On this episode of Establishing Your Empire we host entrepreneur Jess Martin. Jess founded Stronghorn Fitness in 2013 and ever since has made major waves in the Central Texas fitness industry. We take a deep dive on how he jumped into a business with very little funding or business plan and yet through hard work and persistence built an award winning company and designed a life defined by happiness.
You’re listing to the establishing your empire, show a podcast that inspires entrepreneurs, creatives, and future business owners to pursue their passions, grow the organization, and build their empire. My name is Daran Herman and creatively, I’m best known for my photography, but business wise, my claim to fame has grown a company from 15 K per month in online sales to breaking the $1 million a month barrier. And I’m sitting down with interesting people to talk about their process, the lessons they’ve learned, and how they have Established their Empires.
Welcome to the podcast.
Thank you. It’s going to be fun being on here.
So give us a little background information about yourself.
Oh, okay. So I grew up here in Austin. How far back do you want to go?
How you got your start and your career, maybe this career, the previous one. Kinda give us that story.
So after college got a job before you’re supposed to do, always been in sales. The vast majority of it was software up until 2014 and then I transitioned from sales and do something I actually enjoyed and turned out. Well it’s, I mean I’ve worked my whole life for a career. I didn’t really enjoy that much. I was decent at sales because I liked people. And I worked hard and I got myself to a VP of sales, which I thought was my dream role.
Turns out it wasn’t. And so I left that and I kinda took a little time to figure out what it is that I wanted to do with my life. And I love music. As you mentioned, I love playing guitar and piano and singing, stuff like that. And I love taking care of my body and how the body reacts to different nutrition levels, diets and workouts and regimes and stuff like that. And those were kind of always been my passions, but I wasn’t going to be like a 34 year old rock star making it big. So I chose the latter and went with the wellness in general. So I started a strong horn and never turned back. So. So that’s interesting because you were good at your job, but yet it wasn’t for you. So how did that, how did you make that decision to leave?
Quit, get fired? What, like why, what happened there?
So the, at the end, when I got what I thought was my dream title, I left IBM to go work for an IBM partner. I was gonna run their sales team for them. And at the time I was is the same software I was selling with IBM. And even I was still on the same software with the startup that IBM purchased, that I was a part of. So my transition through that whole phase was from startup. IBM bought the company I was with, worked for IBM for awhile and then left to go, basically make my Mark as a VP of sales, which I thought was my dream title and I was young, I was 33, 34 at the time and it was very exciting time. I thought I had made it and I was like, dude, I’m going to just crush life.
And as it turns out, it’s, it wasn’t all I thought it was going to be for a lot of reasons. One, I was not prepared for that role. I think I sold myself pretty well to the interview. I am a sales guy, right? So but I did, I, I probably oversold myself cause when I got into it I was pretty lost. I was reaching out to a lot of friends and executives. I knew asking for help and being like, what do I do here that had this huge quota and I had never built an entire sales team myself. I had hired and fired people before as a manager, but never having, just being sold. All right, you need 5 million this year ago. Woo.
Okay, so when you had your time off, like did you know you’re going to start a company? No, not even a little bit when actually when I had my, when we, so it was an amicable leave.
It wasn’t like fired and I didn’t just quit. It was a discussion and a, I’m not thinking I’m going to be able to do this job to the do the ability that you’re going to need it done. I think it’s a little too early on. I need a more set up kind of phase two where maybe I could take over but not build the whole thing. I would say agree. Did you, so you, that was actually coming from you more than that part. They came to me asking you like, Hey, where are we? What are we doing here? And then I came clean. I was like, I’ve been busting my ass trying to figure that out and I don’t think I have the answers unfortunately. And so we go, okay, well let’s just, we’ll just before we get any deeper, let’s part. And those about a year in I gave it a full, a full try.
But then that’s when I took a little four months, three, four months off kind of sabbatical, if you will, soul searching and whatnot. But I was still looking for software jobs and software sales managers and stuff like that. So I was looking to for a different outcome, trying to do the same thing. Yeah. So then, so Walkman. So how did it come out? Like was it some idea to start your own company? Like how did that, it actually was. So another buddy of mine, Sam, who lived in the same building I lived in downtown and we worked out together a lot. He suggested that I start a bootcamp and this was pretty early on. We can go out of here. We’re starting to really get a hold of Austin and gained some popularity and, but nowhere near what they were. No, no, no.
They were, I mean, they had, you know, probably a dozen trainers. Right. and so now throw in a dozen States, but so, but they were just kind of started that. And so it was a very popular thing to do in the early two, or sorry, like 2013 14. And so he basically, he closed a huge deal with Spoler. I don’t know if rod say that. But he made a bunch of money and he was like, I’ll put $30,000 into this so you become the sweat equity. And I had 51% of the company and he took 49 and he said he would put in $30,000. Mmm. And about eight grand in he was, he said, I’m out of money. It’s not total. I mean, he was a broker and he was like, I kinda, I overstepped, I don’t think I can keep putting money into this at the extent that we’re burning through it constantly burned.
