Interview with Ty Mealey
Wellness Pro Ty Mealey is a Fitness Trainer & Wellness Entrepreneur in Arizona. His international business and economics background makes him a great asset to the PocketSuite Pro community. Ty talks to CEO, Chinwe Onyeagoro and Managing Editor, Sean Litteljohn about opening his facilities and his holistic approach working with other health and wellness professionals.
How did you start using PocketSuite?
I’ve been with a few other popular processors before because we’ve been in business since 2015. We’ve just had weird little loopholes and glitches with them, things where they’ve stopped our business. We’ve never had problems with PocketSuite. My company does personal training, Chinese medicine, chiropractic massage therapy, naturopathy, and hormone therapy. It was amazing to find software that allows me to integrate all those services. We accept HSA and FSA payments. That’s another glorious thing because you allow people to pay for their training with those services.
How did you start your business?
We started back in 2015 in my apartment complex. I went to school for international business and economics, but I’ve always been into fitness. My mom dated bodybuilders. I’ve grown up around that kind of stuff. It all started back when I was at ASU and I did a fitness competition. My girlfriend, who is now my wife, has her bachelor’s in kinesiology and chemistry. She worked as a personal trainer at the time, and I was working in business finance. I wanted to do the whole Wolf of Wall Street 9 to 5 thing because of the security. Then I realized sitting in an office all day, that’s not me. It’s not healthy. It’s cool to land the big deals and have nice cars and stuff, but that lifestyle isn’t what I signed up for. Back at ASU, a lot of my friends were from Dubai and the Gulf countries. I was always wearing tank tops, and I liked fitness and competing. Those guys would ask me what I’m doing at the gym and if I was a trainer. I told them I work at a credit union in the corporate office. My buddies from the Middle East asked me if I would train them at our apartment complex.
We all lived in the same place, and it was a nice place with a full gym. I said, “Sure!”, so I would get off work at six o’clock and go meet them in the gym. They didn’t feel comfortable going to big box gyms because they were international students and don’t speak the best English. I started with these guys at my apartment complex; it was just a side job. My background working in banking and finance taught me how to file an LLC to report the income. I got the LLC formed and I started with two guys. They were paying for training every day of the week. Five days a week, they had the disposable income to do that and they prioritized their health. Two guys turn into, “Hey, I have a cousin.” or “I have a roommate.” It turned from two guys into five guys. I was getting ready to graduate ASU and leave my current job. I was going to work for an investment company and they made me my job offer. I thought that’s what I wanted to do. I had a two-week break between leaving my credit union job and starting the new one. During that two-week break, I texted all my guys and said, “Hey, if you have cousins or friends, please let me know because I have extra time to train.” Five guys turned into 12 guys training five days a week at $700 bucks a month.
What was your epiphany moment during those two weeks?
I was sitting at a restaurant with my now wife and we were talking about it. She said, “You’re just so much happier now than when you were going into the office every day.” She worked at one of the premier health clubs in Arizona. They paid incredibly well and she was super busy. She suggested we take the risk and do our own thing. We had the money. In the worst-case scenario, she offered to cover me and cover our expenses for the time being. Amazingly, we had only been dating a year at this point!
The Friday before I started my new job, I reached out to the recruiter I’d been working with throughout this process and said, “Hey, I know you guys have been bending over backward to accommodate me to do this incredible job. I’m really excited, but I want to pursue my small business for the time being. I didn’t want to seem rude because this was a phenomenal job offer coming right out of college. The recruiter said, “Well, we hire in August and in January.” I was going to start with the August group. She said, “Let me give you a call in December. If things don’t work out, we’ll get you here in January.” I thought, great! A safety net. Perfect.
I opened my first location in Scottsdale, a small, 1,500 square foot training gym. I would occasionally bring in medical doctors. My chiropractor would come by, my massage therapist, etc.. It’s 1,500 square feet and it’s not very big at all. They were just in the middle of the gym. So everyone would see them and say, “Oh, what’s that person doing?” Then I offered, “Well, I’ve got my massage guy here if you want.” Then that started filling up their books. So in 2018, we opened my location in Tempe. That one is about 5,000 square feet. Then as of March of this year, we opened one in Phoenix.
