TriFIT Wellness in Phoenix, AZ
Guest: Laurel Roach
Topics: TriFIT Wellness, entrepreneurship
Chris Ressa 0:00
This is retail retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris ReSSA. And I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC management. Welcome to retail retold everyone. Today I am joined by Laurel Roach Laurel is the owner of try fit wellness in Phoenix, Arizona. I’m excited for her to be here on the show and share her story. Welcome, Laurel.
Laurel Roach 0:33
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Laurel, you have a really interesting story. Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do?
Sure. Well, you you kind of found me in a little bit of an unorthodox unorthodox manner, I was actually sharing my story on my sobriety on on LinkedIn, which obviously is how you found me. So I own a gym. That’s my current gig. But I think just as a person of I’ve always been a very passionate and just positive and driven person. And I didn’t really know kind of where I was going to land, career wise. But I did know that I just always wanted to do something where I was helping people. And so in every job that I’ve had, you know, as on the employee side, and then now on the owner side, that was really, that’s really what gets me up in the morning. It’s just feeling like I’m making a difference in the world in some way. Some people don’t care about that. It’s like, just show me the money. And that’s a really important part of of who I am and what we do. It’s really exhausting. But but it’s a labor of love, you know? So
yeah, before you became a gym owner, what what did you do?
So, as long as I can remember, I think I was a model from about the age of like six or seven, which, to the parents listening out there, don’t do that to your kids. I don’t know it, it really kind of messed me up in the head, like, emotionally, when you know, as a female, obviously, there’s always a lot of focus on appearance anyway. And that was just such a constant presence in my my life that I sort of developed eating disorders throughout throughout high school, that sort of transition to substance abuse and drugs and alcohol in my early 20s. And, you know, then you have kids and you’re managing a job. And I was able to kind of white knuckle it through all of that and still perform and function, I guess. But just behind the scenes, I was a I was a mess. So I think that that story resonates with a lot of people out there in the professional world. Like I don’t, I don’t look like an alcoholic, as I think some people don’t they’re managing their life, but kind of on the inside, they’re falling apart. And that’s one of the things I love about what I do now is I get to really work with the whole person. So not just health and fitness, but like what’s going on with them here. You know, too, so it’s all important.
So really, congratulations on where you are now. And what a fascinating story. What was the turning point for you when your life made a real big change, and things started going in the other direction for you?
Well, I think if I had to pinpoint it, and anyone who’s ever had a drinking problem, you can only have so many moments where you’re just a mess. And you wake up in that shame cycle of doing the same thing over and over again, and telling yourself you’re not going to do it and then doing it again. Usually, most alcoholics have a triggering moment. And mine was really I will turn it to cry. My dad died very suddenly. And I was in my husband. I rented a place in California for the month in July. And this was three years ago little over. And I found out basically with a text message that my dad had died. While I was an hour away from the hospital coming to visit him I thought he was fine. And he had a heart attack and died before I got there. And so that was kind of one of those things where you you question? Well, is there something wrong with the fact that I just want to drown myself in a bottle of wine every night to deal with this? Or is there something else going on here? So that was kind of the beginning and I don’t know if you’ve ever there’s a casino here called Talking Stick and they do sunrise yoga, up on top of the roof And I went to that randomly someone invited me. And I was at 5am doing yoga, and they played the song from my dad’s funeral. And I felt like it was like this lightbulb moment, like the sun coming up, and the music, whatever. And I am just a babbling mess up there, everybody’s looking at me like, What the hell is wrong with this girl, you know, and the guy there invited me, like, invited everybody to this wellness retreat that he was doing. And I felt like, I’m supposed to be at this. And that was the first time that anyone had really asked me like, all these questions like, what kind of person you really want to be like, is this are you living an authentic life? And so I went to that retreat, I ended up hiring that person. His name’s Donnie Stark, and He’s amazing. He’s a recovering addict, a recovered addict, as well. And so he coached me for a while. And that was that was the common thread in my life that had to change. So I know it’s a really long winded answer. Sorry.
