Ricky Grabow, the founder of Peak Physique, fights competition by “doing my very best to separate my clients from the possibility of quitting,” he explained. His personal training gym in a downtown West Allis storefront occupies 1000 square feet, where he uses treadmills and rowers for cardio exercise with his clients as well as a variety of free weights, dumbbells, and kettlebells.
Before starting Peak Physique, Ricky fought in Mixed Martial Arts competitions. He came to personal training, he said, “so I could be more fully immersed in my own training. en, when my frontal cortex matured, I realized fighting was not a good choice for my career, and I loved working with people.” Ricky dropped the fighting, kept the training, and opened Peak Physique in the basement of his duplex. “Now, I do what I love,” he said.
Online and Off, Growing through Referrals
Ricky connects with prospective clients through Facebook and local community events. Peak Physique also advertises in a seasonal recreation guide. But Ricky finds his most effective form of marketing is referrals. Clients receive a modest bonus for recommending Peak Physique.
Following a recent fitness trend, Ricky uses competitive elements like point scoring to keep his clients motivated—a strategy called “gamification.” A trip to Las Vegas was the grand prize in a Spring 2018 competition. Clients earned drawing entries by using heart-rate monitors to track their workout effort and duration. “It’s a good way to get Millennials into it because they love to compete,” Ricky said.
Accomplishments with the SBDC of UW-Milwaukee
- Entrepreneurial Training Program
- Tools and resources
- Sounding board
SBDC Helped Ricky Learn to Scale Up
Ricky was beginning to explore how to move out of his basement studio when he learned about the Entrepreneurial Training Program (ETP) offered by the Small Business Development Center at UW-Milwaukee. Through instruction, guest speakers, and coaching, the ETP course serves those who are considering starting a business as well as owners of existing businesses. Instructor Mary Schmidt introduced Ricky to Jason Mueller, Program Manager of the SBDC at UW-Milwaukee. Jason described the program’s purpose: “We help business owners either pursue or pivot from the idea they came in with. Jason praised Ricky’s approach of building his client base and brand before taking on a building lease: “Ricky was looking at how to scale up, but wanted to minimize his risk.”
“The course helped me feel prepared,” Ricky recalled. “It eased my tensions, being able to pick Jason and Mary’s brains about what I might need to watch out for.”
Ricky appreciated the in-depth instruction on business planning and continues to use the templates and systems he learned. Ricky said, “The class gave me the tools and resources to feel comfortable making the big jump” from his basement to his West Allis gym. “I would absolutely recommend it—when you’re new, you don’t know what you don’t know. If you want to avoid mistakes that could cost you dearly, it’s good to have advisors who’ve been there, done that.”
Jason attributes Ricky’s success to his consistent, methodical approach. “He doesn’t jump the gun—he scaled at a pace that was reasonable.”
Ricky was able to self-fund his startup, saving for expansion while he slowly built his clientele. “There were still some major expenses to cover when I moved into a bigger facility, but it helped,” he said. Peak Physique now employs instructors for Yoga and Zumba classes.
Peak Physique currently serves primarily women 21-45 years old, but Ricky has a strategy to enroll more men for fitness training. “I’m bringing in a new Kickboxing class,” he explained, “because people love the combat-related stuff.”