BiggerPockets Business Podcast

BiggerPockets Business Podcast 85: Building More Income Streams During COVID-19 Shutdowns with Ralphie Martinez

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No business has had a tougher time this year than physical-based businesses, and that is certainly the case for our guest, Ralphie Martinez. Ralphie owns Martinez Elite Fitness in Northern California, and was just reaching his business’s peak when COVID-19 started to spread, rendering his business closed until further notice.

Ralphie is the definition of someone with an entrepreneur’s mentality. He was working a 9-5 job when he opened up his garage gym for friends to work out in. Friends would invite other friends, and before he knew it, he was teaching a class before going to his full time job, then coming home and teaching two more classes.

Like so many entrepreneurs, Ralphie turned his passion into something that not only helped other people, but made money. For the past 6 years, Martinez Elite Fitness has been a local success, gaining more and more members every year.

Even in an unprecedented time like 2020, Ralphie has found ways to keep his business going, regardless of shutdowns, curfews, and other roadblocks. Having a positive attitude, the support of his partner and family, and a strong community has helped him and his business stay fighting.

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J:
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Business Podcast show number 85.

Ralphie:
People just enjoy being here. We’re way more than just a gym. We have been our own community within our city community. Really no advertising, just all word of mouth, which is really hard to believe and sometimes for myself especially.

Speaker 3:
Welcome to a real world MBA from the school of hard knocks, where entrepreneurs reveal what it really takes to make it. Whether you’re already in business or you’re on your way there, this show is for you. This is BiggerPockets Business.

J:
How’s it going everybody? I am J Scott. I’m your cohost for the BiggerPockets Business Podcast. And I am here this lovely week with my lovely cohost, Carol Scott. How’s it going today, Carol?

Carol:
Doing so well. And I’ve got to tell you right now especially this time of year, I’m just looking at everyone, looking back at everyone, just looking upon things and reflecting and oh my goodness, I’m so insanely proud of you. I’m so insanely proud of our listeners. I’m so insanely proud of just everybody out there who is working hard, keeping family front and center and prioritizing all the things that matter. It’s a lot to do and everybody as it’s tricky as it might be and as difficult as it sometimes can be, you’re all just getting up, doing it over and over again, and making sure that you maintain sanity, keep everybody happy and keep moving forward. So crazy proud of everybody in our circle. Thank you so much everyone for being here and thank you honey for being my rock and being such an amazing person in our family. Thank you.

J:
Well, thank you for those kind words. And to everybody that’s listening now, even though we’re proud of you, that doesn’t mean things are always easy. And we know that during COVID even not during COVID but especially during COVID, there’s always a lot of business owners who are struggling to find their way dealing with obstacles and that’s especially true during COVID. And our guest today is here to remind us that no matter how hard things might get, the key is to keep pushing forward and to never give up.
Our guest today, his name is Ralphie Martinez. He is the owner of Martinez Elite Fitness, and he quit his job a few years ago to follow his passion, which was to create a gym that could help people better themselves. And he’s grown that business over the last couple of years until COVID. Now, as you can expect as a gym owner during COVID, there are going to be a lot of struggles. A lot of states, he’s in California, which is one of the states that has gotten hit the hardest with COVID, has also dealt with some of the toughest and most stringent restrictions with COVID and this has impacted his business tremendously.
Over these past several months, his business has struggled. He struggled personally, but in response to that struggle, there’s been a fierce resilience and a focus on riding the ship and really just continuing to push forward. And in this episode, Ralphie talks to us about the struggles he’s faced and the struggles a lot of us are facing during this pandemic and basically the same struggles we face all the time as business owners. And he talks to us why he hasn’t quit and why quitting is not an option. So this is a really powerful episode and Ralphie is really raw and he’s really open and he’s really honest and he talks about all the things that a lot of us are dealing with and feeling. And if you’re not dealing with it and feeling it now, you will be at some point because we all do at some point.
Please make sure you listen to the end, because at the end of the episode, Ralphie talks about some of the things that he’s reading and watching and people he’s following just to stay motivated and to keep moving forward. And we hope that you’ll take some motivation from this and that whether you’re struggling now or later or whenever, that you’ll stay motivated and you’ll keep moving forward. So if you want to learn more about Ralphie, his business, Martinez Elite Fitness or anything we talk about on this episode, make sure you check out our show notes at biggerpockets.com/bizshow85. Again, that’s biggerpockets.com/bizshow85. Okay. Without any further ado, let’s welcome Ralphie Martinez to the show. How are you doing today, Ralphie?

Ralphie:
I’m doing good guys. How are you doing? Thanks for having me.

Carol:
Thank you so much for joining us today. I’ve got to tell you, you have such a great story. You’ve been through so much this year. You’ve been an incredibly successful small business owner in such a short period of time. You have such grit and amazing wisdom to share with our people. So we’re so glad to chat with you. I would love to give our listeners a little bit more information about your journey because I think it’s so absolutely relatable, right? It sounds like you were working a full-time job and you did something that was a hobby and turned it into a business. So Ralphie, just tell us more about your journey with one caveat. I would love for you to tell us your journey, but stop before March 2020. Okay. Can you give us some more info there?

