to how one workout with compared to another workout.
So, yes. The vision was that you would be in a room and it would be this simple and people would be using the rowing machine and following their stats and their progress and all that type sort of thing. But the tools, the education, the knowhow in the actual market and with the actual vendors was not there. I mean as I specifically remember working with people on what would the display be. I mean, if it was cycling it would be rpm’s. But it was rowing, what would that be, and what are the icons that would make sense. And how do you, yes, educate that. If your split goes down, your effort is going up because some of it is counter intuitive. And so, we really had to work through a lot of this communication aspects beyond just the program and to ultimately build the value proposition. And the same thing goes with music. Music is a whole other topic that I would be longwinded to go into at the moment. But we found that rowers like heavy-rock, and the gym user did not, and myself included did not want to hear a heavy-rock while I was in the studio base fitness class. Figuring out how to work with that over the course of time and get people in aspirational sort of way yet still learning the technique that would be with them for life if they stay then that will stick with the concept.
Kevin: You obviously had done a lot of thinking of in terms of you know what the challenge be but what are some of the unexpected challenges that you came across in the first couple of years post 2014?
Eric: Well, I think the biggest hurdle was people who were adamant of that they knew how to row really didn’t know how to row. You had to gently massage their egos that they were special and talented at the same time reeducate them and work good technique really was. And then a major flag or stick that we put on the ground was that we wanted the room to row together at the same rhythm. You have a seemingly varied population levels everything from CrossFit athletes and former collegiate rowers, to people who were overweight, maybe had some health, some form of health issues, and they were in there all under the same, looking for the same thing but looking for it there in different way. And so, to get everyone to buy in to swing at the same rhythm but pulling at their own intensity took a tremendous amount of perseverance. I think that that was one of the bigger hurdles that we came across because at that moment, HIT training was really popular, so the idea of getting on a machine all out, and then doing something different so you could recover was kind of the market’s mindset was, but that didn’t make the good programming in rowing.
Kevin: Got it. Make sense. And obviously there’s a lot of, I guess, challenges with modality and you’re innovating there, but what were the business challenges that you encountered as first time with let’s call it a boutique concept?
Debra: Yeah. I think the big question was kind of are growing a brand or are we growing a business or are we doing both, right? As you’re growing a concept you’re thinking I can take a brand’s play and be super sexy and spend a lot of money on promotion [unclear] But does that translate to business at the end of the day? If you’re not driving your evida then how are you going to open more locations off of that or how are you going to grow your concept if growing your concept is your goal.
For us, that was something that I think we’re straddling back and forth of for a little while figuring out are we growing a brand or are we growing a business, and what is our end-goal here. When we’re able to really stop and go back and think about what are our end’s goal was and hone in on that. We knew that our end goal was actually to build a global brand with this, and to be kinds of the leaders and the pioneers in bringing rowing to consumers directly. And we do that, we did that within our four walls and within our community by being a brick and mortar as opposed to going out across some of our different opportunities as we go to the expansion which would have been going directly tech, some of the big tech players, or other things like that. Ultimately, that is what drove us to franchising with Xponential. It was the idea that we embarked upon this. It was to be the household name and to be the leader in this space, and that would be the vehicle by which to get there. And so figuring out exactly what that goal is and making decisions towards that goal I think is key. Other people I know, and perhaps us, it’s very easy to get distracted by something that shining or an opportunity that’s shining. You just have to be willing to say no to things that aren’t going to draw the path towards your end goal.
Kevin: I’m really interested in, when you decided that end goal of building the brand and eventually you want to like franchise or become part of the franchise, or become part of Xponential, does that change how you think about the financials? Say, 2015, 2016, are you thinking about this, how do we increase our brand awareness or are you thinking how do I make each of these locations more financially viable? Where are you pulling the emphasis and what are you thinking.
Debra: I think the overall we had bootstrap to the point so we needed some sort of financial partner at that point. And so, ultimately, the lead question becomes how much capital are you looking for and where were all that capital take you, right. To go on a corporate loans path, we all know those are capital intensive, so they are going to end up building one store after another store. If another store which was an opportunity plus with an amazing partner that had come to the table, if we had done that it still would have been a very slow build and each location that was chosen would have been particularly under a microscope. Whereas if you go franchise, it’s a little less capital intensive. But not even that point, the other point is you really, really have invested people within their local communities that know their local communities that step up and say, “My local community wants this brands and I’m going to connect the dots to bring it to my local community.” There’s really a nice strategic alignment there.
