Our Meet the Merchant series features Q&As with real-world Clover merchants. Read our full catalog for innovative ideas and real-life stories of small businesses in action.
In this installment, we chat with Tammy L.S. Wright. Along with John Wright, Tammy is co-owner and co-founder of ABC Fitness Connection in Waldorf, Maryland. She shares how their fitness studio aims to support healthy lifestyles in all aspects, why providing some free services is key to her mission, and how they have adapted to changing circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clover: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today, Tammy. Can you tell us a bit about how and why you started ABC Fitness Connection?
Tammy Wright: Our fitness studio is just over 15 years old. When we first began, it was only part-time because my husband and I were both working full-time jobs and had a new family. But my husband experienced a lot of hardships at his job that ultimately led to his termination in 2008. John job hunted and went to several interviews without any success. That is when we decided to turn this bad situation into a business that supported our passion… fitness!
We were already doing fitness part-time. We’re both retired military (I served 22 years and he 23) and he completed 3 combat tours overseas. We decided that with our military physical training and our passion for fitness, that this would allow us to make a positive change in our community. We thought, “Let’s make this part-time business full-time!”
We started off as a mobile fitness business. John would load the equipment into our truck and trained clients in the comfort of their homes or place of work. One day John wanted me to meet one of our customers who had an office space that we could rent in their medical practice. And that’s how we got our first physical location.
Clover: One of your programs is called the Power Women Initiative (PWI). Can you tell us more about that?
Wright: A couple of years ago, I spoke at a conference about wellness for women. In our business we focus on the physical aspects of wellness, but addressing these issues often brings up psychological barriers we all face when taking care of ourselves. It can be something from childhood, it can be something that happens in the client’s place of employment, it can be something that they’ve been battling with internally for years. I had all of these ideas that I had scribbled on paper over the course of two or three years. I wanted to help women not only physically, but also mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and environmentally. We’re always trying to make sure that when people come into our environment, the attention is strictly on them.
Why women? I noticed that women, in particular, often need space to explore their power and strength, and so I began designing the Power Women Initiative. What pushed those pieces of paper to become a reality was when I competed in 4 pageants, and I saw that some women were trying to validate their wellbeing through the “physical” crowns. But we all already have crowns and tiaras on our head, we just don’t recognize that they’re there.
The Power Women Initiative brings women together in a sacred place where we support one another. Women that participate in it have to sign a confidentiality statement that none of the information will leave that space. We pair women with others that may have been through a situation that they are currently experiencing. For instance, back in 2012, I considered taking my own life. I confided in one of my coworkers. She was there. She listened. She didn’t talk, didn’t tell me what she thought I should do. She just listened. And as I talked, I was able to sift through my baggage. She said the words that I would never want to forget: “That is not an option, so what are WE going to do?” It’s not like she paid my bills. It’s not like she helped me to keep my house. It’s not like she helped me with anything that was going on. But she included herself in my mess, and that made a difference.
So that’s what Power Women Initiative is. We have people come in and speak on a lot of topics: social, financial, emotional, environmental, intellectual, and physical. But it’s not just a workshop. It’s active tasks that help us heal and strengthen. The goal is to finish the year with a celebration because we’ve grown in each one of those dimensions.
Clover: Running a small business can be financially risky. How are you able to prioritize PWI providing free workshops?
Wright: I look for ways that we can have the workshops without incurring a cost. We’ve been lucky to have a number of organizations donate space for our meetings: libraries, schools, and parks & recreation centers. Our speakers and workshop leaders volunteer as well. I don’t even have to go out and look for them. They see it advertised and email me asking to get involved. So as long as we’re able to keep expenses down, it will continue to be free.
Clover: Why did you choose Clover as your POS system?
Wright: Clover supports veterans. I don’t believe enough organizations support veterans. Also, Clover was really straightforward with no hidden fees, so that made our decision easy. We can access our info wherever we are, even on our phone. If my husband’s doing a boot camp at a different location and he needs to make a quick sale, he can use it there.
Clover: We are very proud to support our veterans! Do you use any of the tools within Clover beyond payments processing?
Wright: Yes! Many of them. We use it to manage our inventory and use the Homebase suite to schedule our staff. Our clients love Rewards, too. When they use our services repeatedly, we offer a variety of rewards including a free water bottle, a free t-shirt, or even a free boot camp. We love how easy it was to set up our loyalty program.
Clover: How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business?
Wright: Ironically, we were doing virtual personal training many years ago. And for the life of me I don’t know why we stopped. But to get back into it now was really, really time consuming. One of the good things that we did with our clients recently was host a “we miss you” Zoom call. We were so happy to see so many of our customers, say hello, and see if anybody needed prayers. We let them know about COVID-19 requirements to ensure their safety, and the programs we are putting in place to help continue their work towards reaching their goals.
It also gave us an opportunity to tell them about the virtual boot camp we launched. I had already been doing virtual Zumba classes for free, just to get people moving, because if you’re sitting around, that’s not going to help. We have a lot of participants. The boot camp has been a huge success, too. And I’m thinking that we want to start offering free virtual wellness sessions, no more than 15 or 30 minutes, where we talk about eating tips, exercising tips, mental tips, somewhat like Power Women Initiative, but all-inclusive.
Clover: Do you have any advice for other small business merchants?
Wright: I would just say do everything you can to keep your expenses and operational costs down. Make sure you’re saving for a rainy day, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Try to build a positive relationship with your landlord. Our relationship was a significant help to us in weathering this thunderstorm.
To those with Stay At Home orders, I recommend getting out and walking or doing something outside! The outdoors has its advantages because we can connect with nature. Take a deep breath in and focus on the present. Yesterday we did a little cookout with my family and it felt good just to go outside and sit and eat. This, too, shall pass, and regardless of the outcome, do what is right for you and your family without worry about what others might think or say.