Jon Jamieson – Owner, JP Fitness in Mankato
In the 1700s the word entrepreneur entered our vocabulary, meaning adventurer. The meaning has been honed over the centuries and is now widely regarded as one who launches and runs a new business. However, entrepreneurs remain adventurers at heart. Taking on great risks based on an idea or expertise one has developed in hopes of making a profit.
Entrepreneurism can be risky business. According to the Small Business Administration, the latest data from third quarter of 2016, shows 2,998 start ups in the state. (Startups are counted when business establishments hire at least one employee for the first time.) But in the same period, 2,948 small businesses closed their doors.
In this new section for Connect, we’ll bring you stories of local entrepreneurs. What made them take on the risk, the adventure? Where did they go for help? And how do they plan to survive?
We begin with JP Fitness in Mankato.
Out of college at the University of Minnesota, Pemberton native Jon Jamieson had not only a passion for personal training, but a passion to establish his own brand in the field and break the mold of what a gym could be in a city like Mankato. He took a few years to develop his skills and learn about the business end of the industry as an assistant manager at a Lifetime Fitness in the Twin Cities. He was enjoying it, but he met a woman, who would eventually become his wife, in Mankato and commuting from Mankato to the Twin Cities was wearing on him. He started thinking, it might be time to go out on his own. He started JP Fitness out of his garage in April 2016. His first big challenge: developing a business plan.
“It definitely was scary at first,” says Jamieson. “I had to figure out how to structure our appointments, especially because low-cost gyms are pretty saturated in Mankato. So I had to find out how I could fit in to the market here. I had to gain an understanding of Mankato’s market to know what price points to offer. With my model I knew I had to charge something that is obviously higher end but not obnoxious or overcharging. Then I had to figure out how many clients I need in each category to make the business plan work.”
Starting in his home he built up a nice list of clients. Armed with that list and a business plan, he knew he was ready for a physical location. And he knew right where he wanted that to be.
“Probably one of the first things I said to my wife was ‘If I do this then I want it to be in the Graif building’. I just knew this was exactly where I wanted to go.”
He moved into the Graif building in downtown Mankato in January of 2017.
“A couple of times driving back and forth I would stop here. Originally, I noticed Mortenson Construction was in here and I thought shoot..maybe it’s not going to work,” he reflects. “But they ended up leaving so I was excited and that really got me going. At that point I just knew it was meant to be.
“Now what do I have to do? How do I build it out? What equipment do I need to get? How can I offer something that is going to give people the experience of a full gym access but still be personalized enough that they are getting the attention they need to reach the goals they want to reach? So many questions.”
To help him answer these questions, he took advantage of the free services at the Small Business Development Center.
“The SBDC helped me out greatly with setting up social media, developing a Profit and Loss document. They even got me in contact with lenders and helped me get my start up loan. The help from SBDC was huge.”
Staying true to his vision, Jamieson was able to differentiate himself from others in the market.
“I thought the Mankato market was missing something like this. Even with all the low-cost gyms a lot of people fall through the cracks because they sign up at a low cost but then never use it. We do tend to be more expensive because you are paying for training sessions, paying for people’s time while you are here. But it allows you to get in here, learn the proper way to exercise, and just feel comfortable in a gym. So many come here because they are intimidated in bigger gyms. JP’s is in between so people feel comfortable here. That’s what I was counting on would attract more and more clients.”
His hunch was right. Now in his second year, he continues to grow each month.
“Business is good! Year over year we have growth every month, especially when you look at last year compared to this year.
“We have a good 10 to 12 new members a month. But what is also key is our retention is really high. A lot of people focus on new business coming in but that retention piece is also important. It’s something I didn’t do well at Lifetime that I wanted to focus on in Mankato and that’s been helpful.”
Lessons learned over the last couple of years have positioned Jamieson well for the future.
“Now we can see where the trends are and we have a good mix of one on one clients and small group training, although that could grow more and is likely where we will see growth in the future. But we have a good core group of members and the one-on-one training has gone exponentially better than I had imagined!”
5 Civic Center Plaza
Mankato, MN 56001