No, wow, that there’s so much there. i Sorry about your loss. And that is truly wild story. I wonder in so what was your job at the time when this is all going on? You said you white knuckled through it. What What were you doing for work at that point in time,
I was in a GM at a commercial cleaning company. So I started in sales, was really good at that and always got to hold to stay in my lane, like just go sell it. And things were failing operationally. And I’m like, Well, this is my ass on the line if something goes wrong. And so I started going out at night with my cleaning crews, like trashed by trash, checking the doors, like making sure things were going well. And I really learned that industry, and from the ground up, and eventually kind of worked my way up to be the GM. So I think about 220 employees at the time. And it’s just a very, if you’ve ever worked in property management or those service base, nobody’s calling you to say thank you, when the trash cans not empty, you know what I mean? It’s a very complaint driven industry. And so that as someone who is extremely positive, and I work really hard, it just, it just wore on me like I couldn’t ever you’d wake up to just things being wrong all the time. And so, you know, ultimately, I just decided that I needed to change and, yeah, so
got it. So that’s what you’re doing at the time. And during this, you know, time in your life. What are their major impacts in your family life with your kids and husband?
Oh, yeah, I mean, I, I remember my daughter who’s eight now. And she has memories of me, like always being tired on the weekend, or, you know, just like things that a little kid wouldn’t know. But they know, like, they know something’s not right. But they don’t really know why she would she play Barbies all the time. And her Barbies would have wine, like they’d be like, the Barbies would be hanging out, like ordering wine and stuff. And I’m like, I am literally conditioning my child to be a drinker. And, and it’s been really amazing. Like, we have conversations about it now. And I’m able to explain to her, like, why we have a history of alcoholism in my family. It’s just something that, you know, my husband will have a beer have have two years and he’s fine. But we have like really honest, open conversations with her about it, which I think is is good. But that was definitely some of the implications of it, for sure.
Wow. So thank you for sharing because that all pivoted to where you are today, and we’re gonna get there in a second. I want to take us to a different part of the show. We call this clear the air. I’ve got three fun questions for you. Are you ready? I’m ready. All right. Question one. What is the last time you tried something for the first time?
Um, so about a year and a half ago, I would say I decided to start learning to play guitar. Wow. So I was always a singer, like I grew up as a singer was in ensembles in choir and led the worship of my church and all this, but I could never accompany myself. So I took the guitar lessons and oh my gosh, is the most humbling experience. Ever. It’s so hard. It’s like, Have you ever like Pat, rub your belly and pat your head at the same time? Sure. My instructor called Is there something with that? Were using your hands in two different ways. It’s so hard. So I actually when COVID was kind of the worst with for my business, I kind of had to let that go and really focus on growing the business back up. But I do plan on on going back and I had a great teacher, so
excellent. Okay. Question two. All right. What is one skill you don’t possess but wish you did?
Oh, I wish I was better at math. That’s fine. Okay, so the first thing I did when I when I bought my business is I hired a bookkeeper. And my husband’s a business owner as well. And he’s like, Lucky. Just, you know, I’m like, that does not come easily to me. So yeah, it was the first thing I outsource.
What, what business does your husband run? He
owns a My husband was a professional hockey player for 16 years. Wow. And then when he retired, he bought a pool business is engineering school and very technical. So he has a full service business here in Scottsdale.
Got it? I’m curious. What, what’s your husband’s first name? Andy roach. Andy roach. Okay, who do you play for?
He played most of his career was in Europe, he played for St. Louis, the year of the lockout in school scored his first game against Detroit. And he’s from Michigan. So that was pretty cool. Very cool. Yeah.
Okay, last question. All right. What is one thing most people agree with, but you do not? Um, I think,
you know, maybe people would believe that you should work on the things that you’re not good at, like that you can change those things and stuff? And I would say some things. Yes, for sure. And I am a big believer in like, personal development and, and always working on yourself. But in terms of things you’re just naturally not good at. I believe you double down on the stuff you’re good at. And you really do minimally any of the other things.
And that’s great answer. I think there’s a lot of truth to that, you know, lean into your strengths and good things will happen. So, so you end up going for managing this large team in the cleaning business, having a moment where you went to this wellness retreat. And I guess you come out of this wellness retreat and take us away what happened there?