At the same time, going to tech play, it is a slightly different business than if you’re in brick and mortar because you need to do it right, and to do it well you need all sort of data configuration. Honestly, your coaches or your instructors need to be different than potentially what they are in a brick and mortar community driven sort of place so a little more camera ready dynamic in that way, ability to connect with the room through the screen not necessarily in person. It’s a different play and so that’s really everything we were thinking about, and of course also the financials and the capital that would be needed for those different pieces.
Kevin: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense and I guess it sounds a little bit similar like the way everywhere now the trainers need to be more camera ready because there’s a bit of online in every business so it sounds like a similar type of challenge.
Debra: Yeah, and is it that a similar team or is it a different team because that’s a big topic. We’ve actually been talking about that a little bit on clubhouse recently, which is just, it was tech to do bring tech on as kind of a stop gap during times when people weren’t able to walk into your studio, and now if the variable to come back in, you’re really looking to drive them back in, or did you bring it in on as an extra piece of the pie that would also be part of value proposition for new people to come in through your funnel. It seems like different brands and businesses are thinking that may not even have that clarity to think about it as they just kind of outlined it. But it’s a big decision because otherwise you’re spreading a lot of people thin with a lot of stuff going on.
Kevin: Yeah and I guess it’s just probably legitimate ways to go down either path. It’s just to be aware of what you’re trying to achieve.
Debra: Yeah. Team and capital. Do you have the team and do you have the capital?
Kevin: Okay. Let’s just go back a little bit in time pre-Xponential because I know you got to 3 locations, let’s call it yourselves. What were the challenges in going from 1 to 3?
Eric: All your systems break when you double on size. I think the number is usually 30% increase but we found when you go 2 locations versus 1 location, everything that you thought you have covered doesn’t really operate the same way. Your attention, your management, your adjustability, and keeping eye on, you’re hypervigilant at those early days of making sure the brand’s integrity is being followed, and the manifesto is being followed. Great instructors are great instructors because they go over the world and they put in a little bit of their own flavor making sure that we’re keeping people stick into the program instead of them being creative or innovative with the program which would diminish the value of the brand where it’s difficult when you’re in multiple locations. There’s only so many hours in a day, so trying to cover all those base and everything from marketing to your interest gets… now you have to find a second location, you have to have your lease thrown up. You have to expand your financial. You have to hopefully the operating system which is able to scale with and eventually that product [unclear] consumer platform. But pretty much everything that you thought was working in one location didn’t necessarily scale to multiple locations from instructors to software.
Kevin: Yeah, it sounds to me, and I know you’ve scaled a lot further. But it does sound to me from your answer like going from more than one location was one of the bigger jumps that you’ve taken.
Eric: Yeah. Definitely. Deb, would you agree with that?
Debra: Yes. As I’ve mentioned, you’re spending your time and you’re splitting your space. And it is great, right. It’s nice that you have more accessibility for people to meet you but then you have to start making decisions. Are you going to take your best coaches from location A to the builds, the community at location B, or are you going to introduce new people at B because you don’t want to ruin your location A community. And just sorting through that all, are you going to allow people to go from A to B and from B to A, or are you going to try build up populations in each or community as an each. How are you going to run the staff? I mean, we all want leverage across multiple locations but you also… the minute you take general manager or something and spread them across multiple location, if you don’t have the system set up and the team set up in the location, then they could quickly be in the wrong place at a wrong time. Right? So how do you figure all of that step out? I definitely think that going from one to two looks a little more exciting than it actually is when you really start to work through some of the painful… Kind of maybe the first 30 days are like super exciting, everybody is loving it, people are like blah blah, and then it sets in, then now how do you really manage and optimize 2 locations and then go one to more.
Kevin: What are your top, either your 3 biggest mistakes or your top 3 takeaways for people that are on that journey now?
Eric: Dial-in your systems, make sure that you’re covering your blind spots. Give me a third one.
Debra: I think always take feedback. It would be interesting thing is that sometimes the staff doesn’t want to speak out on behalf of something, right. If they get feedback from a client and they’re saying that instructor was terrible, blah blah blah. Sometimes your staff does not want to share that with you, but just create a really safe place for constructive feedback so that you could get ahead of that feedback, and keep your finger on the pulse of everybody’s feeling within your studio. Because usually if you hear it once, if you’re a good manager or a leader, you’re not necessarily going to react to it. But if you start to hear it multiple times, it is something that you have to take consideration for.
