Alright, so I’m in the car, driving to meet Jeff Waston for our AAT interview. I’m mentally going over everything in preparation for our sit down. “Of course we’ll talk about his life journey.” I thought to myself, “but, due to the fact that I’m speaking with the owner of a local gym, I’m sure we’ll also get into discussions about fitness, health, and proper bodily care.” And you know what? All that thinking about exercise really started to make me hungry. So, I decided to pull off and treat myself to a nice, healthy meal for nourishment and substance.
Like any good story, Jeff Watson (Owner of Empower fitness, husband to wife Mindy and father of two daughters, Hailey and Kierra) and I started at the beginning of his.
Raised in Carlsbad New Mexico, Jeff started his young life out by racing BMX bikes at the age of 6, alongside his brother. “When it came to bikes, we took it to a ridiculous level. My mom ended up buying a store and running her own business. My dad bought a big property and made like a bike track. And my brother and I ended up being like 2nd and 3rd in the state.” But as he got out of school, around his 8th-grade year, his family made the move from New Mexico to Nevada. Beatty Nevada to be exact. “We moved to Beatty because my dad got a job in the mines and I think it was around that time when things began to change because I got away from being ridiculously bullied; I was shoved into lockers and called names my wife doesn’t even know. But it was also at this time (15/16 years) when it seemed like my parents sort of gave up. They were like, well you guys are grown up now! So, there was a lot of drinking, sneaking out, and going the wrong way. I hated school and hated authority. My sophomore year, I believe my GPA was a .2 But the local mine was literally five minutes away from where I lived; you could see it from the town. So, I figured, I’m going to go work for the mines right there so I don’t need any of that stuff anyway.” And that’s what ended up happening, according to Jeff. ” I started mining was I was almost 19 and did not finish my senior year in high school.”
Fast forward several years, about 2001, Jeff and his now wife Mindy, would catch the fitness bug. “After our first child, my wife was sitting at over 200 pounds and I was around 135. But when we had our second child around 2002, we really started getting into fitness and it changed our lives. We went from drinking every day on my seven days off to realizing that I don’t want to drink because I love the way I feel and I love seeing the results. I started seeing “size” and she started seeing the opposite of “size” and so within six months it was probably an addiction.”
In 2006, Jeff got out of the mining game as his mom put him to work looking for real estate investments while Mindy went to work as a nurse. But in 2007 things really amped up for the Watson family. “The owner of the old Gold’s Gym, North 5th st, needed to get out of town pretty quickly so He offered us the opportunity to get into the gym, it didn’t cost us a lot of money to do, and that was our shoe in.” But wait! His gym is called “Empower Fitness” not “Gold’s Gym” how did that come about? “That is a super easy one. Gold’s Gym is a really big corporation. But when you’re small, you can treat people the way you believe they need to be treated. And I wasn’t “big” enough to get attention from them. I saw a Gold’s Gym rep four times from 2007-2015. And they also insinuated that they were going “a different way” with fitness in the future on top of wanting more money from us because we were so small. But eventually, their franchise contract was up the name “Empower” came to us and we just rolled with it. When something is supposed to be, it just happens. The hard part was when I realized I now needed to figure out how to design and get shirts and hats!”
Despite all those details, Jeff continued to explain his passion and excitement for what he gets to do every day. “I see it. I see overweight or unhealthy people when they come and I see the smile on their faces because they know they’re going to make that step. They’re finally making a change they’ve probably been thinking about for awhile. And then you get to see the results. That’s what brings us to the passion…you get to see it all happen right in front of you.”
But it can’t all be sunshine and open treadmills, right? There has to be some struggles or obstacles in the business. Maybe the occasional poser who spends more time taking selfies and flexing in the mirror than actually working out? “My current obstacle is figuring out how to provide people with the right information, knowledge, and data to continue their journey. My struggles are, how do I relay my passion to them because most people are not going to go out and find the information themselves. Because once you have that information, it’s easy. So, we’ve started putting up workout boards in the gym, so if you don’t know what to do you can just look at one of those boards and do the workout. And I’ve also been working on live streaming our group fitness classes on a member only Facebook and Youtube page. So if you’re anywhere in the world and you’re missing your Empower Fitness class, you can still log on and take it. But anything worth fighting for gives you more resistance than you can imagine.” Jeff explained.
“There are two types of business people. Those were are successful but take very calculated baby steps and people like me who throw the cart in front of the horse and just figure out a way to get there.”
That was a good quote, but do any of those “resistances” come from specifically being an Elkoian business owner? “I think it makes it easier. If you’ve been around Elko long enough, you’ll meet those people who always say “I hate this town.” Those are the people who are out to 3 am every weekend, getting drunk, getting into fights etc. But once you get away from that you’ll see that 90% of the people in Elko are amazing people and it makes it easier to run your business. But I had to get over that (I hate this town) hump because I used to live in that. But the town knows you and as long as you’re not a total jackass, that’s a good thing.”
So, what’s next for Empower? Well, according to Jeff’s plans…Franchises! Yes, that’s right, there may be more of his babies popping up around Nevada in the future. ” It’s been on my mind for months or maybe even closer to a year. That’s what gives me goosebumps; we’re making a franchisable name.” So, tell you random friend from Winnemucca to stay tuned if they want to get in on that Empower Fitness train! Empower also has plans to expand it’s current facility over the 35-40 days, adding 2,300 more square ft. for group fitness.
But at the end of the day, Jeff wanted one thing made clear to anyone thinking about coming to check them out, right now. ” I know it’s super intimidating walking into a gym unknown. But we’ve taken, as much as we can out of that process, so please don’t don’t be scared. I was intimidated when I first joined. I still remember my first day. There was personal training who made a very good time laughing at how weak I was. So, I get all that intimidation, and we’ve tried to take all of that out.”
What, an inspiring conversation that was. The body is a very important part of our lives. Here at Anthony Around Town we obviously focus a lot on exploring people’s stories, and the body is an important part of that process. The keeps scores of memories and experiences just like the mind…sometimes it stores things that the mind can’t even bring to the surface. So, let’s pay attention to our bodies and take good care of them!
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See you at the gym, Elko!