Um, well, I already own the gym at that time. Okay, yeah. So it wasn’t like those like stars aligned at the same time, I’d already own the gym. And, you know, the alcohol was just the one thing in my life that that didn’t fit like, I’m living this very healthy lifestyle. When I worked at the cleaning company, I would do challenges for my my employees, I would take them to the gym. I remember I had these girls that I did a contest and I said whoever lost the most weight to bottom on Michael Kors watch and I was always doing that for free and helping people in that way. I studied nutrition at at in college for a bit was actually going back for a second major in dietetics. Till I realize you can’t make any money doing it. But But yeah, I My husband actually found the gym. That was kind of how it happened. So just the traditional like, small business broker route. I was working like 70 hours a week, I didn’t have any time to really find that. So he found it. And it was run semi absentee. Was cash flowing pretty well. And it was in an industry. He’s like, I remember coming home the exact moment he’s like, I think I found it. We looked at a vacuum store, we looked at a Sky Zone trampoline park short, a couple of things that we looked at, and now I’m like, Thank God, like we’ve dodged a bullet on so many. But we ended up buying the gym. And I thought at the time I was so burned out, I thought I just kind of wanted to run something like semi absentee, let it do its thing. And I mean, that lasted like, a week. And then I got in there and I’m like, alright, what are we doing? And let’s build this thing up. So and I made a ton of mistakes on the way but I you know, I’ve learned a lot. It’s been six years now.
We’re going to take a quick break here. And now a word from one of our sponsors. What would
be the impact on your business if you could consistently get a lease out the same day in loi assigned, more time to focus on the things that matter, more money allocated to essential business needs? These are the kinds of things are made possible with lease pilot. Lease pilot is the only specialized contract management software application built specifically with commercial property owners in mind. Our cloud based plan forum connects your drafting language and asset information to a powerful data driven back end. To help you prepare your leases faster with less room for error with a team of lawyers and paralegals on staff. The setup process is designed to be painless. And at a price point that is a no brainer. Find us at least pilot.com to learn more.
So going back, you were looking to leave cleaning, when did you decide you wanted to be like an owner and own your own business?
Well, I give my my old boss, Ryan Stark, the company’s name was orange, commercial, commercial cleaning. He and I had a really close relationship. He definitely was not the type of owner who wanted a bunch of Yes, men like we, we would kind of battle about things. But he wanted people to have ideas and disagree with him if it meant disagreeing with him. But we would debate things and really try to be innovative about the way that we did stuff. And so I think he really encouraged that entrepreneurial spirit in me, my dad was an entrepreneur. So I know I always had that and I wanted to be a leader. And I think it just came at the right time having the necessary skills like running a p&l and managing like the Sales and Operations dealing with people. I had that after a number of years that I felt comfortable, kind of diving into it on my own and kind of wanted to be in control of my own schedule at that point. So
So you start looking at a bunch of different businesses. And your husband finds this gym, it comes out and says, you’re gonna be a gym owner? And was it a tough negotiation in buying the gym from the existing owner? Was it? Did you guys struggle on price? Or was it pretty easy?
No, it was pretty easy. Actually, it was kind of ironic, the previous owner that we bought it from, had a corporate background as well, for a much larger company. And he from from our brief interactions, it seems like was fairly burnt out. And that’s why he had kind of like, I’m gonna take a step back and just do this for a while. And I think he maybe had a sick relative or something. So that was the reason that he was he was selling. So it was, it was pretty easy. And he was very helpful to me and provided all the documentation and stuff. So I think I lucked out there because I wouldn’t have really known you know what to expect. But it was it was a good process for sure.
And the that the gym, you said it was cashflow. So it was it was profitable. When you bought it, you didn’t have to like turn it around in that regard.
Well, he wasn’t really spending any money. So that was the thing that I would say if somebody’s looking for a business you, I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. But like it had it needed a new AC unit, that’s $14,000, they didn’t have anyone doing cleaning, they were like mopping the floors in the middle of gym hours. And having you know, just certain things that you probably should have been spending money on. But maybe he knew he was going to sell it. So he’s just trying to make it look a little bit better. But yeah, I mean, it was doing okay, and then we invested quite a bit into it. Back then.
Was the the concept the same as you have today? Or was it? Did you totally change everything?