Ralphie:
Sure thing. Yeah. So pre-COVID I guess is what it’s known as now. Yeah. So out of high school, I went to a massage therapy school and it was there that I learned that I really enjoyed helping people. And then while working a desk job, I started working out in my garage and then invited some people over, friends started coming over and it started to becoming a thing, went from hobby to and friends to a little bit more and then a little bit more. And then before I knew it, there was 15 people in my garage and I was kind of dictating a workout all while working a desk job. I think our oldest son at that time was two, maybe three and then another one on the way. So I was working a full-time job, doing a 6:00 AM class, going to work, coming home, doing a 5:15 at that time and then a 7:15 eventually and then it just kind of steamrolled.
And then one day I sat at my desk and I realized if I had this many people coming up to our garage, I don’t have to do this desk job anymore and I can do something that I’m really enjoying. So once I knew those numbers, a lot of times in my life, once I know a number, I just keep going until that number is reached or surpassed. And so I hit that number and I told my wife, I actually stuck there. My wife told me, “It’s time to stop the desk job. Let’s do this.” So the last month or so that I was at that desk job, I took my two weeks vacation and actually test ran a schedule, running a gym out of our garage. So we had a full schedule and we had our morning classes and afternoon class, and then our evening classes.
And once we knew like there were enough people in one of those classes, we just, we decided, okay, after two weeks, we’ll give our two weeks. So after my two week vacation, I gave my two week notice. And that was in 2013, I’m sorry, 2014 and six months later, the stuff that you see behind me, we moved in here and that was 2014. So we’re going on six years now here. And our membership just kept growing. And then within this building, I think we’ve transformed maybe another four times. We knocked down walls. We grew into other space and we’re in about a little less than 3000 square feet, probably about 2,500 square feet usable for the gym itself. Then yeah, that’s how that’s rolled.

J:
That’s great. I want to step back. You mentioned two weeks left in your desk job and you decided to do a “test run.” I’m curious like what your goals were there. Was this an opportunity for you to say, “Do I really want to do this?” Was this an opportunity for you to validate the business model? Was this just an opportunity for you to say, “Am I going to enjoy this? What was the goals for the test run and how did you actually carry that out?

Ralphie:
I think it’s probably a mixture of all of that. And I think it was to show that one, I can do it and fill those classes with people and that people can make it. So if people can make those classes, then there was no point in me to even really try to keep pursuing this. Because at that point in time, we were maybe eight months into this whole hobby thing. And so to make it like the dream a reality, I used to tell people all the time if you see it to believe it, believe it to achieve it.
And I was just kind of like in that process and for myself, just making sure that it was going to be something that not only I could see and believe, but I could achieve it and it was just kind of the nail that finished off that desk job and pushed me into doing this full time. And so everything was just all that mixture, perfect combination. And it worked out, people can make it. I knew I enjoy doing it day in and day out for that. I know that was a short time, but two weeks and yeah, that’s pretty much what that two weeks was.

Carol:
I love that two weeks and I really want to give some major props to your wife and I love how you-

J:
Of course you do.

Carol:
Of course I do.

Ralphie:
She deserves it.

Carol:
But again, I think so many of our listeners can relate to this, right? You’re working a full-time job. You’re not loving it. There’s something else that you are loving. And it was your wife who was like, “No it’s time to make this dream a reality and quit the desk job and start taking this whole life of ours into our own hands.” I’m curious, is your wife involved with a business? Has she been, how do you balance family? Just how has the whole family dynamic worked with your business up until 2020?

Ralphie:
So yeah, she is involved. He was holding her own class pre-COVID. She had her own class and she enjoyed it. It was a little different than the classes that I’m in charge of which people really liked. They would come and get that mix of what she did and what we normally do. She was also a certified nutrition coach. She got that certification maybe about a year and a half into us doing the gym. And without her, one, I’m not talking to you. I’m not wearing a hat with our logo. None of this happens because although I am as she calls it, people want to see me, no one sees me if it’s not for her. I’m not on this podcast right now if it’s not for her. It’s just because I don’t believe in myself enough to go and do these kinds of things. It’s only because of her that I have that push and that belief. So without her, there’s no Martinez Elite Fitness and definitely no podcast today.

J:
So I definitely joke about the whole, the wife thing, the comment I made, but to be honest, I think all of us recognize that it’s so much easier to achieve success and to reduce stress when those that are most surrounding you, those that are closest to you whether it’s a spouse or family members are on board with what you’re doing. So it sounds like for you, that was a big motivating factor and a big weight off your shoulders knowing that your wife and your family were supporting you as opposed to fighting back against you.

Ralphie:
Oh yeah. Yeah. I’m having my wife, Tara, I think that’s all I need. If she could tell me I can do something, I’m going to go do it. And a lot of times there were other people, family included, like I would tell them what I was going to do and you can see it in their eyes that they were like, “Are you sure?” Without asking me, are you sure? And it didn’t matter because every day I would come home, I would kiss my young son at that time hello, from coming home from the eight hour job, the desk job and I’d go right onto the garage. That’s really the time that I got with him. I only got to see him sometimes in the morning and then sometimes at night. And I knew, I think at a certain point in time that I wasn’t going to just see my son for X amount of time just to not succeed and that’s huge. I have three kids now and I won’t let myself fail because that’s no example to set for them.

J:
I love it. And I know Carol is going to want to come back to that whole family prioritization thing. But before we get there, I want to talk about, so you quit your job and now you are an entrepreneur. You’re a full-time business owner and you need to scale your business. You need to get customers. What did you do to grow your business? What did your marketing look like and how quickly and easily were you able to scale?

Ralphie:
So this is really boring. We have never done any type of ad. We have never really done any Facebook marketing. Every single person that’s walked in our door, I would say probably 98% is all word of mouth. And to be 100% honest with you, I have no idea how or really why, but we have kind of lucked out in the sense that people enjoy us enough and we are, I think relatable enough that people just enjoy being here. We’re way more than just a gym. We have been our own community within our city community of we only have about 37,000 people here in Martinez, which no, I don’t own the town, just my last name. A lot of people ask that, but I mean no advertising. I mean, we’re on social media. We used to put like blurry pictures up, really horrible Instagram posts early on. But other than that, really no advertising, just all word of mouth which is really hard to believe in sometimes for myself especially.