The thing about a company, it’s not just like I, I put my $30,000 on black, you know, it might be 30 and then another 20 exactly 30 and the writing was on the wall, wasn’t growing super fast. I mean, we had a lot of traction in the name brand was great, but it wasn’t like money was just rolling into bank accounts. And I think he realized that and he also had a kid and he had some responsibilities more than I did. And so I bought him out, I cut him a check for the whole amount and just bought his 49% and then I’ve been doing it ever since because I was really enjoying myself and wasn’t looking for a massive, you know, windfall of money. I was actually the happiest I’ve ever been and the least amount of stress in my life and I was really enjoying it.
So that’s kind of where I took over. And that was within the first year, I think was the first six months that got you going. So that, that, that was kind of the push over the edge. I actually attribute him to the reason why I started it because he was the one that said like, I believe in you, you need to do this. I have money started. Whether or not he continued is irrelevant. He’s the one that pushed me over that edge of like, just take the jump, see what happens. Do you think you would have started without that? Probably not. Honestly. I really don’t. I didn’t, it wasn’t even a thing. I wasn’t even considering it until he brought it up. Wow. So that’s great. But you know, you still went and did it though. Absolutely. Which is a lot of people might just say, Oh great, but then not do the steps.
Okay. So, so he says, okay, I got, I got some cash here, I believe in, you will want to go. What was like, how did you start from zero to one, right? How, how’d that happen? Every Saturday in February I hosted a free workout at Austin high. And w in what year was this? Of 2013? Yeah, 2013 March March 4th, 2013 was our first day of business. So all through February, every Saturday was free workout by Jess Martin at Austin high. And did you have a name at that point? Oh yeah, no, we were strolling horn. We had the brand and all that wood too. What was the 99 designs? Had the logo, all that stuff built up, which I love the logo. We’ve had it ever since. I like it too. So, and this is interesting. So you launched a business and your first thing you did was a free workout.
Yeah. Well, you know, it was our first business, but we needed to gain traction and the only way to do that was basically them gorilla marketing. And I was sweat equity. So my time, you know, was my money. So I went out and I was very happy to put on those workouts and they did. They grew very fast. Luckily my girlfriend at the time [inaudible] invited people. I neglected to do that cause I was scared of failure. And so going into that I literally thought, Oh my God, what if nobody shows up? And so my solution to that was, well, let’s just be quiet about it and only have a few friends just show up and see. See if this works. This is the exact opposite of marketing, right? You want a percent, you want as many people there as possible. But thankfully, again, another person in your life stepped in and helped you help and just believed in me, you know, and I think I attribute a lot of everything I’ve done to people believing in him even more so than myself because they are the ones that pushed me and made sure that I was as successful as I am currently.
So there’s been five, six years and you’re still doing Saturday free workouts. I am still doing those and that’s about all I do. I teach a few people, my OGs I still do the Monday, Wednesday mornings and then my very first corporate account, I still have them Dropbox. Okay. They were, they were a family from the very beginning, so I’ll stay with them. But other than that, I’m, I’m done coaching. I have a bunch of coaches now and, and all our classes are run by other people and, but you’re still going to the some of the Saturday workouts? I do. I’d be most all of them done. Like you’d have five times 50 that you’ve done, like 250. Yeah. These free workouts.
I’ve done a lot of labor for nothing. Yeah, that’s fine. But so talk to me, I think that’s a great segue into marketing. So what is your, your marketing strategy like w what do you guys do? I’m might be the worst. And just, I don’t ever really budget for marketing and stuff like that. What we do basically is a lot of like I said, we do wear free workouts, which is a huge draw, but we use a lot of social media and word of mouth. And we basically believe in that. If we do a good job and we do it better than others, people will be our champions for us. So, yeah. And, and it’s funny that you think that’s a bad when you say Martin has some of the best, you know, if you can get word of mouth and referrals and people talking about your business, that’s the best form of marketing.
Unfortunately, a lot of us just jumped to how much money can I spend to block it out? Where can I put it? What ad is going to get me a bunch of sales as opposed to actually like having people care about your company and what you’re doing? I I, yeah, I think I was actually fantastic. So talk to me about Instagram and social media in general cause that’s gone through a big transition at the same time. How has that changed, helped whatever with your company? When I very first started, I thought Facebook was awesome. I lived on it. It was great when a, well we’d have huge workouts, we’d have up towards a hundred people showing up on Saturdays and Facebook would let me tag most of them. They very quickly started chipping away at that where you can only tag so many people because it was getting abused by people like me.
