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Melissa Leon Headshot

When in Doubt, Nose to the Grind

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GYM COUPLE
Martin Barraud via Getty Images

Until I was a small business owner, I never thought about what went into running a business. They seemed to run themselves, as far as I was concerned. I didn't go to business school, nor did I claim to understand the inner workings of a successful business. The irony of this today is not lost on the adult me. My father owns his own business and has worked from home for more than two decades. I grew up watching him work incredibly hard to provide for our family, all while on his own terms with integrity and value. I also watched my mom, steadfast and strong, at my dad's side. There is no success in life (or in marriage) without support from the ones you love.

So if you told me even five years ago that I would own and run a small business with my husband (in the fitness industry, no less!), I would have spit out my Frappuccino and laughed hard. Really hard. I was a reporter for several years before meeting Eric, who is the one who changed my outlook on fitness in the first place. It was my husband who encouraged me to try a now well-known cross-training program. And it was my husband who decided that we should not live our lives answering to someone else. Why not share what quickly become our passion with the rest of the world? We opened our gym in the East Village in June of 2013. I have never "worked" a day since.

When people ask me about owning a small business, I'm not shy in sharing the details. I think other small business owners would agree that it's a lot of hard work, and that's an understatement. We have literally built our business. Our 2,500-square-foot garage in the East Village is the product of more blood, sweat, tears and decisions than you can imagine. (I'll admit, I'm responsible for the tears.) We are happily consumed by our passion and submersed in our industry. We live, breathe and love what we do. But there's so much more to it than that. Behind the aesthetics and exterior, there are immensely important inner workings. There are sleepless nights, endless days, employees to take care of and programming to develop -- just to graze the surface.

That's why it baffles me when people think it's "cute" that we opened a gym. "Oh that's nice." Sure, anyone with the money and proper certification can do it. But we did so much more than open a gym -- we're fostering an incredible community full of strong, durable human beings with immense potential. Our gym is not like other gyms. There's something to be said for quality versus quantity. Not only that, but we're building a successful business. To anyone who wants to own and run a successful small business, I tell you this: Don't stop working hard, and never let anyone else's perception of you change your goals. I'm a woman with a journalism and English degree who had never used a power tool in all her 26 years before her husband forced her asked kindly for help in building their pull-up rig. When you don't know something or know how to do something, you better ask. Or make sure you're married to one of the handiest men on the planet.

Our business is the product of hard work, continuously and often with renewed and creative efforts. Whatever happened to Americans respecting old-fashioned hard work? People live in their own bubbles. It's sometimes a battle, but I approach every day with an open mind and determination. We have a business to run, after all.