With so many exercise options available, how does a fitness enthusiast differentiate his company to result in THIS level of success? It might be an issue of passion, but he’s also very focused on his vision. And he’s talking to US! Esther Steinfeld Freedman visits with the founder of DEFINE Body & Mind, former competitive diver Hank Richardson.
Esther: This is the BusinessMakers Show heard on the radio and seen online at thebusinessmakers.com. I'm Esther Freedman, and my guest today is Henry Richardson. He is the founder of DEFINEbody, which has pretty much taken the world by storm in the fitness world, right?
Henry: Thanks, Esther. Yeah, no. We've actually been open for about two and a half years, and in that two and a half year, we are now are opening up our fourth studio.
Esther: That's pretty amazing.
Henry: Thank you, yeah. It's been lotta fun. We get to see a lotta clients here in the Houston area, and to see people changing both physically and mentally, it's a very rewarding job.
Esther: That's cool. So tell us, for those of us who don't know, because I personally have taken your class with you, even, and I'm very familiar with what it's about. But please tell people what exactly is DEFINEbody.
Henry: So we have a variety of classes, but the specific class you're talking about, DEFINEbody, it's a core strengthening, toning, total restructuring of your body class, we combine elements of yoga, Pilates. We do a lot of core conditioning. We add a little bit of light weights to it to make it a full, full cardiovascular, toning, and strengthening class.
Esther: It's really cool. So one of the things that's been mentioned with me and my colleagues at the Businessmakers is that this seems like a very competitive industry. Especially right now, it's the New Year. People ready to get back into shape. How do you differentiate yourself from the thousands of other options out there?
Henry: There are a lot of options, and it's easy for people to get confused with what is and isn't good for them. And what we do is actually such a welll-balanced focus on the strength as well as flexibility, so this kind of exercise you could do for the rest of your life. So our clients that come in with injuries or even not having injuries, they come in, they see changes in their body, and they're feeling the best that they have in a very, very long time. And they're all ages, all fitness levels, all body types, and they're seeing that change. So it just makes it very, very easy for people to start to believe and see the results.
Esther: That's cool. Yeah, I know people do see a lot of results, and people rave about your classes. In fact, I see on Facebook and all kinds of social media outlets. What are you doing to get the word out about DEFINEbody? Obviously, Twitter and feedback. But what else are you doing?
Henry: Yeah. Well, originally, we started off definitely with some traditional print advertising, and that was definitely a great way for us to build some credibility, being a new company. But really, it truly was all about our clients, and our clients are some of the sweetest, nicest people. They promote us constantly, primarily just because they're feeling so great, and then they're seeing the results in their bodies, and you can't help but want to talk about that. I mean, just today, I had this girl telling me that she was getting her hair cut the other day and her hairdresser was like, "What are you doing? Your arms are looking amazing," and she told him something about DEFINEbody and he was like, "Oh, of course. Every one of my clients is going to DEFINEbody now." So it's really, really great to have that kind of influence on people's lives, but mostly it's them just being happy about what all is going on with their own body so that that's what's promoting our business.
Esther: That's very cool. So tell me a little bit about you. How did you get your start in this business?
Henry: Yeah, it's kind of a random lots of pieces of the puzzle. I've actually been very athletic and active my entire life. I used to be a springboard and platform diver, and I did that from the age of about 10 until I was 22. And I went to college on a scholarship, a diving scholarship. But throughout my college cross-sector, I was having lower back pain, and a doctor told me, "You need to try to get to yoga or Pilates, or else you're gonna have to have surgery." And so I did. I started take yoga and Pilates, not as a career or anything. I just was doing it for my own health. And I actually became a schoolteacher. I did this program called Teach for America in the South Bronx, and standing on my feet all day, my back was killing me, so I started to really get more involved in it. And I was on schoolteacher's salary in New York City so I wanted to make a little more money, decided to teach yoga and Pilates, and it just kind of evolved from there. I started working for a company called Exhale, in New York City, and then I helped them open up several of their locations. And then I decided to move back to Houston where I went to business school here in Houston at Rice University, and then from there, decided to open up my own business. And that's how DEFINEbody & mind came about. In fact, while I was in business school, one of my professors said something about, "You need to define your responsibilities once you graduate," and that word "define," stuck out so much to me, that's how I came up with the name was in business school.
Esther: Wow. That's a pretty interesting story. So you don't just have a fitness background. You really do have a business background.
Henry: Right, yeah.
Esther: How important was that business background in getting your business up and running?
Henry: I think it's, for me, personally, it was very important, because I knew that that was the component of what was gonna make truly a successful long-term company, was understanding really what a brand is, how to market, how to make sure that finances and everything that I'm doing budget-wise makes sense. And Rice was a huge support with that. And the whole second year of my MBA, it was all about focusing on my business plan.
