Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

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Week Ten – Final Remarks (7/25)

Sunday, August 10, 2014 9:37 pm

This experience so far has been nothing short of incredible. From the web and brand development to the guerilla marketing and construction management, I have seen and learned more in these last 6 months (and especially 2 months) then I could have ever imagined. I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue my hobby in the form of business and look forward to hopefully making Top Tier one of the most successful CrossFit gyms in the area. I thank everyone who has helped me so far: my investors, partners, landlord and mentors, especially Polly Black and the Entrepreneurship department at Wake Forest. Without the guidance of these great people, Top Tier would not be in existence. I look forward to my senior year at Wake and growing the business as best I can. Thanks to those that took the time to read my posts – Just make sure you join Top Tier.

Week Nine – Guerilla Marketing (7/18)

Sunday, August 10, 2014 9:37 pm

As mentioned in the previous post on 6/20 about Marketing, Top Tier has devised a rather time consuming but straightforward strategy behind obtaining members; one that involves a great deal of Guerilla marketing. The past two weeks have seen myself and the two managers spending considerable time out and about in Winston-Salem posting our posters and distributing fliers to local businesses. Our membership inquiries have skyrocketed in tandem with this marketing push and we will continue these efforts until our opening in a months time.

In addition to the Guerilla strategies, I have commenced a partnership with the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce and also taken the time to join the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership, two invaluable resources. They will help promote Top Tier and facilitate the connection with other local business owners and businesses. I look forward to working with them throughout the growth of Top Tier.

Week Eight – Managing Construction (7/11)

Sunday, August 10, 2014 9:36 pm

Top Tier is located at 610 N Liberty St in downtown Winston-Salem in an old two-story car garage. The building itself needed a great deal of improvements, which has led to one of the most unique learning experiences yet. Both floors had to be completely redone. I have had the fortunate experience of helping manage the construction improvements in addition to preparing the business for opening. It has been an invaluable experience with many ups and downs, as construction almost never goes according to plan. Top Tier is lucky in that we get to customize the space to our liking from the beginning whereas many other gyms don’t have that luxury. With such a large undertaking comes great responsibility (and many surprises). I never expected so many unexpected discoveries, new ideas and changes to be made during the building process.

For example, the discovery of a weak wall on the east side of the building led to additional drywall costs and the unevenness of the second floor incurred tremendous leveling expenses that we did not predict in our initial quote.

Nevertheless, in the last two months and in the month to come, I have come away with an experience I never could have expected.

Week Seven – Hiring Employees (7/4)

Sunday, August 10, 2014 9:35 pm

As with most businesses, Top Tier CrossFit needs employees to help carry out normal business practices. To date, I have hired a Head Manager & Trainer, Assistant Manager & Trainer, and two other coaches. Part of my successful hires so far is dependent on the tight knit nature of the CrossFit community. By simply involving myself with CrossFit in the WS area, I have gotten to know a great deal of people which played a large role in being able to start Top Tier. More specifically, these connections have assisted in the hiring of such great people.

Coming up with a power distribution is delicate, as I need to ensure the dispersion of power is logical and justified. While I manage the business side of things, the Manager and Assistant Manager will run the day-to-day operations. The two of them must work cohesively to ensure things run smoothly. In addition to the managers, the trainers obviously play a large role in the success of Top Tier as well. CrossFit is a class based exercise philosophy, thus without coaches, the gym would never succeed. As Top Tier grows, I will bring more people on board – In the meantime, we are ready to open.


Week Six – Social Media (6/27)

Thursday, July 10, 2014 3:23 am

A few weeks ago, I began my social media campaign for Top Tier. With some assistance from Axis 41, I created Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google Plus accounts to market the gym through. Since the beginning of June, I’ve been posting content (Pictures, blog posts, announcements) on each of the aforementioned platforms to generate excitement. I’ve learned how to optimize Facebook posting to reach as many people as possible and truly began to understand the importance of hashtags. While I use them in a comedic way on my personal accounts, their importance in promoting your business should not be overlooked. Hashtags help garner page views, followers, and friends organically, without paying.

These past couple weeks have been a great learning experience, as understanding the power of social media is an important milestone in owning and running a business. I continue to hone my posting skills to reach as many users and generate as many “likes” as possible. In the next two months, Social media will grow more important leading up to the opening of the gym. I will post more frequently leading up to Opening day.

Follow Top Tier if you have a second…






Week Five – Marketing (6/20) – Ben Smith

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 6:18 am

In addition to creating Top Tier’s website, Axis 41 also assisted in the generation of our print media. They helped create our posters, fliers, and business cards. I have devised a plan for the disbursement of these materials beginning Monday, July 7th. My plan involves strategically placing my posters in certain areas of Winston and providing hundreds of businesses with fliers for their break rooms.