Since I started working for myself, half the time, I don’t know what day of the week it is. I think it’s Friday every day because I get paid to hang out with people I would hang out with anyway. It’s a fun environment. I come to work every day to hang out with people I like and get to help them.
You should start another one in Dubai!
I’ve been talking to my guys about it and they’re gung-ho. We were supposed to go towards the end of this year, but with good old COVID, there aren’t any international flights out of our country right now.
You said you opened in Phoenix last March. Given that Covid had just hit, did you just kind of soldier through it?
That whole thing started in February when we started looking at it. It’s inside of a corporate office and it’s on the first floor. We adjusted our business model now to fit corporate wellness. I was like, “This is amazing! Such an awesome deal and such a great location!” Then as we’re doing everything to open in March, all of a sudden COVID started spiking. So we officially opened June 1st when they let the gyms reopened. Then again, June 29th, they closed them all down again. We’ve been battling throughout this entire time.
Is the corporate office occupied? Are there people coming in and out?
They’re at 10% occupancy of their 3,000 employees. The first time I came to see this place in February, it was packed. There’s a coffee shop here and there were tons of people. It’s such a great opportunity and then COVID hit. I came back when we opened June 1st and they’re at like 10%, which is nice for parking and traffic but…
Is your wife in the business now or is she still working somewhere else?
She left her job training and came to work with us full time. Initially, she would do her job from 5:00 am until about 1:00 pm and then come and work at our location from 2:00 pm to like 7:30 pm at night. She was putting in super long days.
It’s amazing that one year into dating, she’s like, “Let’s do this!”
That was six years ago and as of 2018, we’ve worked together every day since. We’re inseparable for the most part. It’s awesome!
You’re in a good market. Everyone in Scottsdale goes to the gym.
That’s so true. When we started, most of my business was a lot of international students at ASU who felt uncomfortable going to large corporate gyms. That shifted when a couple of my buddies who were part of the LGBTQ community ran into the same issue. They didn’t want to go to some gyms because they felt like they were judged. When they reached out to me for training at my facility, I said, “Come by!” it doesn’t matter your skin color, gender orientation, or any of that stuff. “You’re a cool person.” We’re all fighting our own battles and we’re all here because we want to be healthier or look better naked.
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The other thing about big box gyms is they’re a meat market. There’s always that guy who is hitting on everyone. Do you provide a safe environment where women can train and not get harassed?
All of my facilities are private training facilities, so you’re there by appointment with a trainer. We don’t have a lot of people just hanging out or messing around. Because of that, we started taking off with the LGBTQ community. In the past few years, we’ve had a booth at the Phoenix Pride Festival. We do a lot of the local fundraisers and stuff like that. We try to give back to the community as much as we can. We’re happy to help out and if you can learn something while you’re there, why not?
A lot of our Fitness Pros are talking about what they’re doing from a social media perspective. How do you integrate some of those trends into the very integrated business that you’ve built?
90% of our leads come via our social media platforms. My business degree from ASU helped out. Each one of my locations has an LLC and it has a social media page. There is a wellness and training component under one roof within my buildings. Because of that, we post content daily on our training pages and the wellness pages. We also cross-promote with our practitioners and share content and ideas. Since I handle our social media, I’ll just go across the room and ask them, “What’s new?”
What is it that you love about what you do and what do you just loathe?
Loathe would be early mornings, I love to sleep. I never go to bed. Since I started working for myself, half the time, I don’t know what day of the week it is. I think it’s Friday every day because I get paid to hang out with people I would hang out with anyway. It’s a fun environment. I come to work every day to hang out with people I like and get to help them. I love it.
Do people still get to train with you, the legend?
I haven’t had any openings for in-person clients in quite a while. I’m having to go back and forth, run the business, do all the social media stuff, etc. A lot of the back office things that people don’t see. It’s a surprising amount of work, which granted I’m very lucky to have my wife. We come home and pass out at about 9:00 PM. I need to put the iphone, the iPad, and Apple watch all down because I could still be talking to a stranger on social media, trying to make a new connection. I need to get to where my work/life balance can exist.
You said you offer hormone therapy?