Carol:
Well, you said something in there, Ralphie that I know I speak with a lot of other entrepreneurs and it’s one of those things I think we just kind of default to saying, and that’s, it was really just a lot of luck. And so yes, of course, in entrepreneurship, in any business ownership, there is a bit of luck that’s involved. Semi-colon however, just like you said, you’re a heck of a lot more than just a gym, right? So it’s not just luck that’s attracting people to you. There are so many other things that you’re offering. I think one in particular that’s worth talking about and worth exploring is you had mentioned to me on our pre-call that something that’s always been in the front and center of your business is giving back to the community for causes that you believe in. Can you talk to us more about that, why it’s been a mission and how it’s helped overall grow your business and just help your community thrive?

Ralphie:
Sure. Yeah. So I was pretty much born and raised here in Martinez. So being here means a lot to me. It started off with small things, food drives, things like that and I think with our style of working out and somewhat competitiveness within me, we always wanted to beat our last year’s thing. So I think we’ve done a food drive now about five years in a row. And then more recently, the last two years combined, we’ve been able to donate $8,000 to the Martinez early intervention preschool program because that program means a lot to us. Our youngest son, Aiden has sensory processing disorder. So in a nutshell, that just means he doesn’t take things in and process them the same as we do. He could walk into a room with a high ceiling and it freaks him out and no one knows why, we help them cope. We get through it.
That’s without that school right now, he’s in second grade. And without that school, there’s no way he’s in a, what they call streamline or normal in a second grade class. So we owe that school a whole lot more than any type of money that we can give. So within last year and this year, we were able to through a 5k last year and then a t-shirt sale this year, combined we gave them $8,000 to help. They’re like one of the least funded schools here in the district. So we are more than happy to help them any way we can and that’s how we have the last two years. And on top of that, I know this is kind of bringing in COVID, but we will help this year. There’s a local restaurant here called Taco Daddy’s.
The owner, Ryan there, he has been amazing through this last eight months and he every, like about once a month at the beginning, he ran about three days where he took all of the proceeds and donated it to a local downtown business. And we were lucky enough, he chose us. As reluctant as we were to take it, he was adamant about it and they donated money to us in a time where it was early on and we weren’t sure what was going to happen. Still not sure what’s going to happen, but so it’s like a pay it … We want to pay it forward as much as possible because we receive so much from others and that’s what we believe a small town should be about.

J:
Yeah. I love that and we talk often in entrepreneurship is understanding your why, why are you doing this? And I think a lot of people always say, “Well, obviously we’re doing this for the money.” But what we found talking to literally hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years is that if you’re just doing it for the money, you’re probably at some point going to give up or you’re going to struggle. And it’s important to have a why that’s bigger and more all encompassing than just the money. And it sounds like for you that why is one, your family, your son and just giving back to your community, which is great.
In that vein, I mean, I know you talked earlier about being “lucky,” but there’s a whole lot more here than luck. And one of the things that I’ve seen just doing a little bit of research on you is consistency. I noticed you have a podcast and you’ve been doing this podcast now for several years. It’s a weekly Wednesday podcast. Can you talk to us about that and how that kind of fits into your marketing and your brand and just you as a whole?

Ralphie:
Yeah. So the podcast kind of a fluke. I just recorded something, I think early on we called it Motivated Monday and I sent it out and people liked it. And then it turned into a what we called Wednesday Wisdom. There’s not a whole lot of wisdom that probably happens in there. From there you might get some from time to time, but yeah, and I think it helps a lot. So a lot of people early on when we started it, we would link it to our regular Facebook page where anyone can go and like it. We do have a private group for just our members, but this one goes out to anyone and everyone who cares to like our page and then listen to it. And we’ve had people join because of maybe one thing that I said during the podcast, which amazing to me to even think about.
But we don’t talk a whole lot about fitness on it, which I think also helps because when you’re in the gym, like that’s really all you’re talking about. So people want to hear other things on there also. I’m a crier, so I’ve been known to cry on there a lot. I also swear a lot. So please, please don’t listen with the volume up on there because I do swear a lot. That is I guess something people call it one of my faults. But yeah, I’m just as real as I can be on there and talk about things that matter to me and I think that would relate to other people because it’s in real time. It’s not something that’s past tense or whatnot.

Carol:
I love that. And PS, I don’t think anybody’s going to mind the swearing issue. I think the most important thing about your weekly show is like you mentioned, it is really honest. It’s super raw. It’s incredibly vulnerable. There is a little bit of fitness in there, but there’s a heck of a lot more motivation and a heck of a lot more inspiration from some guests as well as yourself on how to just keep moving forward and overcoming obstacles and remaining consistent and setting routines and schedules to continue being the best person you can be.
I’m curious, after putting this much effort into it for this many years, it sounds like you have generated business from it. It sounds like people have become a much broader part of your community. What would you recommend to other small business owners, other entrepreneurs that they do, they go there, they put themselves out there, whether it be through a podcast or through social media or through some other forums. Is that something that has been time well spent for you? Can you just talk more about how other people might go about making that happen and why it’s a good thing to do?

Ralphie:
Yeah. So the podcast is one avenue, but if you don’t like talking, what we did recently is we switched up our social media, our Instagram I should say, our posts. We went from, of course, right now we can’t take pictures of people doing a workout. So we went to little like a screenshot with a little box with verbiage in it. It’s a black background, our colors are black and lime green. And so we made the black background, lime green box and then white lettering. And then we just put a little something of like inspiration inside there. And that seems to hit home a lot more than like a picture of someone doing a kettlebell swing or something like that.
So just little tweaks and things as you go along, but staying consistent with whatever it is. It might be like this is the year of the pivot is what I’ve pretty much named 2020. And we started with one thing. We are doing still something similar, but we’ve changed the way that we’ve done it. And then if that didn’t work, then we’ve done it another way, but still staying consistent, whether it’s posting it every day or at the same time, that kind of thing has helped a lot, especially with engagement with members who right now are pretty much paying for a gym that they can’t attend.

