Charging clients and knowing your worth & more with Mary and CJ of Crossfit Bend

Good morning friends, fam. This is Peter here again and I am happy to be talking with Mary Ray and C.J. Baroli on the line, from Rally Crossfit in Bend, Oregon. I'm here in Austin, Texas; the weather's a little bit overcast but pretty warm here. What's it like in Oregon these days?

Mary Ray: It's been pretty cold. This is Mary, hi. It's been pretty cold, actually, lately; we had a little bit of the fall but now I think we're headed towards winter.

That's a little weird for me, being a Texas boy, because we're not going to get winter until ... maybe a day in February, and then it becomes spring.

Mary Ray: So CJ, you're lucky. It's supposed to snow Friday.

Wow, we rarely ever see that.

Mary and CJ, why don't you tell me a little bit about yourselves. What's your athletic background, and what led you to want to found a Crossfit box?

CJ Baroli: Hi, this is CJ. My athletic background is I played some college softball, and then played softball in high school; did some field events in track because I was too lazy to run. Lifted weights my whole life, and then started with the Crossfit stuff online before there was very many boxes or anything, and I would try to do them at the gym that I worked at. They threw us out because we were scaring the patrons, because we were dropping heavy weights and stuff, and so then we started going to a friend's garage.

It's been quite the fun adventure, and then having a box has always been a dream. Where we came from the box was like our box, and then when we moved to Bend we couldn't find anything that really replicated the community that we had there, and so we were like, "Well, let's do it."

I love it. So where were you before you moved to Bend?

CJ Baroli: We were in Reno, Nevada at Crossfit Initiative, and then we also worked at Battle Born at the latest Crossfit Initiative, which was ... there was a whole bunch of trainers, and we'd go in there and rent space from them at noon, and then finally we got too big and too many people with our new class, and had to open a box.

I love it. So what caused the move from Reno, Nevada to Bend, Oregon?

CJ Baroli: Well, it was by Bozeman, Montana, actually. I work for a gaming company, so I often make slot machines ... Arc, the slot machines ... and the sister company was in Bozeman and we moved there, and then came to Bend because we have a lot of family here. We have a kid, so who has some stuff, we just need to be near family and with family.

Got it. And how many years ago - or when did you guys get established in that?

Mary Ray: I'd say 2013 is ... well, December of '14, I guess, is really when we opened. So  I guess, because were in the garage unofficially for a while, and then kinda decided - we were actually in my dad's garage, and didn't really think that we needed to have a gym; we just had some people we worked out with, and then it exploded, and we were like, "Well, I guess we'd better get somewhere to actually do this. So officially, I guess December of '14, right?

CJ Baroli: Right.

Awesome. So Mary/CJ told us a little bit of her story; tell us a little bit about your athletic background, and what brought you into Crossfit?

Mary Ray: I grew up on a mountain, quite literally; like the competitive downhill ski racing  since the age of two. Barely could walk and started skiing. This is a whole lot different for me; I never did anything upper-body, really, like all lower body and core and everything. After college, actually it was my second year of college, about four years ago. A friend of mine that I had known forever was like, "You've gotta try this Crossfit thing; you're gonna love it, you love being competitive." And for about six months I was like, "I'm not doing that." I hear all these things, and stereotypes, and everybody was saying it was a cult and all that stuff, and I was just like, "No, I have no interest in that." And then just decided, "Sure! Fine, I'll try it," and I went in one day and ... it was in Reno, and it was like, "I'm never doing anything else."

So I started coming a ton, and then met CJ and I would come train the whole time she was coaching. And she finally was like, "Hey, you probably shouldn't train for four hours straight. I'm not sure that that's really good for anyone." Taught me ... started teaching me a bunch about coaching, and what was really realistic, and ever since then I've been really into it. And my love, my passion for it comes really from helping people get healthier; I'm also a nurse, and working on my nurse practitioner's. That's kind of my driver for this, I really wanna get people in the door that really consider themselves unhealthy, and kinda change their life direction. Because it definitely did that for both of us.

That's amazing. So let me hone in a little bit on something that you had mentioned. You mentioned - or CJ, you had mentioned this. Moving to Bend, starting to train ... I think it was, you said, in your father's garage? Is that what you'd mentioned?

CJ Baroli: Yeah.

And then you said it exploded. Help me understand what exploded looks like; how did the start look like, and what does that explosive moment mean to you?

CJ Baroli: Basically, it was Mary and I, and then we had a couple friends, and then we're like, "Hey, we're training, and we train at 4:30," and we were running, I don't know, 10 to 15 people out of a single car garage, with maybe three barbells and running up and down a driveway, and some boxes that I'd built and some pull-up bars that we rigged together in the upper loft of the garage. I mean, 20 people in a small single-car garage was quite a few people, and so we decided to start looking at buildings and everything, and actually affiliating it; not just training our friends and hanging out in the driveway.

So when you started getting up to 10-15 people or more per class, at that time were you guys charging people to work out, or was it really just friends coming over?

