Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and fitness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Debra Williams, Owner of S.M.A.R.T. Fitness Studio, located in Philadelphia, PA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

S.M.A.R.T. Fitness Personal Training and Exercise Studio is a private and independently owned boutique-styled fitness facility in West Philadelphia/Bala Cynwyd. We are a body-positive studio, and our differences make us beautiful. Therefore, your current activity level or age, body type, shape, or size, does not matter to us! We care about the best approach to optimizing your health and will encourage you to set fitness goals that will help you ensure the maximum probability of success. We offer fitness classes such as Spinning, Zumba, MixxedFit, Yoga and Chair Yoga, and Mat Pilates.

Get Fit! Get Strong! Get Lean! Get information about Nutrition! Get Flexible! Get Healthier! Have Fun! Laugh! and De-stress! Meet new people! Bring your friends...workout together! Spread the word and get SMART about your fitness!

Tell us about yourself

I became a small business owner after my own fitness success. I was overweight and had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. After hiring a personal trainer, I lost weight, brought my pressure down, and had a normal cholesterol level. It took two years!

I wanted others to have the success I had, so I became a personal trainer and got my aerobics certification and a Spinning certification. I put a second mortgage on my home and opened my studio in January 2017! I acquired a storefront and transformed it into a boutique gym. It is twenty-six hundred square feet. I leased all the exercise equipment and bikes and put other supplies and reception desk and miscellaneous stuff on credit cards.

I am motivated each day by the people who come in to start or continue with their fitness journey! And it is a journey. It doesn't happen overnight. I love seeing people sticking to the journey and seeing results!

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Wow! Everything about SMART Fitness Studio makes me proud! The fact that I made it through the pandemic when other larger studios didn't makes me proud. I feel for those studios, but I never got too big for my britches! Meaning I never forgot the customer. Profit is important, but the customers are everything! I don't charge a membership fee, and all my offerings are a-la-carte. From classes to personal training, a membership fee would be a wasteful use of a customer's money. People do not like maintenance or service fees or whatever you want to call them. My biggest accomplishment is surviving the pandemic through adverse conditions and an economic downturn when fitness is the first thing off a person's list of things to do. I made it through!

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

I would say one of the hardest things that comes with business ownership is in the beginning when people didn't know I existed. They didn't know SMART Fitness from a can of paint! They didn't know my location, they didn't know what I had to offer, and they didn't know what a wonderful studio I had created. All that changed with advertising, but it's still a struggle, and I didn't know my advertising budget would be a constant expense. When starting your own business, advertising is key! Make it a budget expense!

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Have a passion for your products or service. Whether you are doing great and making a profit or doing poorly and not where you want to be as far as making a profit, be even and grateful for what you have—good or bad!
  2. In running the business, focus on the customer. You can't go wrong. How would you like to be treated? Think of yourself as the customer.
  3. In growing your business, be flexible and quick to adapt. When an idea that you had in the beginning is no longer working. Change it! Make bold decisions and creative decisions.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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