New Year, new podcast! It’s our first episode of 2020, and we are delighted to have Victoria Thomas, the owner of Journeyfit, a multi-location group training studio based in Texas. She is a former lawyer and star college athlete, who followed her dream of becoming a fitness entrepreneur. We talk about how she uses personalization to get results for her members. She also reveals how brand partnerships with companies such as Nike, Under Armour, and Whole Foods have helped her engage with her local community.
Kevin: How’s it going everyone? Welcome to The Fitness Founders Podcast. I’m Kevin Mannion, VP Marketing here at Glofox. This week we talk to Victoria Thomas the founder and owner of JourneyFit, a fast growing group fitness studio specialized in personal fitness plans based on Richardson, Texas. She is a formal lawyer and start university volleyball player. She tells us how she sets up her membership success, motivates them to change their lifestyle for good, and engages her local community to get aware about her studio. Let’s have a listen.
Hey Victoria, welcome to the show.
Victoria: Hey, how are you?
Kevin: Very good. Thanks for coming on. Great to have you. So just to get started Victoria, just tell people where you’re from and tell us about your business.
Victoria: Sure, so my name is Victoria Thomas. I’m originally from Dallas, Texas. I went to undergrad in New Jersey at Rutgers University, and law school at Howard University School of Law. My business is called JourneyFit. It is a functional fitness studio gym where we offer personal training, group fitness and we also offers sports performance training for our high school, and college, and Olympic athletes. I did a major pivot after graduating from law school and practicing for two years, and I didn’t feel fulfilled, and it was hard to kind of explain this unfulfillment to my student loan debt and my family members. But I got to this point. I just got to this point to where I knew that the pain it cost me to stay was worse than the pain that it would cost me to start. And so I did what was the unthinkable, the unimaginable, and I went back to training because it was the same thing that I was doing from before I went to law school. So I’ve been a personal trainer now for about twelve years and our flagship location opened up November 4th of 2017 in Richardson, Texas, and now we have a satellite location in Plano, and we have a downtown Dallas location opening up in February of 2020.
Kevin: So tell me, you know, the thing we found I think most unique about your business is the level of personalization that you put into even though people are in a group training scenario, just the level of personalization that goes into that. Maybe just tell us what personalization means for you and how you apply that to your members?
Victoria: Sure. Kind of going back on what I was speaking about before let’s say around 2012, I’m getting more into fitness, and I’m learning about the different body types and how the different bodies need a different amount of macros in carbs, proteins and fats. And I’m learning about how the different body types depending on the goal they need a different workout plan or they need different tweaks to their workouts. But I knew that I wanted to have this gym that was able to give and deliver group training because I see how, not only was group training trending at this time and even currently, but I also know by playing on too many team sports what it feels like to go into a fitness realm with other people, with the likeminded, and also sharing one common goal to get better. And so I knew that, but then I thought, well, how in the world am I going to be able to give these people a personal experience in a group setting. So we went through different strategies on how to present JourneyFit and give a personalized experience.
To me, personalization is the beginning and the only thing that will sustain your fitness journey because we have to find the things that work for us. I feel like there is so much information. You can dig into the deepest wormhole of information about fitness and health if you just Google search. And now, if you don’t know how that applies to you personally then you could just be doing trial and error for the remainder of your life. What we did was we found out having everybody do a survey what were the issues that each individual body had. Some people had leaky gut, some people had a lot of visceral fat in their mid-section which cause them to have depressive thoughts and that’s 100%. They had poor gut health. There were things that people were experiencing with old injuries that had nuts in those areas and it made them believe that they needed to have surgery but it wasn’t that. It is just that they just needed to get the nuts out of their IT band and they were having this knee pain. There were all of these things that were going out with these individuals. So in the survey it pinpointed what were those issues and then after the survey we sat down to do a nutrition plan with them and then we will put them into the 3D scanner so that they would be able to get a 6-page report of their body composition. And that’s what our 3D scanner does. And then we would give them some exercises that they should do outside of the gym and we would tell them how many times they should come to the gym, and then we’ll do a re-assessment every 30 days.
So our personalization is probably one of the major things that makes us distinct from every other functional group training facility. I think that personalization is super important because these days it is not enough to just feel good after your workout. How was your body changing? What is this doing for your body internally and that’s lasting more than just the workout.
Kevin: Nice. Obviously being involved in training athletes throughout your life and your career, now, what are other elements of that do you bring in to training people who are walk off the street.
Victoria: Well, we do a lot of performance based training and I think that’s the whole intimidation factor is that these people who are everyday people who are not athletes are trying to figure out is this okay for me to do because this looks intriguing but I feel like I need to workout before I join your gym. Like you would be surprised to know how many times we hear that, and so we add the performance factor in this because we believe that everybody is an athlete to a certain extent. So we do have some performance elements, we do do certain things that would be consider athletic training, explosive training, those are what athletes do. We do some of that with our plyometrics, our sled pushes, our powerlifting, so we kind of treat everybody like they are an athlete and I feel like that is another thing that kind of keeps them coming back for more.