Eric: Yup. And staffing. The staff is going to watch you grow and expand and then expect that they are going to be properly compensated for that expansion as well which would break the model sometimes. If we start paying people Soul Cycle instructor fees for our program when we’re only had 2 locations, then it’s… So we had to keep the buy in that we’re building something bigger than where we are at right now and then payoff is little more long term if people are buying into the vision and they were the right people.
Kevin: I guess the underground managers is probably one of the key hires that you make in each of these locations. How do you make sure you got a good one?
Eric: That’s a mysterious question for me. I’m still trying to figure that out. I think you have to have someone whose core values aligned with the brand values. I think that’s incredibly important. It’s important with your instructors but every bit is important with your manager. Do they buy into the brand manifesto? Do they really understand who the consumer is? Because without that understanding of what that consumer is looking for and understanding what your brand promises, things quickly devolved to chaos. And then you realize it’s not the right manager or maybe you just didn’t have the right training. Because when you had one location it’s easy to train someone, but now that you have multiple locations your training is a little more challenging because your attention is split.
Debra: I would agree. Just making sure that you have a nice balance between care and consideration for the brands and the product, but also really understanding the business and understanding that it takes to always being in front of the business and all these driving new people into the business to build the business. And if you don’t have a strong business then you aren’t going to have a strong brand or product because you can’t reinvest into it.
Kevin: You went from three, and then you joined quite a large organization and probably correct me if I’m wrong but got to maybe 250 or so? Tell me about that.
Debra: Well it’s been a very exciting time for Row House. I think it’s been a very exciting time for the indoor rowing space as well. There are a lot of people that have really picked up on the fact that this is an excellent workout and not only it’s a great workout but the Row House brand is extremely welcoming and inclusive to local communities. With that, it can grow populations and membership bases quickly.
Pretty much out of the gate with Xponential there was quick, quick, quick growth because, yes, we have all sort of franchisees that are looking to get involved in fitness businesses. Franchising this is a smart, smart choice because it shortcuts a lot of the stuff that Eric and I had to deal with when we were growing our brands on our own. You’re always going to put in your entrepreneurial flare. You’re always going to be the manager. You’re going to be the one that’s actually signing the paychecks or the owner. You’re going to be building that local community. You’re going to be picking where you’re going to be like put up your shingle and all of that. And so, there’s too plenty to do once you’re within the franchise structure. But the best part is that some of the things that just bogged down entrepreneurs have already been established for years. You know how to coach the coaches, which vendors you were using, picking the vendors, all of the artist and all of those types of things. Franchising obviously has been a very appealing thing for people looking to get in to the fitness industry that maybe coming from other industries that want to have these fitness businesses but don’t want to kind of create it all on their own.
Doing a Row House franchise has again been particularly interesting to people because it is, yes, a great all-in-one workout in a very inclusive sort of environment. A lot of the fitness businesses that are out there maybe skew a little more female or a little lesser than that. At Row House, we really are kind of full melting pot. Everybody has a purpose in the boat. Eric and I will row together, we’re pulling my mom, etcetera. There’s no age limit. It’s not really male versus female. And a lot of people are deconditioned and using rowing to get into shape, and we have a lot of those types of people throughout the country and throughout the world. That’s really a big key I think of the initial interested and intrigue in the growth and why we’ve been able to put so many locations on the map so quickly.
Kevin: How did your roles change when that happened? Because obviously you went from keeping an eye on three locations pretty act of to I guess becoming sales people for franchises. I don’t really know. How did your roles changed?
Debra: Yes. I would not say sales people expo has a full team dedicated to Row House and to all of the fitness franchise and stuff they work with on the sales side, etcetera. But Eric and I have stayed heavily involved as also owners through the system, so continuing to monitor kind of the expansion of the brands, go look in the field, the tools we’re using, work with the team to just ensure that we’re hitting that target consumer and the target user. And yeah, with any business, right, there will be change, there will be turnover, there will be things that come up obviously. The pandemic over the past year has completely disrupted this industry and so being able to work together with the team to just get ahead of it and make sure again that we have that strong value proposition, and that everybody within the franchise network is really on the same page to continue to grow and to put the brand out there has really been our focus.
Kevin: What do you find makes a good franchisee, a successful franchisee, what are you looking for or what do you see as the indicators of success?