J:
Yeah. I want to talk about post=COVID because I think that’s something that has impacted a lot of business owners and especially business owners like you who deal with in-person customers or client and especially something like a gym. Before we get there, can you give us kind of an, just an overall view of where were you pre-COVID? How many members did you have? How big had the business become? What was your trajectory leading up to obviously the changes that occurred because of COVID?

Ralphie:
Okay. So I think I have to get the definition of what our gym is, especially because the government sees us as a gym and that’s like an umbrella thing. We’re not a 24 hour fitness. We’re not some key card access thing. I’m in front of the class every time. It’s me or one of my volunteer staff members. We’re in front of you, a small group, 10 people, the term I don’t really care for it, but it’s boutique style gym. I don’t know who came up with that, but if they could change, it would be great. So that’s where we are. And 2021, I’m sorry, 2020, we were on point to just keep going up because 2019 was a great year for us. My goal since we were in our 486 square foot garage was a hundred members.
And again, I chase numbers and I try to attain numbers. And for the longest time, it just didn’t … It couldn’t grasp a hundred members. We’d get there and then the next week, maybe someone fell off. And so you know the rollercoaster that that is. So we were on track to maybe hit 125 this year, 125 members, maybe more. And January, February were looking really great. Our numbers are great. Income was great. We were at that hundred, a little bit more than a hundred member mark and then bam, we were punched in the face, so to speak.

Carol:
So talk to us more about being punched in the face. It’s time, right? So you’ve let us right up to March, whatever it was, 2020, talk to us about what happened.

Ralphie:
Okay. So I want to say it was March 13th was our first shutdown. There were some whispers like, “Hey, are you shutting down?” And to be totally honest with you, I don’t watch the news. I don’t care for politics, anything like that. I stay in my lane. I focus on my own stuff because that’s what’s important to me and that’s how I succeed. So I looked it up and I was like, “Oh, I guess our county is shutting down.” So March 13th, we told our members, “Hey, we’ll see you in two weeks.” In the meantime, we’ll put out some workouts, check our YouTube channel. They’re still on there. So if anyone wants to go on there and check them out, go ahead. And then a month passed and then more months passed. And we were kind of sitting there like there’s nothing we can do because as J you said like we rely on our customers to come in.
And when we don’t have like something physically that they can come and buy or we can sell online, it makes it very, very difficult to completely shut down. So March 13th, we stopped and then from there, the pivot started happening. Me and my wife sat down, we brainstormed, what do we do next? There are a lot of great entrepreneurs in the fitness industry and I don’t mean the ones that have their shirt off during a workout. I’m talking about the ones that you don’t really hear too much about. There’s a guy named Stu Brauer from WTF Gym Talk, and he owns a gym in Ohio. And he put out a post one day about this online service that he uses. And the online service itself is free to use and all that service is, is to host your workouts.
So right now we have a mixture of a couple of things, it’s gone back and forth. But right now we have an online platform to where we record and post our videos. So our members, although they can’t be inside, we’ve gave dumbbells. We haven’t rented any of our equipment because although that could be a revenue stream, I believe in giving more than receiving. So hey guys, here’s a dumbbell. That’s all you need for this workout. Go get your 30 minutes in, try to keep your routine. And then when we’re back at it, we’re back at it. So that was March. And then probably about March, April stayed closed. May and June I told my wife, we can’t do this anymore. I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to just sit here. This is enough is enough. Let’s go to the parks. I live in California. We have access to parks and other things like that. So we decided to hold one class in the morning, one class at night, and we have all the space available.
We can space out. So it kind of worked in our favor, the weather being nice. So everyone brought their dumbbell that we gave to them. I put them through the workout that they would otherwise just be doing at home, but they got to see people. They got to interact with others from a social distance, of course. And then in June, I told my wife, “Can’t do the parks anymore. We need more because the dumbbell just isn’t doing it. And I don’t want everyone to be back at zero or even worse when this is all done.” And so what we did is we cleared out our garage, again, our 486 square foot garage. And there’s a company called Concept2, they make skiers, rowers, bikes, and we had their skiers and rowers and we have bikes from another company. So I told my wife, “We can fit nine people in our garage situated to where they’re all spaced out.”
So we moved back to where it all began. So those that didn’t get to witness the beginning, they got a taste of it for a month. So I told my wife, “For a month, from June, July, we’re going to have it up at our house.” And we were lucky where we live. We live on a private road where parking isn’t great, but we don’t have all the neighbors that you would in some other types of neighborhoods. So it works in our benefit of where we live. So we did that for a month. And then I told my wife, “After a month, that’s all we can really do up here. I don’t want to put our neighbors through the year and a half that they had to go through when we first moved up here, when we had 20 something cars on the road.”
So we had about nine people a class and we ran our classes normally. And then after a month we, I told my wife, I was like, “Yeah, I know we’re not supposed to be back in the gym,” but we moved back in the gym. At that time, I think they were citing and fining people that were breaking the rules. I can’t say they’re laws because I don’t think they are. So in July, I believe we were here for a little bit and it was like a week. And then the next week they told gyms that they could be open indoors. So July we’re back open. So that’s about three pivots now from online to parks, back to the garage, now back in even though we weren’t supposed to be, to the County let us for maybe a month and a half, and then we’re now, we’re going on three weeks starting next week of our second shutdown.
So we’re kind of back to where we started back in March, but we’re a little ahead of the game because now our online service, I mean, we have a hundred plus workouts on there, but it’s not the same. It’s not the same both financially and for our members. So I think all in all, that’s about four or five different pivots that we actually executed, but there were probably a hundred or more on our end. We thought about pouring a slab of concrete in our backyard to then house like for the winter, we were going to put up like a small barn situation because our garage was getting a little bit too small. So the possibilities were endless, but the execution only landed on a few.

