Brodhead Health & Fitness opened its doors 23 years ago and in March 2019, Heather Chojnacki became its new owner. She previously attended the gym as a client and worked part-time at the facility. She often had a great exchange of ideas with the manager. So, when the owner was ready to move on, Heather wondered if the time was right for her to try life as an entrepreneur.
She met with Kristi Smith, a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) consultant of Southwest Wisconsin. Heather chronicled how Kristi assisted with creating a business plan and financial projections and estimating the value of the existing business, exclaiming, “Kristi is awesome! I wish we knew her 10 years ago when my parents took over the business they now own.”
Kristi’s insights helped Heather realize she was ready to take the plunge. Brodhead Health & Fitness was already known as a local, friendly place to exercise, but in just a few months Heather has made changes to make it even more of a community favorite.
She added health coaching which provides one-on-one assessment of current levels and goals as well as nutrition support. She incorporated motivational themes when repainting the walls of the facility, and the center now retails healthy snacks and nutritional products as well as apparel adorned with the fitness center’s logo. Heather said, “The challenge was prioritizing all the new ideas I wanted to implement.” These changes were a hit with current clients, but Heather knew she had more promotion to do to gain new clients.
Lots of Community Support
Kristi suggested hosting an open house to get feedback on what customers really wanted and promoting that open house with press releases. The press releases were met with an overwhelmingly positive response. Three newspapers, The Independent Register, Brodhead Free Press and The Monroe Times, ran stories on the open house. The Sugar River Bank, which provided lending for the purchase of the business, got on board as well. They displayed a big banner on the front of the bank to boost the event. But they weren’t the only ones who wanted a hand in supporting Heather’s business.
In May 2019, the open house unveiled the “new” business. Many local businesses provided prizes for drawings, including a nearby salon. A flower shop contributed floral arrangements for the event and the Sugar River Bank donated snacks. Kristi Smith said of the open house event, “It was mobbed!” The success was evident: Heather enrolled five new members and a new health coaching client in one day.
Accomplishments with the Southwest WI SBDC:
- Business plan
- Financial projections
- Estimate of existing business value
Big Dreams for the Future
Currently, Tae Kwon Do classes are offered at Brodhead Health & Fitness through a local cooperation with Excel Partner. Heather has hired three additional part-time instructors, growing the staff from 2 to 5 team members. And her success isn’t likely to stop soon. The fitness center added tumbling classes for kids in June, and she plans to upgrade the cardio equipment a little at a time. But Heather said with a smile, “My big dream is to own a facility. I’d like to build a bigger facility so customers can enjoy a track and a larger aerobics room.”
Kristi said, “Heather is a very positive and upbeat person. I loved the chance to help her retain an existing community business, and I look forward to continuing to assist Heather with new marketing for her dream.”