Debra: Well, certainly a passion for the brands and what we’re doing. But, certainly, also what we’re just last seen before is that business acumen. I think that’s really what Eric and I kind of were able to work together on in developing this brand and in developing performance and other things that we’ve done in the industry has been… We both really do have that understanding of the core user, and then also the business acumen of creating a business around understanding that target user. It’s an interesting thing to see in franchising especially when you’re early stages because people are still getting to know their target user, right. If you’re putting up a new location in the network in a city that never had a Row House before, you don’t really know that user unless we spend a lot of time kind of teaching you about that user, and how to talk to that user, and how to see that user, and making sure that your whole team is in that same position. So, that’s been kind of interesting to watch that as the growth happens and as people get going they not only care about the business side but they also care to make sure that culture, and that brands, and that look and feel that it would be expected in any franchise, right, even a restaurant franchise. Any franchise exists within their studio as well.
Kevin: It sounds like one of the key things of a franchisee then is being able to open and listen and absorb the culture. I guess take the strongest elements of the franchise and learn those and make those work and train their team.
Debra: And the network is really supportive of each other. I think that’s very much true within the Xponential businesses is there’s a lot of strong communication that’s created on various different levels. You have the cultures from different studios really working together. Our mantra at Row House is ‘Spoke Together’, and cultures are really communicating and sharing best practices. You have the owners doing that. I mean, especially as Eric said, you always watch for your blind spots. The minute that there was some adversity for what we’ve gone through in 2020, people were ready to share, this is how I pulled out off my first outdoor class, this is how I pulled off my blah blah. As fitness owners and people in the industry, we always have to be collaborative, right, and not competitive. And that by the way happens to be the nature of the Row House brand is the inclusive and camaraderie as opposed to competitive, so that’s not strange to us. But, there have been certain players that I know have been really saying, I’m so glad that the industry is now bonding together and sharing best practices more so than ever. Because if we just compete with each other, it’s just too many people worrying about their own thing. We couldn’t get anywhere as an industry.
Eric: I think as you grow and scale, there’s a lot of strain on your systems in general, but particularly your instructors, you want to maintain that brand integrity and that brand manifesto and the special sauce that made Row House what it was. And as you move farther away from the brand or as the brand grows larger, there’s more just like scaling when you’re privately owned is more people to get it run. You think the instructors are being trained the right way and realized maybe someone didn’t understand really what they were reading in the manifest in the training program, or maybe they didn’t have enough experience or enough personal experience with the brand, didn’t touch the brand enough to really understand it. It’s very easy for things to go sideways so if you’re not keeping an eye on it consistently, even as a more mature brand in the early phases it’s really kind of indoctrinated into pre-war in the consumer’s mind. It’s easy for things to get misinterpreted.
Kevin: Before we wrap up on this section, what are the couple of takeaways for somebody going through that rapid scale beyond ten and towards a hundred locations and beyond?
Debra: I’m a huge believer in really, really strong training materials for the various key stakeholders, and always looking back with those training materials always making sure that they are on brand. You bring in new people on your team and just constantly revisiting to make sure that that same message is constantly being shared. Sometimes people feel the messaging needs to be newer, fresher. The difference between refreshing something and innovating something I guess are two different things. You can be very, very repetitive on certain items to make sure that people actually absorb and hear them. And that’s key because as we scale if you don’t have people on the same team and on the same page then it’s going to unwind. And just making sure that people really understand or recognize that if you’ve made a shift in some of your communication, or some of your messaging, or training later the earlier people never heard it, right? It’s kind of like that thing in school where you got pressured even the teacher said the same thing 10x. But there is probably a reason that your teacher kind of said this same thing 10x and maybe as parents we say the same thing 10x but it’s probably because people need to really, really hear it. Don’t be scared to hone in and be repetitive about the things that really, really matter so that they can have integrity as you grow.
Kevin: That’s really good. We could probably spend hours talking about scaling your franchise but watching the clock here as well. Tell me really quick around some of the things that you did to keep the community together during COVID, during the worst of COVID.
Debra: It was different throughout the various studios and the various parts of the country. But general message was people wanted exercise or they wanted connection, right? So kind of figuring out where are you in the map, how are you going to make sure that the business comes out the other side by still having a business. Of course some areas that have been really, really hard have been its just hard to see that will happen but there were a lot of really good success stories from some of the franchise partners that were able to bring people groceries, of course to set out the outdoor workouts, and just be around to service the community and to check in on them. Obviously, Xponential has an on demand go platform, so Row House has Row House Go. You can look on that at rowhouse.com. There also been a lot of virtual classes to keep the local coaches engaged with the local clients. I think Xponential has done a wonderful job with regards to that being omnichannel, being able to reach customers regardless of their willingness or their ability to walk into a studio that, yes, could still be even close. Again, just that connection piece just staying connected with the different people that matter has been really been big focus of the brands.