Kevin: And what else have you done on the other end to make it less intimidating. How do you prevent that happening as you are looking to get more members into the studio?
Victoria: That is something that I have to learn the hard way because I’ve always been an athlete I had to come down to the level of what an everyday person coming on here specially the people that don’t normally workout. I know some people that they say that I probably worked out at about eight times in my life and they are 40 years old. I had to get to a place to where I want to understand them, and then I had to understand what are those people doing on a daily basis. Where do they work? Where do they live? Where are the places where they go and what do they think is fun and then I had to start branding JourneyFit inside of their market. And what it took was also getting somebody who doesn’t look like a typical athlete. I have a woman who just made a transition of losing 40 pounds and she came in at 260, about 250. And it took me following her journey and reposting a lot of video footage of her journey on how she is doing the same thing everybody else was doing and she has the benefit. She might not be what you consider a typical athlete body shape but she is doing it and look at the benefits. And so those are some of the things that help me making myself aware of it and then rebranding, creating a branding strategy that focused on that individual in my gym.
Kevin: So you maybe learn that you have to prove to people that an ordinary person could walk into your gym and get results and enjoy it.
Victoria: Exactly, exactly.
Kevin: Okay. So everybody who comes in, maybe they are getting a class to try it out and then you’re doing your survey and your assessment and you are redoing that every month or so, that sounds pretty intensive and a lot of attention you are giving to people. How do you make sure it always works? What kind of triggers people to crash out of a program like that?
Victoria: Oh man, I have it not work many times. I’ve had it not work many times in not a good way I will say whenever you get a chance I want you to hop on to our JourneyFit YouTube page, and it is called JOURNEYFITtv. We only have one episode out so far but this basically cast exactly what happens when sometimes you don’t get the results that you are intending to get. Not all of them. Like I would say we had three people that we followed for tranformations, and only one of them really stuck to the goal that was the main goal in the beginning. And so that speaks to when it doesn’t work. But I will say that giving people accountability always kind of ensures that there is going to be some level of progress. And some people don’t like accountability but those are the people that are scared to have to stick to something. They are not people that are driven and stay on task. They feel like they automatically going to fall off so they don’t want anybody to give accountability. But that is the measure that automatically makes people a little bit more responsible when they know somebody is watching them or I have to do this because of this, or I’m paying this money, or this person is going to check on me. Those are the accountability factors that make people stay consistent. So we’ve had a lot of transformations but we’ve also had a lot of people who that didn’t work for them.
Kevin: How do you influence how people behave outside the gym so you can put them through their paces when they come through, you can keep an eye on how often they show up? How do you influence how they behave beyond that?
Victoria: So I’ve threaten many times to follow people home. Sometimes it doesn’t go well. People are really scared even though I’ve never done it before but I don’t want my members to think that I won’t. But I will say that it is very hard to influence behavior, but what happens is that everyone kind of gets on this self-motivation phase and they motivate themselves and I no longer have to influence their behavior outside of the gym. So it is hard to answer that question because it kind of fixes itself. The whole issue with fitness and being consistent is actually consistency. So then if I’m going to get all of my members to do something which is being consistent it’s going to be hard. And if I have to think about following and checking on 160 people daily, it is impossible. So what happens on is there is a self-switch, self-motivation and self-discipline that turns on after a moment of them getting results and then they get addicted to it. They are like, “Oh my gosh, I love the way I feel. I love the way that this 5 pounds looks off of me. Now, I’m addicted to wanting more so now I’m going to keep doing that and now I really kind of don’t need Victoria to check on me because I’m doing it for myself.”
Kevin: What about other things you are doing outside of the standard training sessions you talk about competitions you are entering, you know, what are those things you’re doing to maybe build a bit more community and make your gym a bit stickier.
Victoria: Yeah, and I think that one of the main things that, you know, other than our personal experience that separates us from everybody else is that it’s a community gym. All of my girls they are going to each other’s baby showers and birthday parties, sometimes I’m not even there. I’m like, I introduce you guys to each other. So it is like the gym is really a community family, and so we establish a community by doing different partnerships and reaching out into the 5-mile radius of our gym and seeing who is there and what do they do to have fun and how can we be involved and cultivate an experience where we are just helping in the community and then it is organic the way you ask what we do and get you back to the gym. And so we’ve done different brand partnerships with Nike. Nike Training Club used to be very popular in Washington, DC and that’s one of the first Nike Training Clubs that I went to. It was a huge line and even longer waiting list, and what they do is they give you a personal shopping experience but then they also do a workout in the Nike store. So we started to lead a series of Nike events here in Dallas and we partnered with Under Armour to do the same thing. We are partnering with Whole Foods. We did a 5K run with them not too long ago and now we are going to some workouts in their mezzanine area, and then we want to talk to the shoppers and consumers about what it means to eat healthy on daily basis. And now that this is your local Whole Foods let’s walk the aisles and talk about what are some good things that you can cook for your family for dinner, and also have a workout there as well. We partnered with the radio station, we partnered with Walmart at Essence Festival, and we did the activation where we also did workout. And Essence Festival is a huge festival in New Orleans in July, and every celebrity that you can think of is there. And so for the music portion and then there is also different health activations and so we were able to do that. So we done a lot in a little bit of time and it just goes to show the community output that we have.