No, it’s, it’s very different. And that’s probably one of the biggest mistakes that I made is that, you know, when you come into a new business, especially when that you’re taking over a different concept, I thought that I knew these are our clients, this is our brand, this is who we are. And you really have to, I think let that kind of develop organically. If you’re starting something new, of course not. But when you’re taking over, you inherit a certain type of thing. So I think in the beginning, I thought we were all about the busy professional and this and that. Now. I mean, we are the gym for non gym people. That is what it is. And we have a very clear target demographic, a very, very clear idea of like who our ideal customer is. I know exactly what their challenges are before I get on the phone with them, because we’ve just been very clear at that. And it’s taken six years to get there. So
no overnight successes. So So you came in. Were you able to grow the UN over six years. How much have you grown the revenue by by really investing and changing the business?
Well, we grew 30% The first three years. Wow. And yep, and then started to kind of go flat that fourth year. And at that time I started because I had a corporate background, I started kind of looking into corporate wellness, and I thought I can sell to that, like, I can sell these people, this is what I do. And so I started going that direction, and really had quite a bit of traction on that side, got a whole bunch of different clients and ultimately decided to let that side of the business go with the exception of one or two clients that I still have, just because it’s very different. In my business, when somebody comes to you and says, Here, I will pay you money, please help me, I’m ready, I’m going to work for this, or in the corporate on the corporate wellness side, I’m going to them trying to incentivize them to want it and care about their health. So there’s two very different mindsets. And I just decided I wanted to play on this side of the people that wanted to do it.
Got it. So you were growing business by like, 30%, you started to get flat. And at that point, you went to the corporate side, let that go. And then killed the COVID. Tell us about your experience in COVID.
Yeah, um, one of my favorite quotes is a bad day, or is it a bad day for the ego is a great day for the soul. That could not have been more true in my son, my situation. So I realized, going into COVID that that year, 2020, I was like, we’re gonna crush it, we’re gonna do this and that. And it’s like, when you let your ego get too big, and think that things can’t happen to you, and you’re unstoppable. And all that I think that’s things do nothing. COVID is because of me or happened because of me or anything. But I really had to let go of a lot of control, you know, there was only so much we could do. And we lost 60% of our revenue. I almost let the gym go in March of last year. I kept all my employees paid, I didn’t take a salary for a year and a half. Thankfully, we have other things. So I didn’t need to but it was really, really hard. And I think number one, I could not have done that had I not been sober. That would have been an absolute nightmare. So I thank God for that. And it really gave me the time, I think to go back to the drawing board, figure out how do I figure out what is the best way to help my customers? What is it that they need? What what keeps them up at night? What are the things that they really are struggling with. And I really designed with the help of my team, of course, a program that gives our clients literally everything they need to be successful in their fitness journey where I didn’t have that before, like it was an incomplete service. And now I feel so confident about how we help people and what we do. So it’s really been a blessing in disguise, and then we come back 100% To our pre COVID numbers, and anticipating are really, really successful 2022. So I’m very grateful.
Yeah, congrats. So almost shut down in March of 21. What? What got you like through it? Like, from a business perspective? What, when did it start to change? And what was the turning point of like, alright, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel here. Well,
um, I think more me as an individual, I’m so competitive. And, frankly, I hated feeling like a loser. Like it, it pissed me off, like after a certain period of time of not being successful and feeling like you’re just like, oh, like it just dragged on and on. And I remember I actually tried to break my lease and give the gym away, like to a few different people. And nobody would take it like they wouldn’t even and I’m sitting here thinking how much work I’ve put into this how much money I’ve put into this. And I can’t even give this thing away. People were scared to take, you know, like in the thick of all this stuff. People were like, I don’t know. And I really think it was a God thing at the time. It was like I had to go through that be willing to lose it all. And to realize that I really wanted to do this and I wanted to grow it back and so I did I just really methodically I set my goals. I had, you know sales goals every every week. I tracked everything like religiously, and you’ve just hyper hyper focus last year on getting it back to a better place.
Wow. Tried to give it away couldn’t give it away. So Tell me about the location what what type of property? Is it in? Is it a retail property and industrial property? Where is it?
It’s, we’re right on Camelback Road at Fifth Street, which is called Midtown in central Phoenix. So very desirable area of Fox restaurants, like AJs, drugstore, AJs food, fine foods, lots of restaurants. It’s a high end area. So and we are right on the street on Camelback Road. So we have Street location, street location in a retail Plaza. So the location is great. It’s an older building, but but the inside of it looks awesome. We have exposed beams and it’s cool.