I’m marketers. We wrote an ad, I consider some of our interviews, but unfortunately you are sorry. So, but yeah, that was it. And it was great. It was green, huge traction. I would tag all these people in this photo and of course they’re all smiling, having a great time on a Saturday morning and they would all comment. And it would gain a lot of traction really quickly. And it only, it would take 30 minutes of my time after the workout, get the photo up, tag everybody say something witty and fun and then just go and watch as all these people are time commenting, it shows up on their page, their friends see it, they comment, what is, what are you doing? Why are you with all these people? Why are you sweaty
And smiling? And pretty people a lot of times too. Why are you with all these tried to people, people that want to work out. Yeah. So and with that, and I know this because I did this for you a long time ago, how did you get that photo like and getting, getting that creating that content early on or even for, even now when we very first started, my girlfriend did it. We were very
Bootstrap, you know, just that’s what we did. We, we were, we relied on friends and family to kind of help us out. I mean, people like you coming out and taking photos and stuff like that. Like I even had the idea, and I did this I think two or three times, I put an ad on Craigslist and it was for photographers and I openly said, this is not a paid gig, but it will gain you a lot of traction. I’m getting 10 to 15,000 views on all these photos from Facebook, all the stuff from all the people sharing all that. This is instant credit, but not credibility, but instant people seeing your work. And I want you to put your spin on it. And so I’d have photographers come out and they would take photos of us all working out and photos after the words with all together. And they would put it in their style. Some would have black and white photos, only. Some people have some really crazy editing with the wild colors and stuff like that. I mean, all the same. It was great and it, and it made an amazing ability to show people’s work and creativity and all the while gained me access to photographers across Austin
Without having to pay for it. And I think this is a key point is at one you asked and two you were upfront about it like you weren’t, you weren’t saying, well maybe I’ll pay you later or this or that. It was, this is free, this is the deal. Take it or leave. It’s totally cool but I’m going to give you freedom to do it however you want. And you know, it’s nice, it’s a Saturday. So sometimes there’s a lot of amateur photographers too that just kind of want to go shoot interesting things. In fact, I kind of wish I, I used to be more into that of just going in shooting and I, you know, now it’s like time and I actually miss doing some interesting things. And the thing about a workout class is there is a lot of people there and people always like pictures of people. Like they like to see that as opposed to just landscapes or something. I mean, if you can make someone look good working out
Or look cool working out, that’s going to be one of their favorite photos. There might be a profile photo for that immediately and it gains a lot of traction that way. And you will gain is a photographer because somebody wants that photo, they’re going to put it in and they’ll tag you on it and be like, thank you so much for capturing this. So it, it works for both people. And I mean eventually we would pay people to take photos, but that’s was down the line when we would, we would need to ensure that it looked a certain way, right when we had that creative freedom to be like, look, we just want photos so we can tag people and it to look cool. We want to kind of basically show you off your skills along with what we’re doing.
We’re at towards the end, you know, after a few years we needed to really start kind of focusing in a little bit and say like, we need to make sure these look a certain way. Make sure that, you know, you get some photos of people jumping, people doing burpees, people doing the movements that we’re,
We’re trying to advertise for our workouts. And that’s different. That’s good because then if you have a shot list, then somebody who’s kind of working when it’s more Jobie yeah, yeah, we’d pay and you know, a, and I think some of the photographers, they don’t need the pay. They just want the credibility of like seeing their photo of somebody, somebody’s profile photo. I still have that where I enjoy like, Oh, somebody’s got, you know that, that’s my profile photo. Yeah. Okay. So is there anybody in the industry that you kind of looked up to or mentored you, especially during the beginning of the process or middle maybe? Yeah.
So unfortunately or fortunately, I always looked at camp gladiator as this kind of, and I knew Allie and Davidson, the owner and her husband and way before I even started in this industry but I kind of looked them with like, they did something amazing. They took just a couple people working out and turn it into this huge conglomerate for better or worse, whatever your views on their workouts and what they do and, and how big they’ve gotten. They’ve done something amazing and they’ve probably gotten more people off their couch and outside working out, then maybe even CrossFit. But all that being said I kind of look to them for guidance. I’ve, I saw some mistakes they made and we tried not to make those and some of their successes and then we copy that. It’s almost like going a business. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but you definitely don’t want to just copy and paste it. That never works out. But you also don’t want to make the same mistakes and be like, you know, what’s really good a square wheel? Let’s go that route. You know, so you want it to be round, you just don’t want it to be the same Mitchell entire. So I kind of, I looked into the beginning, but then I noticed real quickly I needed to differentiate ourselves because people were being like, Oh, you’re like, Hey, I’m glad air. I’m like,
Dammit. It was not, I did not do a good enough job of [inaudible]. Exactly. Yeah. So we kind of branched out with that. But as far as mentorship
[Inaudible] true. Someone who actually like looked out and helped me was Dane Craiger of Dane’s body shop. He was, he, and he might not even know this cause I don’t, I don’t ever talk to him about it, but he invited me in and showed me his books and said like, look, when you’re getting into this, this is what you’re getting into kind of thing. And really showed me what it’s going to take to be successful and to have a, a wellness company or gym or anything of that matter and what it’s going to take to make that actually go through and be successful. And so that was someone I really too, I asked him multiple questions. He was always very open and honest with me. He was almost to the point of scary, Mmm. To be like, you know, make sure you want to do this. If you’re in it for money, it’s probably not your gig. If you’re in it for passion and you actually enjoy it, you will, you will be plenty successful.
So interesting enough, Christine Chan was already on the podcast and she did the commercials for Dane by shot. Yeah. So a little funny, a connection there. So that’s it. So, and then he showed you more the books and how do I like actually make it a real business as opposed to just, he was very open and honest about what it takes to be successful. He did the same thing I did. He went through, he started, had a bootcamp, they were swinging kettlebells in a, and then he got
A location now he branched him to another location and he’s got a very good community that he’s built there. So what advice would you give people who want to end enter the fitness world? Like as a trainer or any, anywhere in the fitness world? I actually, and I can’t even take all the credit for this. I’m a trainer I know put this out there and it really resonated to me. Was that a, basically build your knowledge base first because there’s lots of people that can be trainers. There’s a, there’s a lot of what you would consider a successful trainer out there that just a good people person. They just know how to stand up in front of people. They’re an entertainer and they haven’t you doing squats and burpees run on circles. But if you really want to be successful in this industry, you have to build your knowledge base about human anatomy, how it works, what your body does when it’s given this or when it’s challenged by this.