Kevin: Yeah, those. And also, there is a lot of maybe fitness studios out there that don’t do that, and maybe it is not obvious that you need to do it. So when did it become obvious to you that you needed to be out making these partnerships, getting involved in the local community? How did you know that?
Victoria: What’s crazy is I didn’t but it is inside of me. I come from a huge family and we have crazy holidays all the time. I’m loathing Christmas because I’m going to be hosting so it’s definitely going to mean a lot of cleanup which I don’t to do and cooking. But I come from this huge family and it’s always been embedded with me to always have those family values and what it felt like to be in a family and in a community too. And so I naturally just operated in the way that I grew up not even trying to do that. I don’t even know that it was going to have the effects that it had. I do know the power of branding and aligning yourself with Fortune 500 companies such as Nike, Under Armour, etcetera. But really sometimes those are not always a return on your investment depending on how the partnership is formulated. So for me I went into that just knowing that establishing this community and aligning this community with this branding partnership is something that I always grew up with people like that feeling. Not even necessarily thinking about monetarily how this could benefit me but just knowing that people like the feeling of belonging to a community. And I wanted that to resonate with JourneyFit so that was like a total accident. I just went based off of how I grew up and what I knew that feeling that I wanted to duplicate to all of my members.
Kevin: What advice would you give to somebody starting a business in their local town about how they can kickstart that off for themselves.
Victoria: I would say definitely start off by writing out a plan. Your plan might not be robust but you need to have some sort of marketing plan where you believe that you are doing five efforts that will bring people back into your gym. And so this might actually start off small. You might say, hey, there is a local huge company down the street and maybe I just know somebody who knows somebody who works in that building. And what I want to do is host a free seminar or do a lunch and learn, and then boom. That’s one thing. And so if you always have five, always went with the number five, and we also do five as well. Five branding marketing strategies that you’ll say, “No matter what, I’m going to do this thing.” And even if it’s small because you’ll never know how big it will end up once you get enough people around you to believe in the same thing, but, just say five. Our five lately have been the partnership with Nike, Whole Foods. We hosted this burn and brunches every single month and basically was a free workout and a free brunch for anybody who is interested and just getting a workout and a brunch. Organically we get members from that, not even trying, but people are in a space. I mean, the burn and brunch has get up to like 60-70 people and we actually have to cap it at that amount because we don’t have enough space. And that is a tool that was open to the community, anybody could come. It is totally free so why would you not and it definitely help to bring in more people.
Kevin: Got it. Before we wrap up. It is kind of my outro question is what’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business and what did you learn from it?
Victoria: I would say the biggest mistake that I’ve made in business is ceasing being a leader. I think that at a point in time I thought that I was going to make JourneyFit and I was going to get good people and employees to run the business, and I was just going to run everything from my house, and train a couple of times but I was going to decrease my work hours, and thinking that I’m going to get this to where it is a well-oiled machine where it can run by itself. That’s specifically what my mind frame was and that was a mistake because even if it does become that well-oiled machine it still need my innovation. It still needs my creativity. I still need to be very present because a lot of people come to the gym because of me. And so my mistake was just thinking that I could people in place and I didn’t have to lead so much anymore. That’s not true because what ended up happening was my employees were not doing what they were supposed to do, and I didn’t have a tight watch on it anymore. And then, also, people didn’t necessarily want to come to the gym on certain days that I wasn’t there, and I feel like being a true leader and being a true owner. There’s never really a time where you can be hands off. You got to be hands on all the time so that is my biggest mistake was taking too much of a step back from the gym knowing that it’s like a baby. You know, it’s not at that point just right now.
Kevin: Yeah, ceasing to being a leader, that’s probably one of the best ones I come across. So yeah, like thank you for that. It’s a good one. It’s probably a balance. It’s probably hard hence they are doing everything but you can’t disengage.
Kevin: Okay. Victoria, this has been a real pleasure talking to you today. Before we wrap up, just tell people where they can find you and how they can get in touch.
Victoria: Yes. So we are located in Richardson, Texas. That is our flagship building, our very first JourneyFit. The address is 3321 East Renner Road, Richardson, Texas 75082; or you can just put JourneyFit in your GPS. We also have a Plano location and that one is about two miles away. That one is specifically for our sports performance athletes. And so if you an athlete and you are playing in a sport, youth all the way up to Olympic, we have a center dedicated towards getting you better in Plano. And then our downtown location is going to be in the Design District and it will be coming February 2020. We are always on our emails and are great about communication. Our email address is [email protected] and you can find us on all socials especially Instagram which is our biggest tool @journeyfit365.
Kevin: Got it. Okay, Victoria Thomas from JourneyFit best of luck with the new location and thanks very much for coming on the podcast.
Victoria: No problem at all. Thank you so much for having me, Kevin.
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