Two years ago my life was changed forever. I’m forever thankful that I had the courage to make it happen even when the change had everyone around me calling me crazy. Not many people believed in my vision at first. To be honest, I think that no one truly believed in it except for me.
This time two years ago I was working 6, even 7 days a week, 1,000 feet below ground as an underground coal miner. I had already been in the mines for 3 years and had seen great success there. From my starting wage of $10 I quickly climbed up the ladder and in under a year was making $28 an hour. At this point I was really enjoying the work. I was learning how to operate all kinds of heavy machinery and as I excelled I set more goals for myself. I wanted to do another 3 years underground and then get my boss paperwork so that I could become a mine foreman. I don’t half-ass anything. If I’m doing it, I want to be the best.
Fast forward a little bit and I’m now turning 20 years old. I went from the kid who barely got through high school to making upwards of 90k a year. I had a home that cost me $160,000, an in ground pool, a brand new car and motorcycle and knew that anything else I wanted, I could get.
At this point I had life by the balls but as time went on that 1,000-foot elevator down the hole got longer and longer. I could tell now that mining wasn’t my passion and as I caged down each day I began to lose more and more of whom I really was. I knew right then and there that it was time to make a change.
Like all good changes, it presented itself. That’s not to say that I didn’t have to put in a lot of work, because I did. I put myself in a position to meet with one of the most well known faces in the supplement industry, Cory Gregory. After just a few conversations I asked Cory if he had any employment opportunities within the supplement brand at the time. Even if he didn’t have any openings, I made it hard to say no. I made myself 110% available, offering to relocate, mop floors and clean bathrooms. Anything he needed done, I would do because I knew the opportunity was such a great one. Cory G took a chance on this coal miner kid from the valley and offered me a job in sales in Indiana. No questions asked, my bags were packed and I was on my way to a new life in Indianapolis.
Though I was in Indy now, I still had that home I mentioned earlier. I was convinced that if I couldn’t sell, I would have to file bankruptcy but that didn’t bother me. I don’t know how to explain it but I knew that way was ahead of me was far greater than anything I could comprehend and, if I had to, I’d file bankruptcy 10 times over for that.
I had this vision and I could make these sacrifices but no one, and I mean NO ONE, believed in what I was doing. On the outside my mom had my back but I could tell even she thought it was a crazy idea. She had every right to think that. I was leaving a job making over $100,000 a year to make $30,000 in this sales position. Just looking at the numbers it’s easy to see why most would call this move irresponsible but I wasn’t just looking at the numbers.
Even then I knew that sales for a supplement company wouldn’t be my career but I looked at this for an opportunity to reach a bigger market and get the right people to know my name and what I was all about. Nine months into the sales gig and I was really starting to get the hand of it. Shit, I was actually really good. I love to meet new people and make new friends and that’s exactly what this job entailed.
Then it happened. I was driving a company vehicle on my way to a supplement store when I got call from the national sales manager and HR. I remember this conversation so vividly: “Zach, due to cutbacks we will be terminating your position in Indiana. We have other opportunities elsewhere if you would like to apply.” My exact response was, “Where do I drop off the company vehicle?” Just like that I was jobless, 500 miles from home and with no income. To make matters worse, I got the news on December 1st, just 24 days before Christmas. Now what?
That phone call let me know that I could never put my financial security into another man’s or company’s hands again. In that moment I knew the only option I had was to work for myself. It was finally time for me to be what I was destined to be. Later that day I went home, broke the news to my girlfriend and began telling her my next moves. I had plans to start online training and she was all in. Her belief in me gave me a stronger belief in myself.
In the first two months I went from no clients to over 70 clients. I knew that my online business was onto something. I had already been building myself as a brand on social media for the past five years. I had competed at a high level and set world records in the Jr. division in the respective weight classes which gave me credit as a coach. Not to mention that I had already been involved with, and studying, the sport for over a decade now. Still, something was missing. I had a steady flow of income but I knew that online training couldn’t be my “career” either.
I had to level up and that’s when owning a gym crossed my mind. I was dead set on the idea but I couldn’t wait; I had to own it now. There were a few obstacles that stood in my way thought. All of the money I was earning from my online training was going to pay back bills that had accumulated over the past year in Indy. I had next to no money, no prior business experience and no gym equipment. On top of all of that, I had went to college just a few years before and then I failed out of 2 business classes, causing me to drop out. I had this doubt in my head because of those failures that I wasn’t going to be a very good businessman.
In the moment though, none of that mattered. I wanted to own a gym and the vision for Iron valley Barbell was already there now. Way before I purchased my first bar or the first member walked through the doors; I knew Iron Valley would be a thing.
I began calling every leasing agent in the metro-Indy area and explained my situation. When you have next to no money or equipment to fill a gym with no one wants to give you the opportunity. One guy hesitated just a little longer than normal before denying me and that was enough for me to email him half a dozen times and leave 2-3 voicemails per day. (Honestly, I’m shocked he never filed a harassment suit.) I was persistent and I was resilient. I knew that if I had the building, I could get the equipment and if I could get the equipment, I could get the members. It wasn’t a bulletproof plan but it was my plan and I was willing to do whatever it took to make it happen.
When I found out where the leasing office was located I walked in unannounced. I knew that if I put my face in front of these men and women who continually kept me from my passion, purpose and calling that it would be a lot harder for them to do. I talked to the man that I had been pestering and told him my story and the vision I had for Iron Valley Barbell. As I talked I could see his demeanor begin to change. He took me in to talk to his boss and right there, on the spot, in my sweatpants, old sneakers and hoodie I delivered the most pure, raw pitch of my life. I had an undeniable passion and when I left that day I was finally on my way to owning my own gym.
The equipment came and so did the people. Just 3 months after being fired I had successfully started two profitable businesses. I kept my overhead low and my hustle high. I worked 18-20 hours every single day for the first six months after IVB opened. My businesses continued to grow and the vision became a reality. Now, 14 months since Iron Valley opened it’s doors, I own and operate 3 profitable businesses and am a partner in Max Effort Muscle.
I’m not saying this to brag, but instead to inspire. No matter how bad your situation may seem or how difficult times get, you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to.
At 18 years old I had been arrested twice for underage drinking and public intoxication.
At 19 years old I failed two business classes and dropped out of college.
At 20 years old I owned my own home and made 100k a year.
At 23 years old I moved 500 miles away for a dream no one else could see.
At 24 years old, against all odds, I opened up my dream gym.
At 25 years old the dream no one else could see is now seen every single day.
“Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see”
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