Mary Ray: This is Mary. It was kind of a mix; we had a lot of friends that just kinda came over and were doing it, and then we started charging, it was like 25 dollars or something a month, like nothing. And then, once we had 7-10 people per class, we were like, "This is probably not a good idea, to be in a small, tiny little place like-" I mean, it was like 200 square feet. It was not very big. And then we went to a little space, it was 1,800 total, including the offices and everything, and I can't even really remember the numbers; I think like 30-40 people there, and went to a regular membership.

It's still kind of on the cheaper end, I guess I would say; the city itself is, so now we charge like $109 a month. And that's pretty average for the city, where Reno it was like $200. So it worked out from there, though. And we still have, I think, 10 original members that we call it the Rally Club, and they stay at a really low price just because they've been with us from the beginning, and it kinda keeps them tied in and they help a lot. So that's cool.

I love that, and that actually keys into something that I was thinking about as you were talking. One of the things that I've seen in our clients that have garage gyms, that they grow into full-blown commercial gyms; Crossfit-related boxes, that sort of thing. They have a bit of a problem charging clients more - like some of the beginning clients from the start. So if I understand you correctly, you guys kept a lot of those initial clients, and grandfathered them in since they supported you from the start. Is that correct?

CJ Baroli: Yeah, that's absolutely correct. I think Mary touched on it, that we have still 10 of the original clients; they pay like 50 bucks a month, but they're also the clients that will come in when we have to move the rig, or we need to hang more rings, or that kinda stuff, they're always there.

Mary Ray: Yeah. They do. As we've added classes, they weren't grandfathered in on that piece. Because, like you said, it is hard; they're really close to our hearts anyway, and so asking for even more money is always ... If we could give this away for free, we totally would. So that was a good avenue for us, like, "Hey, we're gonna offer a lifting class, and that's a new fee," type of thing. So that worked really well. They probably actually pay the regular base price now for the classes, so it was a good segue over to that.

I love it. In hindsight, when you made that transition, is there anything that you would do differently? Let's say specifically in how you either communicate or charge your current clients.

Mary Ray:  I don't know if we would do it different in terms of charging, but we did work with a business coach for a while because that was our hardest point, and I think it is for a lot of people. You feel like you're asking for money, but we really learned how to sell ourselves for what we're worth; realizing what we can do as coaches, and especially bringing on ... We have another coach who's a hired manager, actually, and really working him into that as well; like, "Hey, you have to remember how much you really are worth and how much time you really do give these people. You spend so much time with them, and our passion for teaching them is worth so much; it's OK to ask for that." Which, I think, is where we really ended up. So yeah, not sure we would do it different in that way; I think it's good.

Awesome. Well, that's fantastic. Tell us a little bit more about your culture of your box right now. What kind of box is it? Who are your clients, and who are you serving?

CJ Baroli: We are very community-oriented. We have a youth group that comes in at 6:30 on Monday nights, that we basically coach them for nothing; we want people to have an environment where they feel safe from the outside world. Both Mary and I come from a little bit of a background of some abuse of some substance, that kind of stuff, and so this has been a huge outlet for not drinking and not having drugs. Just a safe community. And some depression; battled with that. It's a family to us, it's our second family. I mean, we do stuff with these people. It isn't just coming in and spending an hour and leaving; we know the people's faces, their names, their kids, their dogs. We've tried to keep it so it doesn't grow into where it's just making money for us. I mean, obviously we want it to pay for itself, and everybody wants to make money, but if it were between having 20 clients that we don't know and 5 that we do know, that want to be here, we'd rather take those 5. That makes sense?

I love it, it makes perfect sense.

Mary Ray: I was just gonna say real quick, growing on that, recently one of the gyms unfortunately closed in town, and so we've had a lot of influx from that, and it was a big transition for us and really interesting for us to have. We got a lot of people coming over from there, and balancing the different ways ... I don't know if I'm saying that right; not really different personalities, because we all mesh very well, but I guess making sure that we're still focused on our old, regular structured clientele and integrating those new members in who came from a totally different structure.

And it's been really cool, so now we have kids in here, like 10-12 year olds up to, I don't know, 50, 60. And all different types of people that have never done anything, ever, or some really athletic kids. Like CJ was saying, we're hoping to work with the Phoenix Counseling Center that does the substance abuse structure, because we have, not only us, a history, but a lot of other people in here that have really verbalized their change of life with it. Like CJ was saying, just a safe place for everybody to focus their energy on something positive instead of negative, so that's where we're at.

Wow. I mean, that's really commendable what you guys are focusing on, what you guys are building. Unfortunately, that's about the time that we've got; is there anything else you'd like to say to our audience?

Mary Ray: Fringe Sport totally awesome staff, we love your staff.

CJ Baroli:  Their receptionist.

Mary Ray:  They won, yeah.

CJ Baroli:  And we love it, so thank you.

A pleasure. Best interview ever. So I found you guys online at Is there a better place for people to go if they're interested in joining or talking with you?

CJ Baroli: Yeah, Facebook right now, because we're under ... they're redoing our whole website, so it's a little bit messed up right now. But Facebook, we automatically answer. One of us is always on there.

This has really been a pleasure talking with you ladies today. Bundle up, stay warm, and till we talk again, be well. With something heavy.

Mary Ray: Sounds good. Thank you.

Take care. And we're out.

Mary Ray: See you later.

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