Kevin: I guess it is good summary that people are either looking for the fitness or they are looking for the connection and figuring that out is a good takeaway for people to understand where they need to apply the reference. Okay, so last topic then is I know you’ve been pretty vocal I guess on behalf of the fitness industry and the recovery, so tell me a little bit about that.
Debra: The Gyms Act has been introduced into Congress. Gym’s Coalition, communitygymscoaliton.org is the website. You can go to communitygymscoaliton.org/getinvolve and click to put in your name, your address, and your zip code and have an automatic email routed to your local officials asking them to be aware and focus on efforts for the gyms to get direct targeted early. There has been a specific Act that has been introduced into Congress called the Gyms Act which would put a lot of revenue back into this particular industry because it has been really, really shaken up during the course of 2020 obviously with all the closures. I’ve been particularly vocal about that because I think it needs to happen where a growing industry and the amount of store fronts have opened for boutique gyms and smaller sized gyms in addition to the big box gyms. It has just grown so much in a couple of years and so we are just trying to really create awareness for this particular part of the industry because it absolutely matters for people’s mental and obviously physical health. Yeah, so I’ve been vocal about that. Eric too. I’m more on the base of it but for us particularly again we’ve been in the industry for over 20 year, each of us, and just really care about people being able to go out and get in real life fitness experiences.
As we look out at the virtual offerings and all these types of things, those are wonderful, but we always had at home video market. We always had an at home fitness market. Everything is growing and brick and mortar needs to come back and it needs to come back strong and so that’s where we just from a personal standpoint feel the need to step up for the industry. Make sure that our consumers no matter what modality is they are interested in experiencing make sure that they actually have a place that they can do it so that they can live better, healthier, happier, stronger lives. That’s why I think as a household over here we are out there trying to spread the word on this Gyms Act because the more that people are aware that the gym industry needs financial reliefs, after what restaurants has gotten and what’s has gotten. I think the more successful of having the future in keeping people healthy.
Eric: The thing to keep in mind is that we’re the tip of the spear for the healthcare industry. We see people before they end up getting to the doctors usually. Recently, data came out from the CDC that 80% of those that were hospitalized for COVID were obese. There’s no one doing with obesity on the frontlines as much as a boutique fitness business and fitness industry. That industry is kind of have been forgotten. We’ve always considered ourselves essential to people’s healthcare and mental well-being, and so we need that support of the community so we can be there for them after this kind of gets back on its feet.
Kevin: What’s the biggest ask? Overall, what do you think the biggest support, what support is most required for these local businesses.
Debra: Because in the model the rent is too high for you to be close for multiple months and to have all this rent liability for a small business owner is devastating to businesses. It’s the reason that we [unclear] closing. Luckily, in many of our cases we have landlords that are willing to wait and work through things but there are people that don’t. And that’s just landlord-tenant relationship. That’s another great point, Kevin. Always have a good relationship with your landlord. Always take the time.
Kevin: You’ll never know when you’re going to need it.
Debra: That’s why where you are in the world, have a good relationship with your landlord.
Kevin: Okay. I’ll get the links up for the website into the show notes here. But I want to ask one last question and I promise I’ll let you go is, you’ve achieved a lot today and you’ve built fantastic business, what does the future hold for both of you?
Eric: We’re both working on the next great thing. We haven’t announced it yet and feel we’ll circle back if when we’re ready to announce it. But will be in the health and wellness industry where we’ve targeted to some special populations that are larger than maybe the general consumer or the general population realizes whether that’s the aging population or other special considerations. But it’s very exciting time for Debra and I as we make a, not a transition away from, but maybe and expansion on what we’ve been doing previously and just bringing it to a larger audience to get them immediate.
Kevin: Okay. Well, that sounds interesting. I don’t know if you’re going to tell me much more about it.
Eric: At this point you’re just going to have to wait for it but you will be one of the first to know.
Kevin: Okay. We’ll have you back on here once you’re ready to go. Well, listen folks, it’s been so much pleasure to talk to both of you. You’ve been so kind with your time and sharing your story. Before we go just tell people who don’t know already just where they can maybe follow you online and how they could get in touch either about Row House or anything else.
Debra: Row House is at the rowhouse.com. Eric and I are both very active on LinkedIn, so it’s really the best place to get in touch with us. Eric Von Frohlich and Debra Strougo. Thank you.
Kevin: Okay. Well, Eric Von Frohlich and Debra Strougo, thank you very much for coming on the show.
Eric: Thank you, Kevin.
Debra: Thank you.
Kevin: Great to have you.
Debra: Take care.
Kevin: Thank you.
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