Carol:
Wow. I am just truly blown away by all of this, Ralphie. Right? Absolutely admire your attitude of this is just the year of the pivot and we’re going to do something different and try something different and try something different. That said, the amount of thought and energy and resources and work that every single one of those pivots took is I can’t even wrap my head around it. I cannot even begin to imagine. I mean, you told it so concisely about how you went from you were shutdown. You went to online, you went to parks, you went back to the garage, you went back to in-person, then you were shut down, pivot, pivot, pivot, pivot, pivot. But realistically, I would suspect that every single one of those was a lot of planning, a lot of figuring stuff out, a lot of grit and determination to keep going.
So I mean, I know you’re saying this was the year of the pivot. I often have a, not quite as good of an attitude. I’ve got to be honest. There’ve been a lot of times this year when I’ve been like, “My goodness, 2020 has just been the year of doing and undoing and doing again and undoing again and I’m so dang tired of undoing.” So I would love to know how you and your wife together, how you coped through this. I mean you are so … This is one of those many things I love about you are so real and vulnerable and honest. Like how did that feel? How did you even get yourself to pick up and start over and pivot and pivot and pivot, and what did you do? And what can people like me who don’t necessarily have such a great attitude all the time. I get really frustrated, really demoralized. What have you done to get over that and keep pushing forward?

Ralphie:
So the energy was the biggest thing. Every time we thought we were going on, we had something going and then they made us pivot, that was like the biggest thing, right? So we’ve spent all this energy to do this thing and then they tell us, “Hey, you can’t do that anymore.” And the lowest part, there was times where I got up and I was just, nope, don’t want to do anything today. And I didn’t have to do anything because I don’t have a job to go to. I don’t have a business to run. Then my kids would wake up. And I think that if it weren’t for my kids and my wife, we wouldn’t still be operating. And my parents are great. They’ve had steady jobs for a long time. My dad, I’m 34 years old.
My dad has been a postman for 35 plus years, so longer than I’ve been alive and my mom she’s, I remember one time distinctly during Christmas that she worked three jobs to probably just buy us gifts. And I don’t think my Papa G or my grandma who we live in their house right now, I don’t think they would care for me to quit because they didn’t live their lives the way that they did in order to build up us future grandkids and kids just to lie down. And I think about them a lot, not only because we live in the house that they … The house that we live in has been in our home for since 1964. I think they bought it and to think about my ancestors and then now my children see me quit something that I’m pretty good at and I enjoy a lot, that would be probably the worst thing that could happen.
COVID has nothing on something like that. Moving forward, I remember one time I was back squatting in our garage and I was going for a pretty, pretty heavy lift. And this is during COVID and our oldest son was watching me, he’s 10 and I was angry. And when you angry lift, like it helps a lot. In some cases, in this case, it did. So angry that I yelled on the way up, started crying when I racked it. And I think he could see how hard I’ve been working. And the emotion that came out was because of the effort that I was putting in. And I can only hope that those are the types of things that he sees and then takes on with whatever he decides to do in his life.
And that’s it like what else can I do? Someone asked me one time exactly what you just asked me. Well, why are you still doing? What else am I going to do? There’s nothing else to do, but to keep going, like one step in front of the other, add another plate to the bar because I’m going to squat it and I’m going to come right back up and I’m going to ask like what else could I do?

J:
Yeah. Wow, first of all, I love that. And I think that lesson to your son right there was probably the best possible lesson you could give. But I think the thing that stands out is the difference between a successful entrepreneur and an unsuccessful entrepreneur longterm is that the successful entrepreneur doesn’t understand this idea of quitting. That’s not an option. And so what I’m hearing from you is you don’t quit. You keep moving and you keep pivoting and you keep doing what you have to do. And if the literally hundreds of other entrepreneurs that we’ve talked to are any indication, your path has to succeed, because there is no alternative.
And so at some point hopefully in the next few months, COVID is going to go away. Hopefully we’ll have a vaccine. Hopefully we can “get back to normal.” What is your plan for the next few months? I assume your plan after that is to kind of go back on track, maybe not. So tell us, what is your plan for the next couple months? Where are you right now and then what’s your plan once we kind of get back on track?

Ralphie:
So where we are right now is we’re in our second closure like I mentioned. So we also have a curfew. I don’t think you guys have one, but here in California, we have a curfew from 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM. That’s In effect until mid or late this month. So I’m assuming once that’s lifted, that might have an effect on all the other … I think gyms are totally shut down. And then, so I’m assuming in a few weeks, we’re either told the numbers are here, so you can do this Or the numbers are back up here So you can’t do that. And what we’re doing, which a lot of businesses are already, gym wise, we are ready to be back inside. We have totally revamped our floor layout to where everyone’s spaced apart. We only have nine people or 10 people a class.
And that’s what we’re going to do starting, of course this will … I don’t know when this will air Monday, this coming Monday, the seventh, December 7th, I told our members be ready because we’re going to be back in. And that might be defying orders that some people see that as well you’re putting people’s lives at risk. I’m not forcing any of these people in though. So they’re in need of what we have to offer and fitness and just a routine is so crucial to a lot of people’s mental health. We have teachers that come here and, I mean, being a teacher right now is probably one of the hardest things that you could be.
So in order for them to have an outlet and be around other people in a situation where you know it’s safe, it’s necessary. So I don’t look at it as putting anyone in jeopardy. I’m looking at it as this is some people’s necessity in order for them not to have breakdowns every 20 minutes, that’s where we’re going and soon we’ll be back inside. We have all of the cleaning protocols that you could think of, everything’s in place just how we were before the second shutdown. So we’re just going to pick it back up and we’re going to roll. And hopefully when this is all over, we reach that 120, 180 member thing, and we just keep rolling because numbers are what I try to obtain.

