By Alexa Epitropoulos | [email protected]
FitOne founders Caity Davis and Jill Stump often joke that they’re each other’s longest relationship.
The longtime business partners started FitOne after meeting at Gold’s Gym in Fairfax, where they were both trainers. At the time, local Gold’s locations were looking for a contractor to run their training and nutrition programs. A mutual mentor suggested Davis and Stump pair up and the two decided to take the advice and go into business together. They founded FitOne in 1999.
Twenty years later, the pair owns a growing boutique gym that’s recently reopened at a location in the heart of Old Town at 319 Cameron St.
“We took a gamble on something in our 20s and we’re still doing it 19 years later. We can’t imagine not doing this,” Stump said. “We have something truly special and we don’t take that for granted.”
It took Davis and Stump years to take the leap to open their own gym. They started as FitOne inside Gold’s Gym, running the fitness programs for three locations in Northern Virginia before moving to Jungle Gym, where they managed programs at locations in Kingstowne and Old Town.
The two opened their first independent location at 814 N. St. Asaph St. in 2007, where they remained until moving to the Cameron Street location this year.
FitOne’s business model is built around private training and small classes and the hours depend on when clients want to work out. Certain classes do have set times, however, like a “Women on Weights” group on Monday, a boxing class on Thursday and power circuit classes, which are high-intensity interval training-style classes.
FitOne has about 180 clients and Davis and Stump said, while they’re still looking to grow, the smaller roster helps them get to know their clients on a personal level.
“We know all the clients in the classes. We know their joint issues, we can make changes if necessary. You can have someone who has been working out their whole life on a station besides someone who is a beginner and they’re both going to get a great workout,” Stump said.
Having personal relationships with clients has also helped the two as they navigated moving the business from their location of 10 years on St. Asaph Street to Cameron Street. FitOne officially moved on May 1, but just recently celebrated its grand reopening on Oct. 6.
While Davis and Stump said moving was a major undertaking, the end result was a location
that better matched their needs. They were able to have a hand in the renovation and, ultimately, were only unable to use the new space for one week in May, during which group classes and training took place outside.
“When Caity and I were walking around here, before we made the decision to go with this lease, it was a good feeling [with] city hall, the farmer’s market and just the energy here. It felt like with what we do and who our clients are, this was going to mesh and let more people know about us,” Stump said.
While Davis handles client consultations, which are about getting to know a client’s needs and goals and then briefing them on packages and options, Stump, who has an MBA, handles the business side. She oversees payroll and accounting. Both of them continue to train. Davis is the one who matches clients with trainers, based on a number of factors.
“I do that based on medical background, exercise history, joint stuff, training style, personality of the trainer. All of our trainers are qualified, but it comes down to making the right match,” Davis said. “I tell the clients that it can be a love/hate relationship with the trainer. You want to feel like it’s the right connection.”
The majority of FitOne’s clients come in one to three times a week, and many supplement the training they receive there with other types of workouts, whether it’s on their own or in another class setting.
“We tell clients that they can use us in this process however they want, whether they’re coming in and we are teaching them something that they are going to go out and do on their own – a lot of our clients have additional gym memberships where they’re doing cardio and getting in another session – or they’re doing yoga on their own, classes that would compliment ours,” Davis said.
After years in business, Davis and Stump said, though it’s been a challenge, they’re happy to have gotten ahead of the trend of smaller boutique gyms, such as Orangetheory and Pure Barre. They said the basic philosophy of FitOne, from the beginning, has been that a large amount of equipment isn’t necessary to get an effective workout.
“Now you look and there are all these gyms, these crossfit gyms. I like that we were kind of ahead of that trend in the industry,” Stump said. “… Now it’s kind of cool to see all these studios popping up. I like to think because of our commitment to the science, to try to understand it, that it led us to that a long time ago.”
“There’s well over 90 ways to do a dumbbell chest press, so it’s how to vary the mechanical pattern, how to apply forces from different angles. If you have a trainer that’s knowledgeable, you don’t need giant hunks of metal,” Davis said. “Being able to create this sort of environment is so exciting.”