Blog: Jennifer Cornell

The go-to-girl for new economy public relations and proud co-owner of local fitness club, Joust, Jennifer Cornell is a daily fixture in Ann Arbor's biz scene. She volunteers at several non-profits and sits on the Governor’s Council for Labor and Economic Growth. Jenn will be writing about being an entrepreneur in today's economy and what she sees on the local horizon.

Jennifer Cornell - Post 3: Let's Joust

Let's Joust!

The idea for Joust Strength + Fitness was born about a year ago, over dinner with Pat and Melissa. The catalyst: We were working out in Melissa's basement because there wasn't a place in Ann Arbor that offered functional, results-driven fitness that was both challenging and diverse.

We were all ex-patriots of the big box gyms in town – places that thrive on the so-called illusion of fitness – and of private clubs that offered one style of workout. We knew that there had to be others like us that wanted a functional workout that conditioned the body to move more effectively. We knew that there were people who wanted to be leaner, stronger, and more physically fit.

Pat, Melissa and I all have successful careers outside of Joust. It took a lot of reflection to commit to the idea of starting a consumer business in a down market while maintaining the other jobs we love and support us financially. We knew that we had to be all in to make Joust a success, and we knew that it would be an incredible amount of time, energy and work.

We did a lot of research and homework, just as any start-up should and likely does do. We met with other entrepreneurs, like Cathy Sissel of Brown & Deline, and picked their brains on what we should know and do. We laid out budgets, projected our growth, and debated marketing strategy.

Ultimately, the potential reward outweighed the risk. The idea of pursuing a passion was too tempting to ignore.

Versus moving around some desks and computers, we moved countless 10-45 lbs. kettlebells, balls, bumper plates and Olympic bars. We moved wooden plyometric boxes and heavy bikes. We moved and laid ¾” thick rubber matting. We painted, assembled equipment, and dealt with hundreds of tiny details… all before our grand opening.

The response to Joust Strength + Fitness has been amazing. We've watched friends, family, peers, students, people we'd never met before they walked through our doors get faster and stronger. We've watched them drop weight, increase muscle and get fit. It's been amazing to watch their confidence and happiness multiply in tandem with the amount of weight they can lift or reps they can complete.

As a marketer, it's been intriguing to discover how people come to learn about Joust. We get a lot of leads from our Web site. We recently did an insert in a local paper that we thought would generate a lot of results, but didn't. We presented to a campus organization, an activity that cost nothing but our time, and had members join as a result. We participated in a bridal expo recently and are awaiting the results from that outreach.

Just yesterday, we distributed our first e-newsletter and later this month will participate in an Expo aimed at women. Of course, we execute consistent PR and media relations activities. Like any business, we'll continue to seek ways to be better known and monitor our return-on-investment.

Time will tell whether our entrepreneurial vision will be a long-term success. In the meantime, we'll continue to do what we love doing and help others become more fit along the way.