Carol:
So amazing. This is all so incredibly powerful and inspirational, and you just keep pushing. And I think it’s so worth mentioning, like you said before, even through your shutdowns, you have a lot of members who are continuing to pay for their membership, right? And I think that is frankly, it’s not surprising based on how you live your life, how you run your business, based on the examples that you set for your children, based upon the legacy that you’re carrying on for your parents, your grandparents, your ancestors, just all of those things wrapped into one.
Again, like you said, in the very beginning of this, you haven’t just created a gym. You’ve created a community that truly depends on you and you’re helping that community thrive. So you have really shown people, you’ve shown business owners, you’re that true example of the why of entrepreneurship, right? It’s not just the making money. It’s all of those other things that go along with it. Very, very powerful. Wow. Just wow. Seriously.

J:
And here’s the other thing that’s probably worth mentioning. As bad as COVID has been for your business, and this is half joking, but also very serious. Just the way COVID has played out, you’re probably creating more customers. I have to imagine that. I mean, if I’m any indication, there are a lot of people out there that have been lazy the last six or seven or eight months, have put on weight. And once this is through, I imagine that there will probably be some great opportunity to use COVID as a marketing tool, to use the fact that people have been lazy, that they’ve put on weight, that they’ve gotten out of shape to actually drive business. So while I, again, your business isn’t in a great place right now, this probably is going to provide some opportunity for you. Whereas a lot of other businesses, they’re going to get out of COVID and still be struggling, you may have some opportunity that you didn’t have before.

Ralphie:
Yeah. Yeah. That’s definitely something that people have brought to our attention. We’ve probably dropped about 60% of our membership throughout this, although the weight gain and the lifestyle that’s kind of been made because of COVID stay inside, don’t do things, we have to still get over the fear factor. And although like definitely people have put on the weight that they’d want to lose, one thing that is something we can’t measure that we have found and thought about a whole lot is changing the fear factor of a lot of people and their mindset. Yeah, we’re trying to work on that and how to kind of make something click in people in the sense to make them feel safe while they’re here, because it really is a safe place and can make you better, right? Like who doesn’t want to make themselves better?

Carol:
That’s really, really cool. Hey, can we pivot? Oh gosh, I just said the magic word. Can we pivot a quick second to something that I think is very related, talking about making yourself better and just mindset and you had mentioned to me something I think that’s really cool. Like this business, your gym started as a hobby that turned into this thriving business that yes is facing challenges, but there are absolutely better days ahead that’s very clear to see. But in the meantime, it sounds like to help you get through these past several months, you’ve had a hobby too that started maybe turning into another business. Can you talk more about that and how kind of it was an outlet? Again, it started kind of the same way it was an outlet and now it’s beginning to pick up and thrive.

Ralphie:
Yeah, it was pretty much a joke. Someone asked, my mom asked me to make this, they’re real popular at the beginning of this, a squirrel bench. I don’t know if it was popular. It was like, it was all over the internet. Stupid squirrel benches that the squirrels would eat at. So I made one and then one of her friends asked, “Can you make me one?” And then someone asked, “Hey, can you make this?” And I’ve always been interested and it’s literally been a hobby for a very long time of just working with my hands. Never really good at it. Still not very good at it, but then yeah, people started asking for things and hey, can you make this? Hey, can you make that? So we go and we find pallets around town, like the wood pallets that people ship things on and we turn them into things.
Like just yesterday, my wife wanted this table. We were decorating for Christmas and I have over my Nutcracker collection is over like 55. And so we literally made this table yesterday to fit the majority of them, but also she’ll be using for future use and it’s helped a lot. It was really just stress-relieving at the beginning. And really when I had nothing to do to keep me preoccupied, I just would go and I would build something and then someone asked for it and then ask me how much. And from there, it’s just kind of grown into … Funny enough, one of my members said, “Oh, you’re like a pallet elf.” So that’s what the Instagram name was for the longest time. And then once it started getting a little more serious, we changed it to Martinez Designs.
So it’s actually kind of a thing now. I had someone reach out and asked if I wanted to like do a consignment at their store in a city nearby. So who knows where it’ll go, but yeah, it’s helped a whole lot. And I mean, it’s something to where if you find something that you enjoy, I tell my members all the time, if you find something that you enjoy and it can make you something like we made some money last month that could cover half of our bills, possibly even our mortgage if we get some of the other stuff done. And that’s just me just fiddling around and again, getting rid of some of my stress and getting paid for it. I don’t think there’s a better way to do things.

Carol:
That is just awesome. And what a great way to just, to wrap this as we go into the four more, right? It’s just, if you find something that you love doing, find a way to make a business out of it. And I mean, your passion so entirely shines through. And I think it’s just so admirable all the way around. Very, very cool and very great tips for everybody out there. Very cool.

