Today marks the 8 year anniversary for Baltimore Kettlebell Club (formerly Art & Strength). Time has really flown by and it’s hard to believe we’ve been at it for this long. It’s been so great to see how many lives have been touched by this place and watching people find their strength is something that I will never get tired of! I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to do what I love doing every_single_day.
What we have at BKC is so much more than a gym. It’s a community, a family, a place where all walks of life can come together in the pursuit of strength. It’s like no place I’ve ever been. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. I’ve imagined it, but I don’t think I could have planned it. Too many people have contributed to this place for any one person to take credit for it.
How it all started
I started this gym around the same time I started my family. I had a 3 year old, a 1 year old and a baby on the way when we first opened our doors. To say my attention was being pulled in different directions would be an understatement!
I was still trying to figure out how to be a good dad when I signed my first lease. At the time, I was a pretty good trainer and a pretty OK husband (seriously, I married up) when a too-good-to-pass-up opportunity arose.
I was working with a client at the time, Mark, who hooked me up with one of his clients, a commercial realtor, who was going to give me a 1750sqft storefront for FREE! All I had to do was pay utilities, Common Area Maintenance, etc.
The risk was that it was a month-to-month lease and I could be out on the street at anytime with only 30 days notice. Not the best scenario for a new parent starting a new business.
Did I mention that we had a contract on a new house too?
Yeah, well, I had to go for it.
Here’s how it all went down…
6 months after Art & Strength / BKC opened, we moved into a single family home. 2 days after we moved, we had our third child. 6 months after we had a baby, my lease was terminated and we moved the gym to the current location.
The notice to evacuate the property came 2 weeks before Artscape, the largest free outdoor arts festival in the country. I had a booth there with over $1000 tied up and countless hours bending, painting and preparing Iron Bonsai. I had to focus on that before worrying about a move.
I didn’t even look for a new place until the Monday after Artscape. T- minus 10 days I found the new place only a half mile away. I had 7 days to go before being without a gym (and without a job) when I agreed to the terms. And on the last day of my lease I signed the contract for the new place.
The Moving Party!
You’ve heard the story, we farmers walked the kettlebells from the old gym to the new gym! There were so many people who participated, I had to drive bells back for 3 runs! Good times – and a great workout!!!
So in the span of 1 year, I opened a gym, had a baby, moved my family and moved my gym. Craziest year ever!
You know what else? It was also the best year of my life!
Everything that has happened has literally been answered prayers. Not just mine either, but Jessica’s too. Not everything is perfect. We have our share of struggles, dysfunction and worry, but she’s always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom with 3-5 kids (and twins) and I’ve always wanted to be a gym owner.
Here’s the thing, I never really “planned” to be gym owner. How could I? It was a chance opportunity.
I didn’t know how to create a business plan anyway! I was not a businessman back in 2011, and to be honest I’m still trying to figure it out today!
I’m kinda just winging it.
I’m a big fan of taking immediate action and learning along the way. I’ve made some mistakes, and I will surely make more. Luckily for me I have people I trust who can advise, mentor and assist me, or just call me to focus.
That’s what communities do. There are people within any community who have different skills, experience and levels of involvement. Members contribute in their own unique way to make things better, and everybody benefits!
I really can’t say enough about what our community means to me or how appreciative I am of the people here. I care for our community the way I care for my family, because we are a family.
However, there’s still something that keeps me up at night…
It’s hard for me to admit this, but I’m not satisfied with our growth. I feel like we should have tripled our membership and doubled our square footage by now. A place as AWESOME as BKC, why not?
The rational part of me wants to make excuses and say “oh, well, you’ve been raising a family” but the dreamer in me still says, “the time to take this thing to the next level is past due”
While I don’t take credit for the community we have here, I do have to take responsibility for its lack of growth.
I don’t think it’s too much to ask for thriving fitness business. There’s enough people out there that want what we have to offer. More members = more jobs = more strong people. Everybody wins in this game! So I want to see us grow!!!
In the pipeline
I’m still formulating the plans but there are opportunities on the horizon. Several projects that have been years in the making are coming to fruition.
We’re partnering with Towson University to study the effects of modified powerlifts for senior citizens, aka the Strength After Sixty program. I hope to show that we can reverse osteoporosis within 1-2 years of focused training.
The kids program is steadily growing and parents are a fan of the teaching curriculum. That’s something no one else is doing and kids aren’t getting this information in school. I’d like to piggy-back on this for the older kids / teens and create a mentoring program where they can gain work experience and develop life skills outside of the gym.
Ultimately I’m working towards systematizing all of our training programs so that they can be recreated at multiple locations. I envision clubs in Towson, Owings Mills, Catonsville and downtown. I’ve come to realize that you can only go so big before losing the “closeness” that makes BKC special. Sure, we could double or maybe even triple in size, but a gym 10x the size of what we have now just wouldn’t have the same feel. That’s why I think multiple locations is the way to go.
So while yes, I do want a bigger gym, I’m also trying to think beyond these four walls and beyond my own two hands. I’m trying to think of who’s right for what job because the only thing I know for sure is that I can’t do this by myself. I need the strength of our community.
So if you want to be involved, let me know. Your feedback is always welcome and I love talking about ideas, but what’s needed most is for people to step up and create roles for themselves.
We’re building a team, not just of trainers either, but of productivity experts, administrators, managers and people who know how to market. I’m actively recruiting and if you want a spot come talk to me.
Thanks for reading, and thank you for being a part of BKC!
Here’s to another 8 years!!!
PS – writing this blog and digging up all these old pictures really had me reminiscing about all of our past members. I want you back! I’m offering a free month or 1-on-1 session for anybody who wants to resume their training! Email me to set something up!