And I think that the people that are the most successful in this industry are the ones that truly do have a thirst for knowledge around that. It’s not just, Oh, I like getting sweaty, so I’m going to be a trainer. Oh, I, with a college athlete. What am I going to do? I know how to work out. Maybe I’ll be a trainer that’s just kind of an out. I think if you really want to be successful in this business, you have to have a knowledge base and constantly be building it because it’s always changing. We’re not, you know, bodybuilder workouts from the 80s anymore. You know, listening to iron maiden or whatever, when idolizing Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’s a, it’s a different model every decade there’s a different way to work out that’s been better and more modern and you gotta be on top of it. So have, I sounds like you probably have had some trainers where you’ve experienced them not having knowledge.
Yeah. And some that have had so much knowledge that I literally, they’re better off somewhere else. Like we don’t do very specific Olympic lifting and stuff like that and trainers that come in with that knowledge base and that love that. I would love to have you on, but you’re, it’s like a true, the basis for Primus, when he tried out for Metallica and they’re like, no, you, you need to be in a band that’s specifically focuses around your skill because it’s that good. That’s the kind of thing. It’s, it goes both ways. I mean, people can be overqualified for the job of a boot camp instructor. You can literally not be utilizing yourself the knowledge. Now we do personal training, all that stuff too, but we don’t have Olympic platforms for people to work on. I have done plenty of leg lifting. I, it’s, it’s great.
But you know, I also liked you have to be, have weightless with your movements or you will get hurt. So there’s a lot of knowledge that needs to be utilized there. And for people to, you know, I’ll be in, I hate to focus on the bad and say like, Oh, we’ve had trainers that just don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. And there are, there’s always people that come in, they took some random online course and they played, you know Juco baseball and all of a sudden they think they know what they’re doing. It’s like, no, I get it. You’re an athlete your whole life. But that doesn’t mean you know how to show someone else how to not hurt themselves. And that’s kind of where it comes down to. So I think that’s a big thing of not hurting herself, but also being motivated to come every day and trying to push him, but maybe too much.
Yeah. tell, see how motivated you are. If you’re broken, you’re not coming to work out. So it’s kind of a, what’s a common myth around being a trainer or own in a business of trainers? Oh, well that it’s easy. I you know, it’s, this industry is incredibly sophomore. It gets comical because there are a lot of people that come into it with when they don’t really have anything else to fall back on. It is a lot of people that and not all Jason’s major of no communications majors send them anatomy. But no, I mean lots of people that did, they played sports or they’re just really enjoy working out and to the point, whether it’s for vanity or functionality or anything, but just because they enjoy working out doesn’t mean they’re going to be a good trainer. And I think that’s a huge misconception of this industry and why so many people get into it.
It’s because they think, Oh, my passion is working out. No, your passion is you looking good naked. That doesn’t hurt. That doesn’t translate to you being able to help someone else look good naked or be able to get over an injury, which is a Waterloo. A lot of what this industry is. So it’s a, it’s the biggest misconception I think is why people get into this job is that it seems to be kind of an easy buck. You do hang out with someone for an hour and get 75 bucks. I’ll take that all day. But that’s okay. At the end of the day, those trainers don’t, they’re not successful. They don’t make it. So what, what’s your favorite workout to do yourself? Oh geez. My, my personal favorite workout. I have a huge tugboat rope that a friend of mine gave me and it weighs about 420 something pounds. It’s a hundred feet long and it’s about, it’s about probably five inches.
Like a softball, maybe bigger. Yeah. And it’s a hundred feet long and you can throw a loop over one shoulder and run it out and it gets heavier as you go cause you’re creating more friction as the rope gets longer and drags. And when you’ve got it completely pulled out and you turn around, you drop it and you pull it back in with your arms and you see how many times you can go back and forth with that, that it’s just brutally embarrassingly humbling. So that’s a 15 minute workout. If it’s you doing it by herself, not even, you do it probably five or six times out in back your smoked. There’s no way you’re going more than that. I’ll do it with my friends or my brother and I love to do it. I’ll take it to the ranch and we’ll run it out in San many times.
We can do it before we gas out and we’ve gotten up to 50 him and I going back and forth. But that’s not a speed. We’re very much paced. Yeah, just getting it to the end. Resting one on one personal, run it out, the other a pull it in and then the reverse it. So I’ll man adds a little rest. But it’s fun. So what’s the who, who’s your favorite type of person to train? Enthusiastic ones. People that are there and you know, we’re not trying to, like I said, we’re not reinventing the wheel and that, that you really just need to be motivated and be happy to be there. Just know that if you’re going to work really hard but it’s going to end and then you’ll feel better about it. And those are the ones that are the absolute best people to work out with because they’re probably smiling regardless of what they’re doing.