J:
Yeah, absolutely. And I think if nothing else, I mean, it’s important that we hear stories like these because while we don’t always talk about these types of struggles on this show, I know Carol and I have struggled during COVID, our businesses have struggled during COVID. We haven’t talked a lot about that on this show. And we talk to lots and lots of entrepreneurs or business owners who are in the exact same position that you are. And I think it’s important for everybody out there to realize that while it’s easy to focus on the success stories, we all like to go on Facebook and we all like to hear about the awesome things everybody’s doing and how everybody’s successful and everybody’s life is perfect. We all know that’s not true.
And like we always tell our kids, we have to focus on those failures and we have to focus and not failures, that’s the wrong word here, but we have to focus on the challenges and we have to focus on the bad stuff. Because at the end of the day, if you focus on the good stuff, you don’t do anything. It’s hard to get motivated by good stuff. You get motivated by the bad stuff. So I know I’m rambling a little here, but I just want to thank you for coming on and sharing your struggles, because I think you may not think of it this way, but I think you are doing a tremendous service to our audience here, just as a reminder, that it’s okay to struggle and it’s okay to be in a bad situation.
Again, Carol and I have our major struggles during COVID and so this is not a bad thing. This is a good thing. And so thank you for being a role model and being willing to kind of come on and talk about your struggles. And also I love the fact that it sounds like you’re well positioned as things go forward. So while we’re talking about struggles, we’re also talking about hope and the likelihood of tremendous success moving forward.

Ralphie:
Absolutely. Yeah. I don’t think you’ll find someone that talks, this is going to sound bad, but down on themselves more than me, but I do it for a reason. Like in my head, I will tell myself, why didn’t you do one more? Why aren’t you doing this right now? Because it pushes me and it’s okay. Like the Facebook and Instagram posts, people just want to post like exactly what’s going well in their life and it’s all the other things that make up 95% of the time. So if you can’t fight through the bad, there’s no good to celebrate.

J:
Absolutely. Okay. I think we’re at the point in the show where we’re going to jump into the four more, and that is where we ask you the same four questions we ask all of our guests. And then the more part of the four more is where we give you an opportunity to tell our listeners where they can connect with you, learn more about your businesses and anything else you want to talk about. Sound good?

Ralphie:
Sounds good.

J:
Okay. I’m going to take question number one. Ralphie, what was your very first or your very worst job? I’ll let you pick which one. And what lessons did you take from it that you’re still putting into use today?

Ralphie:
Okay. So I’m going to … my very first paper was a paper route. And since then, I’ve always … and it went poorly, really, really poorly. I remember waking my dad up like I can’t get these done and he was just so mad at me because I had to wake up early to do a paper route. And I knew that, and I’m always, I’m an early riser. But he made me, I think that my parents made me do it for at least a month. So sticking something out, even though I hated it every day, it kind of built in me that although you don’t want to do something and you may want to quit it, you probably should give at least an effort towards it. So that’s really something that’s stuck with me since then. Worst jobs. I do want to say any bad job I’ve ever had was a boss perspective. If they were like mean for whatever reason, it just made the worst job in the world. So if I ever had employees or ever have employees, I know exactly what not to be.

J:
Love it.

Carol:
Love it. Okay. I’m sitting here just laughing about so many little bits and pieces because I’m sorry old bosses if you’re listening, which I’m sure you’re not, but yeah, there’ve been … yeah. Nevermind really on that one. Another story for another day. I digressed. I’m focusing now question number two. Ralphie, what is the best piece of advice that you have for small business owners and young entrepreneurs that you haven’t yet shared today?

Ralphie:
Best piece of advice that I could give is something that I don’t do often myself, but it helps to reach out. I have come to know a gym owner in Southern California, Logan, Gailbrick, owner of Deuce gym, amazing gym, amazing setup, far as the backside of things. I actually took a trip to Wisconsin just to go to a seminar of his and I learned so much from him. And I feel like we’re connected more than some of even my friends that I can see every single day, because of the interaction that social media allows. And really it’s an avenue that if you have not explored yet, find someone that’s doing the thing that you want to do and message them. And just, I mean, it costs nothing, right? Worst case scenario is that they don’t respond and then you find someone else that’s doing the same thing and just pick everybody’s brain that you can and most of the time it’s free.

J:
Awesome. Love that. Okay. Question number three. And normally this is the question where I’d ask your favorite book that people should be reading, but I want to expand that, make it a little bit broader because clearly you rely on heavily on motivation and you seem to do a great job of staying motivated. When you start to get demotivated, what do you do? What do you read? Who do you look to or what do you listen to, to stay motivated and what should our listeners who get demotivated be doing to kind of keep up that motivation?

Ralphie:
Okay. So first I came prepared for this question with this is so I do have a book and I’m going to … Mindset and it’s not a business book, but if it wasn’t for Logan who I mentioned just a little bit ago, I would have never known what this book was about. This might change your life. So I highly recommend Mindset by Carol Dweck. It’s amazing. It’s a short read. If I can read it, you can read it. But what I early on especially trying to get this gym off the ground and make it more than a hobby. Eric Thomas, Gary Vaynerchuk, I’m blanking on another name, but it might come to me, but Eric Thomas especially, ET the hip hop preacher.
If you YouTube them, they do a lot of motivational mashups. So during workouts or when I’m programming for my gym’s workouts or just when I need maybe a little kick in the ass, I will YouTube motivational Eric Thomas and that usually just gets me going. Yeah, and it’s as simple as that. It’s a simple, I’m a real … I’m huge on outside motivation to get the inside going. So if I can hear someone, they’re not really even speaking to me, but it can relate because it usually is. It just, it’ll drive me to wherever I need to go.

Carol:
I love it. I love it. And I love getting the sources of motivation and inspiration from somebody who himself … You are so massively and inspirational. So thank you for sharing that. Okay. My fourth question which is my favorite fun-ish kind of one, what is something along the way either for your work life or your family life, whether it’s a thing or an experience or for you or for your kids or whomever, however, wherever that you have splurged on along the way that was entirely in totally worth it?