It’s small boutique II. So how many members are at any one time? Or you know, can you you know, what’s a good annual membership number count for you? Right? I you know, Planet Fitness there in the 1000s. Right? The the What are you and how is it class based give me a little bit more about the what type of gym it is.
Yeah, so I mean, we’re a personal training studio, that’s our roots are as a personal training studio. So back when there was only big box retail, their original owners developed the concept of small group training. So there was no orange theory of Rifai, like none of this existed at the time. And that is still kind of our, our core, we don’t do any one on one training. Because frankly, I don’t think people need it. Like the majority of people do not need one on one. But they do need some level of personalization, you know, to make sure that they know how to do the movements. If you go to large group class, most people are lost, they have no idea what they’re doing, they’re gonna get hurt. So we cap our classes that 10 people got it. And it’s the more expensive membership, so $300 a month membership. But with that, they get unlimited training, they get their nutrition. So we have a health coach who’s a certified health coach, she also has her degree in psychology. So she’s dealing with the mind the mental aspect, as well as the food. And so meal planning calls, education calls, and weekly accountability calls on the nutrition side. And then we check their progress on an in body machine or if you’ve heard of those are like a, you know, how we check biometrics? And yeah, so they really have everything, my team runs attendance reports every week. So you know, why don’t people get results, right? Like Planet Fitness doesn’t care if you show up. And I will tell people all the time, like, I don’t want your money. If you’re not coming here, like I want you to come here and like get what you pay for. So sometimes we have tough conversations with people and say, Hey, you said you wanted this, like, Where have you been? What’s what’s happening? And I think people need that level of accountability. Otherwise, we’d all have six packs. Right?
There you go. Yeah. Okay, so what’s next? Is it? Are you sticking with this? Are you going to enter other industries that you can open up more try fits? What’s what’s next?
Um, you know, I’m not, I’m not really sure I’m kind of at the point where I’m really, I’m really focusing on our systems for the business. If anybody who’s listening, that’s a newer business owner, if you’ve never read the book, book, E Myth, it’s literally called the entrepreneurial myth, and just talks about systems is the first book that was ever recommended to me when I became a business owner. So just kind of dialing in that, like, if your business operates around you, it’s not gonna be worth very much, you know, so what is your system for sales for customer service for pretty much everything. And so that’s kind of my goal for this year, like, building our numbers up getting the systems in place, and then I’ll decide if it’s something that I want to open. I do have a couple people in my mastermind group that had talked about financing me if I wanted to franchise, they’ve got experience with franchising, and you know, have the money to do so. So that may be an avenue to explore, or maybe just open one I haven’t really decided, but that would probably be the route I go.
Great. And you’re also hosting a wellness retreat soon. Yes.
Yeah. And that is really a passion project of mine, really, because of kind of what I shared with you in the beginning. That was such a powerful, like, I guess, moment in my life, that I really, really changed with this from this direction to this direction. So this event is going to be very intimate. It’s on May 16 to 20 Women hosted in Cave Creek, Arizona it Ivana wellness resort which is freaking beautiful, like place is just amazing. And yeah, so it’s really focused on weight loss food, gut health hormones like giving people kind of these women, they’re the fundamentals of health and then also, when they leave, they have the support of everybody that they were there with for the next 12 weeks to make sure they actually implement some of the things that they learned. So I’m excited about that one.
Excellent. Okay, I really appreciate you coming on and sharing your story. Thank you so much. I want to take us to the last part of the show. I got three more fun questions for you. Are you ready?
Okay. All right. What extinct retailer Do you wish would come back from the dead?
Oh my gosh. I mean, this makes no sense. But blockbuster, all right. I had the best memories of like with my dad like going there and you get like the popcorn at the front or he goes let us get like a candy. You know, like wrenching our movie. So I’m gonna go blockbuster
blockbuster. Okay. What is the last item over $20 You purchased in a store?
I do majority of my shopping in the store. Like not, not like Amazon type thing, but I’m kind of a closed knob. So every clothing purchase is in the store.
Understood. Okay. Last question. If you and I were shopping at Target, and I lost you would I would I find you in
toy aisle 100%. I have an eight year old
lady. there as well. I hear you. It’s probably where you’re on me. Okay, well, Laura. Oh, this was great. I really appreciate the time. Thanks so much.
Thank you for listening to retail retold. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show. Please reach out to us at retail retold at DLC mgmt.com This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to retail retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode