Michelle from Meantime Fitness: How to grow a 20 person bootcamp out of your garage using only word of mouth

Peter: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your fitness background.

Michelle from Meantime FitnessI started CrossFit three and a half years ago and I have lost a lot of weight - 83 pounds! My husband told me about CrossFit, so I dropped in to a box in another city and kinda knew that it was what I needed and I have not looked back since!

I worked at a very high paying job, in the medical field and I resigned from that and pursued coaching- just to give people an outlet and to help them with their journeys. I was not fit my whole life, and I know the tools, I have the tools, and I am willing to help. I'm a CrossFit coach, and I have my bootcamp.

We live in a small town, Johnson City, Texas, there's not really any workout programs here, and people kinda got wind, and my husband and I, we went into yalls warehouse, purchased a few pieces of equipment and started working out in our garage.

We had a couple of friends say "Hey, you know, can we come workout with you?" They would see us outside, working out in the sun, and doing these workouts and lifting weights and in the evenings and then a few more came and then finally they said you know you should really think about opening a bootcamp and teaching.

I thought nobody was going to come work out with me and my driveway out in the elements, and here we are over 2 years later with about 20 members! A lot of them have been with me for a long time. They mostly started where I did, and I have just helped them see their potential, along the way. I'm pretty passionate about it, everyone will tell you!

Peter: Just to be clear, you're running this all out of your garage?

Michelle: Yes, we literally workout in my driveway!

Peter: I just googled Johnson City and the population is about 1,600 people. So 20 members is great!

Michelle: I know. I haven't advertised. I guess I'm doing it to make a little bit of money so that I can buy equipment and stuff, but really it's to help people out. This is all about word of mouth. It really was because in Johnson City two years ago working out was not something that really happened, it’s not something that was offered. We've got your power walkers, and your runners at the track, but that's it.

Peter: Can you dig into that a bit more? Something that would be valuable for our community is how you got your first few clients.

Michelle: People just drove by and said, what kind of workout is this? They'll see us out there with barbells and jumping on the boxes, and kettlebell swings, and doing all those movements and they were just really, really curious. I'll talk to them, tell them my story, and it was that simple!

The first few people we knew, and then those few people who came out and talked me into opening a boot camp in the evenings, and I said okay, kinda put the word around, like which friends and said "hey come and do these classes, 4:30- 5:30 in the evening, if anyone wants to join," and pretty much the people who have joined have stuck with me (laughter).

Peter: Awesome and it sounds like they brought friends along. So going from a couple of members to building up to 20, is it as simple as your clients getting results and telling their friends?

Michelle: Yeah, it started with the people coming to me and the people that were coming to me, they got results. Really good results, our weight loss and performance, and people kind of started to notice that. They were wondering the typical questions - what are you doing to the people that were coming out? What are you doing to lose weight? How are you doing this? And they said well, I'm going to this bootcamp, and she's basically kicking my butt every day. (laughter) Then, they were like "Well, you think she would let me come try it?" That's kind of how we began. And we've had a few members come, just not for them. It's out in the elements and I still have people that drop in, but consistently, like actual members that come several days a week, is about 20 people.

I haven't advertised, it's all just word of mouth. But seeing the results of people who started to come and once they met me, they continue to spread the word, and I'm very passionate in sharing my story because I feel like in the fitness industry, some people, it seems like they're fit all their lives. You know, and to me, it can be very intimidating. It really can. You think that not only can I achieve that, and I think that's one of the draws to my boot camp. They come and meet me, and I share my story and they say "Is it hard?", and I say "Absolutely!" Do I still have to work at it? Absolutely. But here is where I was. 83 pounds ago and if I can do this, you can too. I tell them when I started this, I couldn't even hang on a pull-up bar. I couldn't even hang on a pull-up bar for three seconds. That's how bad I was. I couldn't do a push-up. I couldn't get up out of an air squat. I was ground zero and I share my story with them and why compete? Now I coach, dove in a 100% and it can happen you just gotta work.

Peter: One other thing that we can focus on- the first few people that showed up to workout with you - I'm going to assume that you didn't charge them. How did you transition from working out in your garage with a few friends to actually charging people?

Michelle: I kinda of took their advice. I got results and they're the ones that said you should think about opening this up, starting a boot camp. And then, charging people to do what you're doing because they would tell them. We have people. They even said we have people that are interested and I was kinda like I don't know, it's just it's kinda a big commitment and I don't know. I had to grow into that self-confidence. I mean it's hard to go from one point in your life to the next being severely overwhelmed in accepting the fact that people look at you as a leader. Someone who pays, I wanna learn from this person, so I had to wrap my head around that, and my husband is a HUGE supporter, he really is, he's believed in me 100%. A few who were coming and working out with me and my husband may have talked me into it. I just said spread the word and I came up with some prices that were cheaper, and something that was affordable and opened up my first class. I think it was August 4th two years ago, so that would be 2014.

Peter: Happy Anniversary!

Michelle: Aw, well thank you! Yeah! So that was really how it happened and it was the people that were  working out with us, they were getting results and they talked me into it. They said I think that you could do this, because I was already coaching at a CrossFit. I still do, I coach at a different Crossfit in the mornings, I'm a morning coach so, I kind of have a crazy schedule. We're a little different, we do Spartan Races, some endurance stuff, they like to get out there and run all over, mud runs. So really it's just a bootcamp where I can train them and just get them off to having fun. They saw me doing Spartan Races, and going out there and kinda living life, and having fun and they were like, I could never do that. I heard that more times that you can imagine. I can never do that and my philosophy is like, why not? You know, what is standing in between you and doing something like that?

Peter: Sounds like you're making huge positive changes for them.

Michelle: That's what I'm passionate about, so we got some good moments.

Peter: You had mentioned weight loss being a big driver for some of your clients. Are you doing nutrition counseling as well?

Michelle: You know, it's funny. I'm got such a I diverse group. Some will just flat out say, I'm not watching what I eat, so that's why I'm here (laughter) They'll be like "I'm going to work hard," but those who have come to me, I have definitely worked on.Those have achieved great weight loss, I have worked with them on their diets, and I can't say I'm a pro at it. But I have walked in their shoes, and I share what has worked for me. I'm a big believer in eating clean paleo, and I'm definitely a bigger believer in an counting macros. I know everybody's got their things that they do, and when they come to me and say "Michelle I really want to get serious about this." and I sit down with them, and usually its not a cold turkey plan where they stop everything. I'm a big believer that it has to be sustainable. It can't be crazy, drastic, its gotta fit in their lifestyle. A lot of these, are working moms or working dads. They can't really dedicate a lot of their time and alter their lifestyle completely into a 100% paleo diet. So I work with them and teach them all the basics. And then at the end give them little pointers here, like if your having a craving with this, eat this, and few of them do. I don't charge them for it, because I'm not a nutritionist, and I don't claim to be. I try to teach them to eat to perform. You want to feel your body, not have it full of junk (laughter).

Peter: Got it, I love it. Anything else you'd like to add?

Michelle: One of the things I really love is that I said we're not Crossfit but it is how Crossfit started which was in a gym, in a garage, a gym. We are your classic, I've got a garage we don't even park in, and it is full of equipment. Literally pull it all out and there's your playground so, I thought that would be one of the things that would be a drawback and its turned out to be, one of their favorite things about it. You know, that's how we operate, that's Meantime Fitness.

Editor's notes: After the interview, Michelle again stressed how awesome her husband is :)

Note: the preceding interview has been edited for flow and clarity.
Peter Keller
Peter Keller

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