Ralphie:
Okay. So I had to really sit down and think of this one. Carol, as I told you in our pre-talk that at the beginning of this, I found you guys as podcasts this lockdown and I listened to every single episode up until about, I think a week ago. So I might be a little bit behind. And every single time one of who I thought was a very successful person was asked this question, they said they go for the experience, not so much the thing that you can actually buy. And our oldest son just turned 10 in October. And although things were open and you started wearing masks and things, we took him to San Diego and it wasn’t, well, I can’t even really call it a splurge because it really didn’t cost all that much, probably to a lot of your listeners it might be like a splash in the pan, but to us, it was significant and the kids still talk about it.
We took them down there to see, to go to a restaurant called Not Not Tacos. He watches this YouTube cook. His name is Sam the cooking guy. We watch him every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That’s one thing that we’ve actually gained during this quarantine is the things that we all have found that we enjoy to watch and do together. My daughter all the time, she’s four and she asked all the time, “When are we going to San Diego?” Or we’ll getting the car, oh, are we going to San Diego? No, we’re just going down the street. It’s all we’re doing. But yeah, staying in a simple hotel and walking the streets of little Italy, getting ice cream and going to that restaurant meant a whole lot at a time where we definitely needed it.

Carol:
Dang it, you’ve got me crying now, stop. This is like amazing. That is so awesome. And it is so true, right? When you’ve got little kids. It’s just J and I always joke. We’re like, “There’s no reason to stay in some big fancy hotel. It’s just creating those memories, jumping on the bed at the holiday Inn express and getting the free Fruit Loops downstairs and just wandering around and having 100% attention from mom and dad is really all that matters. And those are the memories that last forever and ever. Love it. Totally cool.

J:
Awesome. Okay. Well that was the four part of the four more. Now let’s talk about the more part of the four more and that’s where you tell our listeners where they can find out more about you, your businesses, where they can connect with you or anything else you want to tell our listeners.

Ralphie:
Okay. So we’re on Instagram more than anything, and that’s Martinez Elite Fitness, that’s for the gym. If you want to check out the woodworking stuff, that’s Ralphie Martinez Designs. Website, Martinezelitefitness.com. And if you are in need of something, a jumpstart or kickstart and you have a dumbbell available at your home, please do yourself the favor. It doesn’t mean nothing. Go to our YouTube channel. We’re on there, Martinez Elite Fitness. There are I believe over a hundred videos of free workouts and you can go and do it.
We don’t do the best quality. We don’t have high def cameras. The lighting’s probably crappy, but the workout is there for you. We explain what to do. We give you the sets and reps. All you have to do is the work. The thought process and that’s pretty much our business model, the thought process is taken out for you and all you have to do is the work. So it’s there. Please, please go use it especially if you are in need of any type of stress relief, it’s there for you.

J:
I love it. Ralphie, I say this to all of our guests and I do mean it, but I especially mean it with you. Will you promise us one thing, will you come back next year and give us an update?

Ralphie:
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I loved it.

J:
Fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing with us. Thank you for being vulnerable and talking about your struggles and your successes. And I very much look forward to having you back next year to see where things are.

Ralphie:
Thank you guys so much. It was really, really a pleasure. So thank you.

J:
Thanks, Ralphie.

Carol:
Thank you. Talk soon.

J:
Bye.

Ralphie:
Bye guys.

Carol:
Seriously, J, absolutely love, love, love, everything about Ralphie's message, right? I mean, he has been through some hard times, a lot of business owners have, we have and we just keep pushing through. Absolutely love, especially how he talked about when his kids get up in the morning, it's such a great reminder and a great personal motivation that he's just got to keep moving forward and making this happen. And that's why we're all in this arena, right? That's why we're all about being entrepreneurs. That's why we're all about creating financial freedom and passive income streams in doing all the things we can to take control of our own life and give examples to the people around us and leave a lasting legacy. So I'm just, I loved everything he had to say.

J:
Yeah, absolutely. And we talked about it on the episode, but he’s really a great example of understanding our why in this business. And again, it’s normally for a lot of us, not just about the money, we’re doing this for other reasons. And once you understand those other reasons that are even more important than the money, it really keeps you pushing forward because it makes you realize it’s not about you. It’s not about the money. It’s really about these other things and quitting is just not an option. So it’s an amazing message.

Carol:
Oh, great. You know what? It is time to wrap it up.

J:
Well, let’s do it. Everybody, thank you for tuning in. Have an amazing rest of your week and we will talk to you next week. She’s Carol, I’m J.

Carol:
Now fiercely push forward and stay ruthless for you and your people today.

J:
Ooh, interesting.

Carol:
85 episodes in, I make it happen. Everybody, thank you so much for listening. We adore you. We appreciate you. Keep moving forward, keep making great things happen and we’ll see you next week.

J:
Thanks everybody.

 

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • How to harness your passion and turn it into a business
  • The importance of having a partner who will push you to follow your dreams
  • Why referral and word-of-mouth marketing is a very powerful tool
  • Knowing the “why” behind running your business (outside of making money)
  • Why you’ll need to think creatively when reality is working against you
  • Finding other streams of income even when your business may be slow
  • The importance of quality time with family, especially during high-stress and uncertainty
  • And So Much More!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show:

  • Mindset by Carol Dweck

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What does it take to start, scale, and sell your own business? Every Tuesday, J and Carol Scott ask this question to entrepreneurs of all stripes and delve into stories that go beyond the launch. From hiring and firing to marketing and raising capital, this podcast takes an honest look at the triumphs and stumbles of entrepreneurship. Whether you’re looking to sustain a startup or bring an idea to life, you’ll come away inspired. Tune in—and learn how to treat your business like a business.