It makes it so much easier for me to be optimistic and, and have fun with you while we’re working out. [inaudible] Those people are the ones that are really going to see a difference and really embrace the lifestyle rather than the people that come in and be like, I need to lose 20 pounds in a week. Yeah. You’re like, Oh God. Well, I think that positive energy is very transferable between the two of you and being around people that are that way. I mean, if you had to choose, you get to choose your own life and you’re choosing your own business and your own company. Yeah. Those, those seem like the type of people I’d want to be around as well. Now you can’t always choose your shows up. That’s what not bad. So what’s something that you wish you would have known when you started that you, you might know now?
I, Oh I really, I guess I said I wish I would have done this earlier, I guess is one of the probably the biggest thing. I don’t know if that really answers the question. You asked the same same answer that somebody else has given. So I think, I think that’s a, that’s gonna be a common theme there really is. Man. I did it. I started when I was 33 or 34 and I’m 40 now and I wish I would have done it when I was 24, 25 just because it’s a young man’s game to be out coaching, especially group classes and stuff like that. It’s incredibly draining on your energy levels. It’s so much fun and I feed off crowds and I love it, but if I coach one or two classes back to back, I’m smoked. I’m absolutely just drained. And I wish I would have done it earlier only because I’m sure it would’ve been way more stakes, but I wish I would have done earlier just because I would have had a longer stint in the excitement of being outside and working with people and stuff like that and not so quickly transitioning into more of the office, the desk, you know?
So yeah. So what, what does success look like for you? What does success look like? For me, I guess success looks like for me, I get to travel a lot. I get to live a great life. I live in Tarrytown. I have all the toys I ever need. My success has changed a lot from coming from software where I kind of gauge my success by how much stuff I had. I now gauge my success on how much I’m I fiving people and smiling and enjoying life. So every day that I don’t dread waking up for a sales meeting or something like that is a day I’m very happy with. So that is my success. It was not stressing out over someone else’s quota or something like that. I tell I get that. And one of the reasons why I, my mountain thing is I was tired of meetings, pointless meetings. I haven’t filed meetings, just not pointless ones. I had meetings to plan meetings at IBM. It was amazing. That’s it’s comical. So who has been the most important person in your life?
Oh, outside of family or within family? However you, however you want to. My father. A father or brother. That’s a hard, that’s a tough one. Okay. How about outside of family? Outside family? That would be my girlfriend currently. She has really made life very easy for me. We since almost a year now she has made, I guess everything’s seem a little more fun. And so it was kind of reignited that that passion of like getting out and helping people and doing stuff. You can get burnt out pretty easy if you got both ends lit. And so I think that everyone needs someone else to kind of like much like when I started, you know, I was, I knew I could do it, I kind of want to do it, but you need someone else to kind of show you, like, I believe in you, you can really do this.
And I think she’s done that for me tremendously. Just this last year that’s kinda opened my eyes up to a whole lot of new opportunities with the business and even outside the business. And another one that I’m starting. Mmm. And she’s really gotten me to step away a little bit and embrace, not working and taking long weekends to go places and resetting all right. Settings big for me. I, that’s where I get my best ideas and yeah. You know, especially after you kinda have your foundation, which is your current companies, foundations, Don, you know, obviously it’s gonna always have, need some help to keep running, but you know, you never know what your next idea, how much that can be worth. And if you’re just struggling doing 40 hours doing this or watching TV all the time, you might not ever think about that big idea, you know?
So this other businesses, is it too early to talk about or is actually decided to do it last year and had to put it on hold due to some transitions and stronger. And I was grooming a guy to kind of take my position. And so in doing that, I couldn’t just bail on him and say, good luck, figure this out. So I held back and didn’t start it yet. So it’s going to be a 2020 thing, but it’s still in wellness. It’s just a consulting firm for corporate wellness. And so what it’ll do basically is I’ll go into companies and basically just find out what they want and what they need around wellness and design it, package it, and then outsource it to companies. Here in Austin, there’s plenty of people doing wellness. There’s plenty of fitness companies, there’s a bundle of people that know what they’re doing very well, better than I am, better than I can.
And so I’m going to take my background in sales and corporate world and utilize that to an extent of navigating org charts and going into companies and basically talking with executives or even just HR people about what they need and what they could use. Package it up and let somebody else do the the sweatiness. So that sounds like something that you could expand outside of Austin with. Yeah, very easily. Everywhere. Pretty much. Yeah. That’s the plan, right? Scale it, very scalable. I tried to make both my business ventures scalable and I never wanted it to be just Martin fitness. I’m not Jillian Michaels, I’m not going to be a celebrity trainer. So that you know, it’s tough. It’s very hard to do and you’re limiting yourself tremendously. So if you can build a brand or a community or even a a methodology, people can buy into that across the board and you can put that anywhere and people buy into it.
But nobody outside of my friends or maybe just a small network here in Austin who Jess Martin is, and so it was very hard for just fitness to take off in Dallas. If nobody knows who Jess is. So yeah. I also think that, you know, you start spreading yourself pretty thin. If you’re the only face of the company. Nobody wants to take anybody on his classes. Yeah. Glasses, Jess, fitness windows. Just teach. I want the best. Well, try to drive to Dallas again. All right. So any regrets with I don’t know, with the company that you started or life in general? Yeah, there’s plenty of, there’s lots of potholes I stepped in and lots of things I could have done better. I think the biggest regret I have was expanding too fast too soon. We branched way out into some realms that we were not ready for.