This strategy will target the general consumer (E.g. a Customer of a restaurant using the bathroom will see our posters) and those who work in the surrounding area (By placing fliers in the break rooms of many business around WS) will also be targeted.

Print media is crucial for the success of a CrossFit gym. In addition to our fliers and posters, I have planned a “Pop-Up CrossFit Workout”. This concept entails taking one or two small pieces of CrossFit equipment, and demonstrating a CrossFit workout in a crowded area (such as fourth Street on a Friday night or campus Midday). While one or two coaches participate in the workout, I hand out fliers and business cards to people passing by. This is a proven concept to generate excitement and target people’s curiosity.

The importance of marketing for Top Tier cannot be understated, as our revenues rely heavily on membership dues, which are gained through targeting certain marketing channels.

^That’s marketing.

Week Four – Equipment and Flooring (6/13) – Ben Smith

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 6:09 am

All gym needs Equipment. Luckily CrossFit does not require nearly as much equipment as ‘normal’ gyms do. The most expensive pieces of equipment in CrossFit are the barbells ($250/each), rowers ($1000/each), and Pullup/Squat Rig (varies depending on size). When compared with just one treadmill (which can run up to $5,000/each – no pun intended), CrossFit equipment is extremely low cost. The benefits of this are obvious, as we aren’t incurring nearly as much startup capital as a traditional gym.

Yesterday, (6/12), I spent the afternoon with Mike Cheathem (Maverick Athletic Company) who flew up from Miami to custom size Top Tier’s first and second floor rigs. With a background in general contracting, his expertise in how to best mount and fabricate rigs is second to none. Soon after he left, he had his 3-D imager present me with unbelievable renderings. Expect Top Tier to have two of the coolest custom Rigs in the world.

In addition to equipment, gyms also need flooring that suits their specific needs. With the constant dropping of weights and prevalence of blood, sweat, and tears, CrossFit gyms turn to stall mats or Regupol’s Aktiv flooring as a solution. I decided to go with Custom Regupol Flooring, which matches Top Tier’s colors.

Week Three – Accounting (6/6) – Ben Smith

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 6:08 am

This week, I was tasked with familiarizing myself with Quicken and RE-familiarizing myself with basic accounting principles. Without taking Accounting 111, I would be in an unfavorable place. Even though I don’t remember every detail from this Wake Forest course, having an understanding of the four financial statements is of great benefit to me this week.

Working in Quicken is a breeze. I spent a few hours each day this week categorizing the hundred’s of expenses Top Tier has incurred to this point. While Top Tier has hired Intuit for our payroll duties and an accountant for our monthly/yearly taxes, I plan to run the day-to-day transactions myself through Quicken. After I graduate in 2015, I will likely hand this duty over to Top Tier’s Manager, Tyler Eaves. In the meantime, it will be beneficial to maintain some bookkeeping skills prior to my exposure to the “real world” after graduation.

Week Two – Website Launch (5/30) – Ben Smith

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 6:07 am

Even though I’ve spent the last three months or so communicating with Top Tier’s web design firm, Axis 41, to build our website, the last two weeks or so have been especially intensive. We wanted to release the website in early May but fell short of meeting that deadline for a host of reasons. However, the pushed back construction planning rendered our website release delay OK.

Ilaunched the website ( today, May 30th. I couldn’t be happier with the work Axis has done to help make Top Tier’s arguably one of the best CrossFit gym websites in the world. The web design process is much more difficult then one can imagine. I have learned a great deal from this lengthy and detail intensive process. The amount of work I had to do (Generating content, advising on CrossFit industry norms, creating ideas, etc) was far more than I would have ever expected in building a legitimate website. I can certainly use this experience to my advantage in future interviews, jobs, or ventures down the road.

Week One – Construction Planning (5/23) – Ben Smith

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 6:06 am

Disclaimer: My apologies for not posting these early, I’ve been keeping track of what I’ve been spending my time on a weekly basis for the past 8 weeks or so. Beginning with the planning of the build out of the gym. While I have categorized each week into categories, that definitely DOES NOT inferthat’s all I’m doing during that specific week.

I spent the majority of my time this week finalizing construction plans. With the opportunity to re-build the space from the ground up, it’s imperative that I spend a great deal of time planning how I want the members to flow throughout the space (E.g. where members check in-put their stuff-placement of the locker room). I met with the general contractor, landlord, and principal investors multiple times to ensure I got my plans correct prior to the commencement of construction. By the end of the week, we came up with what we believe top be a solid plan.

In addition to just planning the location of bathrooms, equipment etc, I also needed to dictate which tenant improvements I would make on top of the improvements the landlord will cover. I want multiple upgrades in the bathrooms (bathrooms fixtures, tiling, showers etc), higher quality paint inside and out of the building, different windows for the storefront, and all black strip light fixtures for general lighting throughout the space. Sourcing these items took extensive research, but is well worth it in order to reach a “Top Tier” product.

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