MILLEDGEVILLE — EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories featuring finalists for the Milledgeville Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce's 2014 Small Business of the Year award. The winner will be announced at the annual Blue Sapphire Gala Awards Dinner at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Milledgeville Country Club.
Bodyplex Milledgeville earned a second consecutive Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year nomination.
Co-owners Larry Mullis and Dr. Mike Martino, along with general manager and co-owner Adam Shields, who came on board in 2009, have grown from eight employees and 900 members to nearly 25 employees and more than 3,100 members, including the successful SilverSneakers adult and senior fitness groups.
“We were just honored to be in that final group last year,” Martino said. “This year we would really like to win it.”
Even with poor economic times, the fitness club continued flourishing. The club promotes healthy lifestyle and attitude change above all else.
Martino calls stress relief perhaps the most “unaccounted for” fitness benefit.
“We've still done well and increased our membership,” he said. “It's a place where community members can come and kind of forget about everything, but it's healthy. It's a win-win from that perspective.”
The club completed an extensive expansion, upping the usable gym space to 35,000 square feet last July. Doubled group fitness room, more free weights and other top-of-the-line equipment were part of selling the brand further.
Shields said the extra space removed restrictions.
“It just opened up our world,” Shields said. “It gave us a chance to show people something new that they hadn't experienced before. That was fun.”
Members approach a collective 40,000 pounds lost also.
Milledgeville's top fitness club fosters a unique, positive environment. Bodyplex is a place to sweat with no judgment.
Weight loss numbers tell a small portion of the larger Bodyplex narrative. A confident self-image is the optimal result.
It's not just about selling cool, state-of-the-art equipment access.
Shields said most people don't understand fitness.
“They don't know what it entails or what it could be,” he said. “A lot of it is just coming in and experiencing what fitness and wellness can do for you. We are a place that can help you live a better life, feel better and look better. At the end of the day, who doesn't have an interest in that?”
Bodyplex Milledgeville utilizes a young staff. Shields said 70 percent of the workforce is “college kids.”
“We aren't a group with a dedicated sales team. Everybody understands that we are interwoven as a team to pick up each other's slack,” the general manager said.
Trainers push continuing education and certification levels.
The business requires NSCA, ACSM or NASM accreditation.
“Those are really the top three certifications in the world,” Martino said. “We want them to be exposed to new material.”
The club sponsors numerous types of community engagement or charity events.
Bodyplex doesn't shy away from giving back as a successful small business.
“We challenge anyone to ask us for a sponsorship that we won't meet,” Shields said.
The business began a fundraiser passport program recently.
“It's something kind of different but can really meet the needs of anybody,” Shields added. “We can offer some of our services for them to get to a goal.”
Fundraising groups take and sell these passes in the community for $20. This 30-day pass grants the buyer 10 Bodyplex trips.
“Of the $20, we take zero,” Shields said. “For us, it's another opportunity to show the public what we offer and the fact that fitness is life changing in a positive way. We hope more and more people find out about it. There isn't a limit to how many of those we are willing to give out.”
Ownership stated that attacking childhood obesity is a top priority. Bodyplex feels “the burden of social responsibility.”
Kid and non-member programming will boost a healthy community vision.
The fitness club won't settle for average.
“Change is our only constant in a lot of ways,” Shields said. “To be able to provide an environment that people want to come to and choose to spend their discretionary income on is something that's very fulfilling and challenges us to keep coming up with something new and different.”