Mmm. [inaudible] With the mindset of let’s sell it and figure it out kind of thing. And that works to an extent. But I found myself spread real thin trying to find people that do sports specific training and yoga and [inaudible] and all these things. And I had no idea about but I promised the world to get a deal or to get into a new vertical and then tried to figure it out. And I found myself trying to figure out too many things at once. And so I almost had to, I didn’t almost have to, I had to pull back and turn deals down and say, I can’t do that. Which I absolutely hate doing in order to make sure that we survived and could continue to be profitable. Yeah. And it’s just a, I mean it sounds like that’s something that you couldn’t do the quality control cause you, you yourself didn’t know have the knowledge base.
So what’s w a, for those who don’t know what for a strong harm, what is your kind of I guess I wouldn’t say differentiator, but maybe like what do you guys specialize in? So we, we, when we very first started, we were outdoor bodyweight bootcamp. Very, very simple. That morphed two years after all the Cambodia or comparisons we became, we started to be more kettlebell, this specific, and then we became kettlebell training specialists. That’s what we did for the last couple of years. Within the last year and a half, we’ve transitioned even farther out of that. And now we just, we have some outdoor classes still that we do and we are so kettlebell specialists but the main point of our focus and the, the, the vast majority of our business now comes from remote coaching corporate wellness and fitness center management. Great. So walk me through like the day in the life of Jess Martin.
Like what, what do you thought about bed, the cracking, noon. Any, any daily routines? Boom. Oh God. I’m a man of routine. It’s, that was one thing that my girlfriend got me out of was just, Oh, I would call it a routine. She would call it a rut. Yeah. Take it for whatever it is. But no, I’m a, I’m a man. I’m strict habits. I very much enjoy waking early in the morning having my coffee, getting, I’m starving as soon as I roll out of bed. So I have to eat food. I journal now. I enjoy being outside more, have to take my dog for a walk by seven o’clock or so I’m working and that’s just checking emails and stuff cause I go to bed at like nine o’clock, so I miss the things at night. And then from there it’s just I work typically if I’m not coaching in the morning I work from home or coffee shops or whatever till about lunch and that’s when I start meetings.
I try to schedule all my meetings after my morning. After reading Tim Ferriss’ book back in the day, I tried to make sure that I leave kind of everything. I get as much as I can, crack away early, set up my meetings and stuff to all kind of go back to back where I don’t have to focus on emails or responses or stuff like that. And then after that I usually work out in the afternoon, coach at night or go to go home and make my food and go to bed. Sure. So you said a couple of things in there that I think is interesting. So when you wake up, it’s not email first. So no, no, no. Which I think is different from a lot of people know it’s me. That’s me time. I like to get up early and I like to actually enjoy starting the day with abs and this is going, I’m about to start getting real hippy here.
But I like to go over my gratitudes and stuff like that and I’ll write my journal and I make sure that I start [inaudible] again. I make my bed every single morning as an accomplishment. I’m done. First thing when I wake up, I have accomplished the goal, check that box and then I go into what I’m grateful for that day. My girlfriend and I do the same thing back and forth, what we’re grateful for. And it’s just a way to start your day. Positive note. You not only completed a goal, but then your brain has already started to focus on being optimistic silver linings, things you’re happy about. Rather than waking up and going, shit, I have a meeting at 10 I got to prepare for. I don’t even want to be there. That kind of crap. That’s immediately tanks your day. And so you’re just going to constantly be in this funk.
So I’ve found that if you can kind of almost trick your brain into being positive, it’ll carry out through the day. And that you kind of led already into my next question which was the, so the journaling, is that part of the gratitude or is that separate? It’s both. I write it, I write my gratitudes in there as well. It’s not that you need to write every morning. Is it a, you know, you have five, five items [inaudible] it’s one my gratitude is one. I might write three things tops, but I want to make sure I have one every day. So I want to limit it down and not try and list every single thing. I’m grateful for the journaling aspect. A lot of it is just for memory, jogging and stuff like that. Ideas, I have business ideas, you know, like that or just kind of what I’m going through that time, that day or what transpired last night.
I had a crazy dream or anything like that. That’s kind of what I’ll put in there just to look back at. I started journaling years ago when I live in Dallas and all it was was every night I would recap what happened that day. And I did that for about a year and a half and the stopped, got lazy, but I still have that journal and I can look back at it. And when I read a page and that book, Oh my God, I remember that day. And it’s amazing what your brain can do if you have just something to jog it. And so I’ve found that writing things down like that, just even if it’s kind of what, what happened that day, a movie you saw, friends you hung out with, something that kind of might make that day stand out, your brain will file that away. And when you read it again, years down the road, do you remember a lot of other things that happened around that time that you had completely forgotten about?
I also think it’s a fantastic thing to download outside of your brain. I don’t think your brain is a very great a short term storage device because it constantly has to remember, remember. And as soon as you download it, you’ve kind of given permission. You could go ahead and let this go and open up for other ideas or thoughts or, or whatever it might be. So that’s, I thank you for sharing for that. So what does, so we’ve got a new company coming. What else does the future hold for you? Oh gosh.
Well that is a, is a big venture. I’m we’re a,
I have lots of travel on the books.
