By Catherine Martinez
When COVID-19 placed heavy restrictions on gyms across the country, many of these businesses closed their doors for good.
But Pattie Weed has a true entrepreneurial spirit running through her veins, opening a gym in the middle of a pandemic.
Pattie’s passion started a few years ago when she became interested in aerial arts, a type of exercise that involves performing acrobatic moves while suspended in the air.
“I had been doing traditional gym workouts, like everybody else, and needed something new and fresh,” Pattie said. “I found a studio that was close to my office, and I would leave at lunch and go take lessons.”
She has been a full-time CPA since 1993. But when her gym closed and the pandemic sent most office workers home, she had the time to think.
“We all had time to sit at home and think about what we love and things that we want to do or haven’t done yet,” she said. “There was a lot of time to plan…and there was some time to sit back and reflect and think about what else am I going to do.”
She felt like there had to be other people who wanted to exercise the same way she did, so she partnered with two of her friends to work on opening their own gym—a brave move since COVID-19 limited the number of people who could walk through the door.
Before she started, Pattie wisely took her time and did some thorough research.
“I always tell people, even my clients, if you’re thinking about doing something new, do your homework. Research, research, research. Get all your facts in order, and make sure you think through every possible scenario, and then go for it.”
She started calling other gym owners around the country to ask questions about what works best in their businesses and how they set their price structure. While researching, she found that people were helpful and willing to lend their business advice.
“That was very helpful to me because I knew all of the possible things that could go wrong before I got started,” she said.
When the gym opened in August, she was well prepared for what was in front of her. Word started to spread around town, and soon classes were filled to COVID-19 capacity limits. Gym members formed a community in a time when face-to-face interaction was hard to find.
“I think that’s why we’ve been fairly successful even though we’ve only been operating at 50% because people are getting that sense of community in the gym,” she said. “I’m excited about that. I never expected it.”
What’s the secret to starting a successful business while also maintaining a career as a CPA? Pattie says it’s possible because she has surrounded herself with good people.
“There’s no way I could do this all by myself. I don’t get a lot of sleep, but neither one of those seems like a job to me. I enjoy them both in different ways. My CPA career lets me be analytical, and it appeals to my math mind, and then what I do at the gym appeals to my creative side. They both feel like they’re rewarding in different ways, and I don’t mind the hours at all.”
There have been some surprises along the way, even for someone with Pattie’s business experience.
“I actually have been surprised at how difficult it can be to navigate opening a business. This was a great learning experience for me. It helped me understand more what our clients go through when they’re trying to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s,” Pattie said, referring to her accounting clients.
Despite the pandemic, the business has managed to break even and hold steady. Pattie has made this possible by utilizing a small crew of employees, teaching classes herself, and asking for help when she has needed it.
“When you own your own business, and you need help, I think you have to be willing to ask for help and willing to hear no. But if you don’t ask, if you don’t stick your pole in the water, you won’t catch fish.”
What’s her advice to aspiring business owners? Get sound legal advice and work with a CPA.
“Even if you are an attorney or a CPA, if you’re setting up a new business and you aren’t familiar with the industry, I still think you need to consult with people,” she said.
In spite of all the difficulties with starting a business during a pandemic, Pattie wishes she had started this adventure sooner.
“I just want to encourage people to step outside their comfort zone. It is so rewarding when you do that and succeed. It’s scary, but if you ask for help, and you surround yourself with good people, and you do the right amount of planning, it’s really hard to fail.”
Catherine Martinez is a contributing writer for Smart Women Smart Money Magazine. She can be reached at [email protected].