Business Spotlight – The Fitness Guild – Jacquie Blanchette
by Jim Barber
Building a Strong Business Plan Helped The Fitness Guild Build Strong Bodies
A desire to want to be healthier in body mind and spirit compelled Jacquie Blanchette to transfer out of university and enrol in the Fitness and Health Promotion Program at Loyalist College, with the ultimate goal of helping people not just look better, but feel better about themselves.
It lead first to being a corporate fitness trainer and personal trainer before opening a humble little fitness studio in what once was a mechanic’s garage in Rossmore a little over five years ago. With very limited potential for growth at that site, Blanchette worked hard to find a bigger, more convenient location for an expanded operation, eventually settling on prime ground floor space at the revitalized Century Place in downtown Belleville. It was here, on October of 2017 the she opened The Fitness Guild.
The Fitness Guild offers personal training programs as well as a host of unique and challenging group programs, and welcomes people of all ages and levels of fitness. Classes include a traditional Boot Camp, a AAA class, which is for your Arms, Abs and, um A**. There is also the Gears class which features a half hour on indoor bikes and then a half hour of circuit training.
“We have built a little community here where everybody feels supported, everybody is missed if they don’t make a class. We are all about making people feel better,” said Blanchette.
Trenval played a very important role in helping Blanchette get The Fitness Guild up and running.
“I got a $20,000 loan from them and a $5,000 grant and I used every penny to get new equipment. I had to get treadmills and elliptical machines and weight equipment and benches – so I could not have got any of this equipment without them,” Blanchette said, adding that the process of creating the business plan and going through the application process for Trenval was extremely helpful in its own right.
“I had to show them that I would be bringing in staff and creating jobs and really helped me nail down the details of my business plan. I had to set financial goals for each month and targets to hit, so now I know what I need to make in order to feel comfortable and confident that I am going to succeed.”
Enhancing the equipment options was just one challenge she faced. Another was a delay in being able to move into the new space. If Blanchette was not able to make a seamless transition from her old space to her new one, it might mean clients missing classes and session – and some of those clients may choose to go elsewhere.
“I negotiated with the landlord to put my equipment in storage and then shifted around to have a makeshift little studio so I could continue my personal training clients. And then because it was late summer, I held my classes outside in the local park. I just improvised and came up with ways to keep making money and keep my clients happy for those six weeks. And everyone came back, I had no one cancel on me,” she explained, adding that once she got Fitness Guild up and running, the next challenge was finding training staff that would fit within the ethos and vibe Blanchette wanted to create.
“It’s really important for me to now that I am on the same page as anyone who comes in here to teach classes. Right now it’s a pretty eclectic team but we all seem to click. Everybody has a different style, but everyone is very laid back, everyone is very passionate and team oriented.”
Overall the experience of moving into the new expanded downtown location has been a boon for Blanchette and her team at The Fitness Guild. And as much as the bulk of the ‘heavy lifting’ (if you’ll pardon the pun) was done by her, she is effusive in her praise for support she received from Trenval.
“They want you to succeed, so that’s why they wanted to make sure I had a solid plan and thought of every contingency – all the little things you maybe don’t think of at first that are going to be a cost. They really do want to help.”
For more information on The Fitness Guild, visit www.thefitnessguild.com