CrossFit SouthEnd in Charlotte, North Carolina, essentially started like a country song: in the back of a pickup truck. In 2010, Stuart Brauer started a mobile personal training and boot camp service with $500 of Craigslist equipment hauled around in his truck to a local park.
Brauer found himself in this position after moving to Charlotte to work in personal training and consulting for various big-box gyms. “Luckily enough the globo gym I was working for found out I had started my own company and they fired me immediately,” said Brauer. “It was a blessing. They forced me to rip that Band-Aid and make that jump.”
As winter started to head his way, Brauer went on the search for his first location. He eventually settled on a 1,700-square-foot building to lease as his first facility. However, he faced a challenge many Affiliates struggle with in the beginning years — money. His answer was to sublease his apartment to one of his Coaches and live in his gym.
“The office area looked like a college dorm room,” said Brauer. “It had a mini fridge and my couch and a desk. I would close it off during the day because I didn’t want anyone to know I was living there, but they obviously figured it out. Living in the gym didn’t last too long though because the gym grew. We then moved into our current facility that we have been in for four years.”
Brauer used his experience working with big box gyms to his advantage, and he learned a lot about what to do and what not to do when the time came for him to run his own gym. For instance, as gyms grow it is easy for owners to want every aspect of their gym handled a certain way. They can try to be the best owner, head Coach, marketer, sales rep, social media manager, etc. that they exhaust themselves.
However, Brauer realized early on it is impossible for him to wear every hat. There is no way for him to be the best owner, Coach and athlete all at the same time. His answer was to surround himself with a staff of A and B players, to avoid spreading himself too thin into a C player.
“I instantly accept the things I’m not perfect at,” said Brauer. “I have Coaches that have been continuously pursuing education routes recently, and they know a lot more shit than I do now. I was the best Coach on Day One when I was the only Coach. Now I can’t say the same thing. That’s how it should be. You should constantly be trying to hire and develop people that can run circles around you in different aspects of your business.”
Brauer is constantly looking for ways to improve CrossFit SouthEnd and that stems from his passion for business. One of the main takeaways he has learned since opening in 2010 was this is not a personal fitness endeavor. “I realized early on that this was a business and not a place for me to work out,” said Brauer. “My fitness has never been worse than when I opened my own business. I was OK with that separation though because I truly enjoy the business side of things.”
CrossFit SouthEnd has grown to be one of the largest, privately owned fitness facilities in Charlotte. With plans to expand, Brauer looks back at his time of opening CrossFit SouthEnd as a period of happiness in his entrepreneurial journey. Out of the bed of his truck, living in his gym and struggling through the first few years became an experience of bliss and enjoyment. “The purest and best time I had was when there were about 28 of us,” said Brauer. “Yeah I was broke as hell, but the headaches back then were the ones I loved.”