Esther: Wow. So you came up with this business in business school, and then you put the plan into action.
Esther: That's pretty cool. So what are some of the other things you've done to make this business successful? I know - what are some of the challenges that you've faced?
Henry: Yeah. So having a company, we currently have 35 different people that are working DEFINEbody, at all the different locations. So it's- turned into very much an administrative role for myself. So, I, just making sure that I am understanding the pulse of all of our different instructors, understanding the pulse of our clients, keeping everything going as smoothly as possible, and making sure everyone is happy, including myself. But, honestly, it's the thing that I think makes it all worth it is just that this is something I love. I love, love, love this method of exercise, the way it makes us feel and look, but more importantly, just the fact that I have to do this on a daily basis. I believe in it. I've seen the results and the change, and I think other people see my passion within that.
Esther: So it's cool to come into this building. The building itself has a really interesting, cool ambiance. How did you come up with the concept for the space? Because the space is as important, almost, as when you walk in, there has to be this feeling of calm, and that you're getting your body into a good place. So how did you come up with the concept here?
Henry: Well, first, that makes me excited that you can recognize that, 'cause that was one of the main focuses that I had. There were really four focuses that I really wanted to accomplish, and one of them was the atmosphere. There's this idea of community. There's an idea of results. And then this whole idea of balance. Those were the four things that I wanted to focus on. And atmosphere, to us, means so much more than just a gym feel or a workout. It's really about creating this whole pristine, clean, inviting space, that makes people actually feel comfortable so that no matter what level of fitness you're at, you want to actually come in and say, "This is the kinda place that I can feel comfortable to take my goal to the next level and to just constantly improving and create that lifestyle of health."
Esther: That's very cool. And the other thing I noticed when I walked in was that you have a retail component. And the retail component does seem to make a big difference. People stay. They shop. They look around. How did you incorporate that into your business?
Henry: Yeah. So kind of along those same ideas of atmosphere, the atmosphere wasn't to be just workout. It was to almost have a boutique-type feel, and I don't use the term "boutique" to scare away guys. I mean it as a way to - it's inviting. It's comforting. It's very much something that people can walk in and say, "Oh, this is definitely different. This isn't like some of the other places that I've worked out." We have retail that kinda complements this whole concept of lifestyle, so we have these clothings that you could easily throw over your exercise clothing so that you can then go and do your daily chores and errands without it looking like you just came out of a spin class or a gym class. So it really is about making health and exercise a part of your daily life.
Esther: And that brings us to another question is what about guys? Are there men who come to these classes, or is it just women everywhere and you?
Henry: Yeah, everywhere. Well, I do take, almost daily, and we actually have a ton of guys that have been taking. And the guys that take it consistently - and the women are gonna hate me for saying this - they see results so quickly because it's all about stabilizing core strength, and both guys and girls need that. But anyone who has a lower back pain or injury understands that specifically. And most guys when they're in gym lifting heavy weights, they have pain in their back, they start to feel better immediately, and then they start to feel like they're getting even stronger.
Esther: And, plus, they're surrounded by hot girls.
Henry: What's not to like about DEFINEbody & mind, right?
Esther: I know. That's kind of awesome. So tell me a little bit more about the struggles that you face. I know becoming more of an administrator, that kinda sucks as an entrepreneur. You kinda wanna get your hands dirty. But what else are you struggling with these days. Are there any challenges that you've had to overcome?
Henry: Well, since we've opened up several locations within a short period of time, keeping the quality is always gonna be the biggest thing on my plate that I'm always trying to make sure is basically kept up high, that quality. And so that's what I focus on, on a daily basis. And I have a really great group of core members of our team that understand the value of that as well, and so we're all kind of working on developing this criteria to make sure that the quality is assured.
Esther: That's great. So I have one last question for you, and we ask this to almost all of our entrepreneurs. If you could give someone advice, someone who's really interested in getting into this business, or just in the fitness industry in general, or maybe any business, maybe your advice could apply to any entrepreneur, what would you say to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Henry: So it's kind of a two-part, and one is that you obviously have to have your passion for it. But it's really about trying to really explore every single element of the business. And I feel that my experience with my business school was the best thing for me. Because I used to be a springboard and platform diver, I'll use an analogy, it was the springboard, and the platform, Rice Business School was. But they were also this wonderful safety net for me to kind of fall flat if needed to a little bit, to really explore my ideas, to try to make sure that every single question that I had, I tried to thoroughly, thoroughly find the answer to.
Esther: Wow. That's really interesting. That's great advice.
Esther: Well, thank you so much, Henry. We really appreciate you being here today.
Henry: Thank you.
Esther: You're listening to the Businessmakers Show, heard on the radio and seen on line at thebusinessmakers.com. I'm Esther Freedman and we'll see you next time.