We have the clients and we were outsourcing them to another local hormone therapy place. When I hired my naturopath, we just started doing everything in-house. For example, suppose you are a new client coming in before an initial training session. In that case, we ask for your blood work and a physical, the full hormone panel of your testosterone, estradiol, thyroid function, vitamin deficiency, nutrients, all that stuff. Before anyone ever comes in to train, I say, “Hey, let me set up an appointment with my naturopath for you.” She’s going to run your labs to make sure that you’re good to start training structurally, internally, and hormonally. The first appointment you’re going to do is with our naturopath for your full labs. When your labs are done, we schedule you with our chiropractor to do a full biomechanics assessment to ensure that your movement patterns are good. People usually have a neck, shoulder, or back issue, whatever the case may be. Before we start hitting the gym, we want to make sure that you’re good to go because we want you feeling great. With a HIPAA release, we can integrate all of our different practitioners to meet and discuss your program. Then, when you come in for your first session with your trainer, we pretty much know your medical history.
Now I know why you need a HIPAA compliant provider like PocketSuite! Have you ever thought about franchising?
It’s something that I’ve thought about and considered because it’s a fantastic idea and concept. As I’ve learned, everything is continually changing, and you have to adapt and grow. I have local trainers reach out to me. They’ll ask me questions and I’m an open book. I’m a hundred percent transparent because there’s more than enough clients for all of us to eat and all trainers should grow and thrive. Especially with COVID, people have gained excess weight and are more concerned about their health. I want to help people maintain good health and I’ve upped my wellness services in response to the pandemic.
What was the math you did that said it’s time to open my first facility and go all-in?
I came to the realization, “Hey, stop buying random things on Amazon, late at night and put that money into a potential lease.” My first lease, I didn’t know what I was doing. I hopped on. They gave me an offer, and I said, sounds good. I definitely could have negotiated a lot better, and I roped myself into too long of a lease. It’s one of these things where you live, you learn. When I did the lease on my second place, the third place, I knew what I was doing, going into it. In the initial four to six months of us opening my first location in Scottsdale, I would be lying if I told you I didn’t have panic attacks a couple of times a week freaking out because I thought that I just made all this money and now I’m overleveraged. I also bought all my equipment brand new, which I have not done since. It’s a fifth of the cost to buy equipment used. I drained one of my money market accounts that I had built up while training people, my complex took on this expense. That’s four to five grand a month before utilities, but I realized I could hire people to come work for me and I receive a percentage of their earnings. Starting our business was probably the scariest thing I had ever done in my life besides when I finally decided to propose to my wife and make sure I didn’t mess that up, definitely the two biggest moments in my life.
I love that you have so many different services available all under one roof. At PocketSuite, we love the all-in-one, go to one place, and get it done!
I don’t have to go to seven different locations and repeat information and transfer my files. That’s what I love about your app. Everything’s in there. I had a lot of trouble because I couldn’t find payment processing software that allowed me to do one-click subscriptions. With PocketSuite the first time my client makes a transaction or uses their card in person, that card is saved to their profile. PocketSuite is one of the very few services that does that. I’ve been with Square, Mindbody, etc.. I’ve always been polite and told them why I was canceling their service. That’s the best thing with PocketSuite and we do a lot of our business based on subscriptions. It’s all recurring billing on the same day every month, our training, massage therapy, hormone therapy, all that stuff. It’s super convenient because people get the alerts that their appointments are coming up and their invoices are due. Also, the ability to tip was one of the issues that I’m not going to say which other processors, but one of the other payment processing companies, we couldn’t figure out how to enable the tip feature. My massage guy half the time was like, “Well, they paid the price, but there’s no tip added if people don’t have cash.”
As you think about the future, what are you most excited about?
Honestly, it’s just the relationships that we’ve been able to establish and continue to build on. My training staff, one of my business partners, is one of my best friends from college. My wife, my doctors are all awesome people. I love people and learn stuff from my staff all the time, and my trainers are definitely more qualified and better trainers than I am. I come to work and get to hang around people that I love and respect. The expansions in the future mean I get to hire more well-educated individuals and learn even more.
I’m learning all this stuff as I go and I’ve had many people over the years give me information and help me out. So I’m happy to pay it forward.