Chris of Edge Fitness & Strength talks about how his tight-knit community and determination got his gym up and running.

Peter: Good morning. This is Peter from Fringe Sport and I've got the honor this morning of talking with Chris Estridge of Edge Fitness and Strength. Chris, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and about your fitness business?

Chris: Sure. Thanks for having me Peter. I am the owner and head coach at Edge Fitness and Strength, as you just mentioned. We are located here in Minneapolis, and we've been in business now since 2013, so we will actually be turning 4 years old here, this coming May. Business has been going great, especially as of late. Started off in a small warehouse space of about 1,700 square feet, and we've now since moved into a space that's about double that size. So, a little over 3,000 square feet. Our membership base has definitely doubled since we've made that move and I've been in training, personally, for well over ten years. I started back in high school and was participating in sports, and that's kind of where that passion grew from. From there, I went on to pursue my Exercise Science degree from Ball State University, graduated with my Bachelor's of Science in that field and have actually also pursued my Crossfit certification and continued doing some continuing education as we go about this journey here. So business is going well.

Peter: I love it, love to hear that. So, something interesting that'd you'd mentioned there is that you started in a 1,700 square feet, excuse me, square foot warehouse, so prior to that, were you like training out of your garage or at a big box or something like that?

Chris: Yeah, excellent. Great question. So, it's actually a funny and very unique situation that I was just blessed to stumble across. So, I'll try to make this as brief as possible but, so when I graduated from Ball State, as I just mentioned, I went on to actually become the head coach at a local crossfit gym. And it was actually a gym that was owned, part owned, by a family member and then his business partner. And so I went to work with them for about a year, and due to some challenges they were having, one of which was, they were busy growing their families. They were also full time police officers. Long story short, they decided to close their doors. Well, in doing so, their membership had kind of been suffering a little bit, but what was still there and strong, those, I would say about 40 to 50 core members were still interested in training with me. So, when their gym closed, what I did was, with the help of my sister and some other family reached out to those core members. Told them, "You know, hey, my plan is to turn around and open up a facility of my own." However, unfortunately having just graduated college, didn't have much funds to purchase the equipment necessary.

So when that crossfit gym closed, they liquidated their equipment and I was able to use, essentially some pre-paid memberships from those core members in order to buy the necessary equipment that I needed. And I had people, a couple members donated $3,000, a couple $2,000, enough essentially to buy the necessary equipment to get that gym started up. And, basically, I worked for free probably the first 6 months of business just paying off that debt and once that time was up, I then, written in a contract with those members that made that down payment, was able then to officially acquire the equipment as my own. And just from that day, have been able to build little by little and have fortunately been able to do it all debt free. And like I said a pure blessing and great opportunity that I just kind of stumbled upon.

Peter: I love it. So, and thank you for sharing that. Can I dig into, a little bit, what is the conversation with those members go like to ask them or talk about doing some prepaid memberships to help support you in the start up? Can you walk us through that?

Chris: Yeah, sure. So, thankfully for a majority of those members, I had the privilege of working with them for about a year. Like I said, when I graduated from school, I was the head coach of that gym. Had been around those core members for about a year, so they got to know me. Got to know my personality, my morals, my values and then above all, what they are paying for is that my coaching, my coaching skills and programming skills. And just having developed that relationship they knew that they were getting a solid product. They trusted me and that certainly helped and that made that conversation with them a lot easier.

And it was definitely a leap of faith, including myself, out there in a vulnerable position to shoot out that message and to talk to them via email and in person and just saying, "Hey, I really want to do this, this is my goal to set up this new gym. But I'm looking to you for help. I need, this is what I'm envisioning and with your pre-paid membership, I'm going to be able to purchase this equipment and we're going to continue working just like we have been, if not even better than we've done before."

So thankfully, that's how things have progressed and many, many of those core members are still with me to this day. I can truly testify that's what's helped Edge get its start and then to flourish from there.

Peter: I love it. So, I want to keep talking about this a little bit because it actually is very interesting to me and I think to a lot of readers and our audience. How many people turned you down and said "no"?

Chris: Well, there were a handful and it was an interesting situation when that previous gym that I was working for closed. There was a lull period of probably about maybe three to four weeks where that gym needed to liquidate their equipment, have their "gym yard sale", and get rid of all their stuff. And then the time for me to purchase that, find a space, sign the lease, get all that backend stuff done. I mean, there was about a three to four week period where those members that were interested had the availability to go check out all these other local crossfit gyms.

And that's the beauty of this community, that each gym, each box is unique and again, there's that leap of faith. Hey, take the time to go step out and check out these other spaces and see what else is out there. And some did and some found other great communities. Some stuck with those other gyms and unfortunately never returned back. So that was a risk on my end, but the ones that did leave and had not so great experiences at other local gyms, they came back and they realized how great they felt our community was and our program was and it just kind of reassured them that they were where they needed to be. And so, just to end off on that question you asked, it was tough and there were people that did say no and that's just where I had to be resilient and keep pushing forward.

Peter: I love it. So, let's move on from that. You've seen a lot of success recently, you mentioned, where do you think that comes from?

Chris: I think it's just capitalizing on momentum. Here, I mean obviously we're in kind of the start of the new year, 2017. Obviously with gyms, new year's resolutions are a big buzz. But even prior to January, there at the new year, we had one of our best boot camp programs. We do an eight week boot camp, which is great for beginners, it's not your traditional crossfit on-ramp program. We structure it as its own entity, its own program, unique to itself. And that's kind of our entry level program into Edge. And going into the holiday season of last year, it was our best boot camp to date. And by all gym standards, typically people are sort of flaking out and losing motivation and attendance is down as you get into Thanksgiving and Christmas. Well, this was our best one and we just capitalized off that momentum ending in 2016 and stringed it into 2017. And like I said, I think it's just that positive vibe within the community and capitalizing off the momentum that was created. Just going through different marketing strategies, as far as social media goes, and just building that relationship with the core group that we have, has certainly been huge.

Peter: Awesome. That sounds fantastic. Well, believe it or not, that's actually about what we've got time for for the interview. What did we miss and what are you really proud of, what do you want to get out there?

Chris: I feel like we covered it all. I certainly thank you guys for the opportunity. If I had some advice to give to any other aspiring coach looking to start their own gym or do their own thing, I just certainly encourage them to keep grinding, keep working, never stop learning. And just take it, literally, one day at a time. As a strength coach, as a fitness coach, we preach patience and taking it one day at a time and I've certainly tried to apply that within my business pursuit as well. Just keep grinding, one day at a time, always doing something that's going to better the business, better the community and help push us towards that growth that we're seeking. So, never give up and keep striving for being better each day.

Peter: I love it. Now, if somebody's been listening to this and they really want to get in touch with you, whether as a client in Indianapolis or just anybody else, what's the best way for them to reach you?

Chris: Sure, so you can easily go out to our website, You can contact us there through our email contacts. You can even reach me on my personal cell phone at 317-850-3107.

Peter: Dude, I love it. I've interviewed dozens of box owners and small gym owners and that sort of thing, and you're the first person whose given out their personal cell phone. That is hustle. I love it man, fantastic.

Chris: Hey, exactly. Hit me up. Hit me up, we'll make it happen.

Peter: Awesome. Well Chris, it's been a pleasure chatting with you. Have a wonderful day.

Chris: Awesome. Thank you so much for the opportunity, I appreciate it.

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