We’re going to Dominican Republic in December, and then I’m pretty sure I haven’t fully committed to this yet, but we’re going to Burma in March for a, like a doctors without borders thing. My grandma’s going over there and she wanted me to go along, somebody 10 days over there helping out people with medicine and just, apparently it’s not very going very well over there right now. So any helps. Good. And so I’m going to tag along over there and that’ll be probably the one big trip I do next year. I like the weekend trips, belonged, trips I get a little antsy about because I’m still not comfortable taking 10 days away from everything and being just shut off and be like,
I sure hope I come back to something [inaudible] seven eight days. Cause then yeah, start started. I wouldn’t say anxiety cause it’s probably a little too strong but it starts kinda creeping my, my thoughts start worrying a little more. Yeah, exactly. So yeah, that’s, I think that
Like as far as trips on that big concern or that’s the big, the big go and I’m 88% sure I’m going to do that. [inaudible] Really wants to go. So yeah. But then yeah, as far as business goes, I continue on to grow strong horn. We have the verticals that we’re in right now that we know are the most profitable, the most successful and the one that’s most scalable. So that’ll take most of our attention in 2020 as well as the consulting farm because that just goes hand in hand. And that’s easy. I could do that on my own kind of spare time and then whatever rewards or reap from that, great. I can basically, I’d take the really good deals and keep them in house for strong horn or outsource the ones that are a little less profitable.
So in this, I think they’ve kind of done this two, two times with your companies is it sounds like you just kind of go figure it out and then structure it as opposed to some people will want a perfect plan before they start. Yeah. I still don’t have a business plan for a strong one. I mean, I literally know whatever, I’ll figure it out. I don’t know. I don’t know that many people actually have a business plan. I think that’s, that’s something you do in college. But I mean, it does make sense to get things in the line. And you know, I always, when I help start their businesses, I, and I just do that kind of for fun. I’ve done quite a few of them actually, but is I, one of the first things a bank will ask you is how many, especially in, I would call your business somewhat a retail business, right?
Because you have people coming through, it’s not like a pop up shop, but Mmm. Is how many people would, does it take for you to break even daily, weekly, monthly. That’s one of the first questions a bank will ask you if you’re, if you needed a alone, you know, and that one’s great because then you can start spreadsheeting okay, if my cost is X, my profits, Y I need this man Z amount of people, whatever it is. Yeah. Mmm. But, you know, to F to stent of a full business plan, I think it’s great to have a vision. Bye. Thanks. Change real quick from start to, from, you know, where we started almost seven years ago to now. The only thing that’s the same is we have workouts.
I mean, that’s, that’s it. We’re in the workout industry Saturday, but yeah. Yeah. But for the most part, I mean even those have changed in how they’re, how they’re instructed, how they’ve gone about what times. And when we used to change the time every in the wintertime, it would be later in the summertime, it’d be earlier, and we just did away with that stuff. You learn as you go way more. So
Then you’ll ever learn thinking real hard at the beginning. Right? There’s just too many unknowns. And also thanks. Go a different direction. Is it a w it, is it, is the house stronger, isn’t it now? Is that when you started as this kind of what their vision was or is it completely different?
I would not say it’s completely what I thought, what I thought it was going to be was I thought I was gonna start and explode and then I was going to sit back and just be like, this is awesome. Look what I did here. And that’s not the case at all. Me just going to open my mailbox and then just dollar bills are falling out. But no, that’s not the way it works. And I, you know, going in, I mean, obviously it wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I did have this like, okay, if I’m going to do this, let’s get it built up and a couple of years I’ll stop training altogether and I’ll just run the company. And that was kind of it. If her, I never wanted to be a, you know, a 40 year old outdoor aerobics instructor,
At the end of the day, like I do enjoy coaching and I enjoy that to the point of like, I don’t know if I want to stop yet because I don’t want to be doing, you know, 12 classes a week, that’s for damn sure. But doing my,
That’s not hard. I mean, I can tell on your own terms to Monday to Wednesday at one Saturday. I’m okay with that. Yeah. You’re able to pick that. That’s a big differences. If you had to do 12, I think you could get a little burnt out or, or upset about it. But you’re saying that’s what you want. Yeah. so how’d you come up with the name strong horn? So my buddy Brett Brett tutor, who as a, as an actor now out in LA, he
He and I were hanging out. We used to play guitar and sing and stuff a lot and write songs and whatnot. And so he was over my place and he owned, I think he still owns it.
Oh he does own, but it’s a different name. It used
To be called green Longhorn. And that was the name of his home inspection company that was green cause they were, we were agreeing, you know, and everything they did, all the tests they did and like stuff was not harmful to environment and all that. And he wanted to keep it that way. And then he had the idea of going green Longhorn and he’s gonna have maybe blue Longhorn for commercial inspections and maybe grey Longhorn for that and all this good stuff. He kind of had that idea and he knew that I was toying with the idea of going into the fitness and he was thinking maybe he could have something in there and strong Longhorn came out and there’s a strong horn and then that’s just kind of fell into our lap. Mmm. And then, you know, I was like, that’s great, I’m going to do that. And that was like the name of it and I was like, okay, I think we’re going to have to run with that. That’s just too good. It makes sense. And then a year and a half later, Charlie strong got hired by UT and all shit.
Funny. Strong. Yeah. I didn’t, yeah, that’s interesting.
Sell strong horns. And it was very weird to be in a legal battle with UT over Mmm.
The, you know, the patent or not patent with the trademark, the trademark I had on that word. And you actually did have it, but it wasn’t in the right category to legal zoom and all that crap or trade Markia. And I didn’t, I didn’t pay attention to what they auto selected or something to the point of where I had a weird trademark. It was on like, it wasn’t on apparel or you know, shirts and stuff like that. Like that’s the one you wanted. Cause that’s what I buy. I was selling strong horn shirts and but I had a trailer on the left and I had first read a use. So like they, they couldn’t Sue me, they couldn’t take it away from me, but I also couldn’t afford to fight them either. Right. And so after a couple lawyer letters, which are very expensive by the way I just said script that we agreed to just harmonize the gas and he, they would use it and have full right. And they would protect it. And I was the only company allowed to use it as well. And then Charlie tanked and it became a bad name.
So, ah, so now I’m like, okay, let’s just let that go and just disappear. So let’s forget about that little stint with Charlie. Yeah. If you ever need a intellectual property, help, let me know. That’s what my wife does. So good to know, but she’s been in that business or her life yet. Is that the trademark deal that it does completely matter. And then you can do, you can run a search for it. And that is something that I would recommend literally just Google trademark search and you won’t come up and then you can kind of, but you know, for you, you’re like, this is my name. You’re not worrying about the Texas Longhorns. You know?
It was just by luck I decided to trademark that. That was definitely not a plan. Like I need to make sure I own this name or I would have bought all the categories. It would have been,
But if I were to the bucks thing a pot, it’s not cheap
To do that. And so now, you know, in hindsight, even if I did have them all, I don’t, I think we would have just been in a legal battle long enough to where it would have, he didn’t do well quick enough where if he had done phenomenal and they were to this day, still calling students strong horns, that would be different, but it’s not. So it it kind of worked itself out. So when you came up with the name, what was that? Was that, can I have you guys drinking back and forth? Like how did that actually pop into your head? That was, I mean it was literally because his company was green Longhorn, right? And we were drinking a bunch of wine and we just kind of flopped into and he, you know, he worked out and he worked out with me som and stuff like that.
So he was [inaudible] we were just kind of pow and back and you know, bouncing ideas back and forth about what other ventures he would be getting into. It wasn’t even about me at the time. And then he was like, Oh dude, we could just totally have a whole section that’s like workouts and we could just have a, a gym and like all the employees could go in there and all that. And that’s how it kind of, it came about. And then the name strong horn, strong Longhorn came out. And then we just shortened it to strong horn and that’s, it just kind of fell into our lap. I was like, all right, well I’m going to start a business. Well, tell me about your your music with you. Like what, what does it mean D w is it a release for you?
Do you write songs?
You just, my biggest creative outlet and my most therapeutic thing. My mom has played piano and sang and played guitar her whole life. And she forced me to take guitar lessons when I was a kid, excuse me. And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to play. So for a couple of years I took guitar lessons and she made me stay in choir all through high school. But then after that I just kinda fell out of it. In high school I had a friend who taught me how to play some guitar chords. Kyle Ferguson was my, my, one of my closest friends. He showed me some of that. Well then, boom, we became a band. And so I would sing in the band and he played guitar and then I learned to play guitar, so I’d play some and, and then that’s kinda took over.
Dave Matthews released a satellite and that was that. That was all in. I was like, all right, well, guitar is for me. So I played guitar since then. And I just, I don’t play it every day, but it’s not a week goes by that I don’t play in saying and goof off. And then I bought an old electric piano from a Baylor actually, and put that upstairs and started tinkering away on that and flow the learning to play that too. So it’s fun. It’s fun. It is absolutely the most therapeutic thing I do. Do you write any songs or just play? I do, but nobody ever hears them. They’re more like, just get this out so I don’t have to worry about it anymore. And then that, I mean more often than not, it gets watered up and thrown away. Mmm. A buddy of mine told me a drill to do when you’re in a bad Headspace or you’re just not in a good mood is to just write stuff.
Not even like just streaming thoughts, just write it all out and then like watt it up and burn it or something cause it, you can go weird ways, but that’s kinda like my music. For me, it’s all how if I’m [inaudible] unfortunately more often than not, music’s made about a sad piece or heartache or something like that. And so I’ll tend to right music out or to create in that area and it’s there. It makes you feel better. You kind of get it out, whether you’re screaming real loud or you’re just saying or you’re writing. And then whether I keep it or not, it doesn’t matter if I’m, if I enjoy it a lot, I’ll continue to play it and it’ll just be there. But sounds like a good way to work through some of that stuff though. It’s great. It’s like I said, it’s, it’s my most therapeutic thing that I do.
That’s great. You know, I, I think it’s, it’s always good to have some kind of outlet. It’s more interesting to me that you actually know that it’s the reason why it’s there, so you can use it properly. All right. So last question. How would you like to be remembered?
Ooh. As someone who left this place better than I found, it does. Someone who did something positive and good, not someone that was a drain, not someone that just kind of leached off of it, but I want to actually be known as someone who did something good and left it that way. Better than I found it.
Love it. I just appreciate it. Thank you, Jess for being on the podcast. Appreciate you having me.