This article originally appeared on Diversity & Inclusion.
Shawn Raymond got into the business of fitness and wellness by chance. “I had two friends that said ‘Shawn, you’ve always been really motivational, if you could come to the gym and tell us to do one more exercise, we know we’d work harder.'” In a few months, he began to see his own results and realized how much he enjoyed focusing on his fitness and health. He took a job in construction that would keep him in shape but discovered it wasn’t his path. His mom proposed he look into becoming a personal trainer.
Upon applying at the NAIT School of Applied Science and Technology for its Personal Training Program, Shawn was told he needed to upgrade his math and biology marks. While he worked with a private tutor to bring his knowledge up, he was given conditional acceptance into the program and able to complete two courses, which he describes as transformational. “We were given a worksheet with 125 adjectives that you might use to describe yourself. Out of these 125, the class was told we needed to choose 25. Then the next week we had to cut it to 15, then to 5 and then to 3 words that would describe what we’d like to be known as. I decided I wanted to be known to always be happy, pursuing my own success and always being able to trust myself.”
Once fully accepted to the program, Shawn’s passion for personal training bloomed. He would get up at 4:30 am, drive an hour to the North side of Edmonton, work out for an hour and be in classes until 5 pm. “Every day I felt the urge to wake up earlier so that my success could start sooner. I was thankful for the fact that I found something I was passionate about,” Shawn says.
Shawn graduated with a 3.9 GPA, dozens of connections made through an end-of-program networking event and the confidence to strike out on his own. Not only that, the motivational spirit his friends saw in him years earlier became evident once again. “More than fifty students told me they wouldn’t have graduated if it wasn’t for me,” Shawn explains. Even before leaving school, his ability to inspire was proven.
An exercise in business-building
Shawn began building his personal training business – Shawn R Training – within Snap Fitness in Leduc, Alberta. In less than two years, he had 50 clients on his books, the capacity goal he had set for himself. “Every single person in the gym knew that I was getting people results and that people were feeling great with me. I was running four bootcamps a week and two yoga classes, and training three competition-prep females.” He also began training clients with physical and mental disabilities, helping people gain both mobility and confidence.
When the gym sold to new owners, however, things changed. Shawn, who is bubbly, colourful and flamboyant, was too much personality for one of the owners. While Shawn tried to adapt, he wasn’t happy being anything but his authentic self. It was time to start looking at other options. “I knew I needed to start my own thing – I needed to figure out how to diversify my business, expand and grow somewhere that wasn’t attached to a gym taking 30-40% of my earnings.”
When he learned the Leduc Boat Club was available as a training space, he knew it was the perfect place for him to build a new business – if only he had the funding to make it happen.
Support Through Money, Mentorship and Momentum
Shawn tested out his new business model for two months before applying to Futurpreneur, a not-for-profit organization that provides financing, mentoring and support tools to young, aspiring business owners. “The team there was amazing,” he says. “They gave me lists of things to do, showed me how to build an application, taught me about cash flow and write offs.” His mindset shifted from ‘how much can I make each month?’ to ‘how much money can I invest in my business? How much should I be paying myself in salary? How much should I be setting aside for equipment, supplements and education?’
In March 2021, Futurpreneur launched the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program, a new funding collaboration with RBC, which provides start-up loan financing, up to two years of mentorship, plus access to resources and networking opportunities to Black entrepreneurs aged 18 – 39. Shawn became the first entrepreneur to participate in the program, which has given him the tools needed to launch his business.
With the start-up funds, Shawn purchased equipment, protein snacks for his clients and office supplies. He has been able to reinvest in his website, which launches in December, and has developed branded merchandise, including water bottles, backpack stickers, apparel and more – a sign to him that his dream is truly now a reality.
With six staff now supporting his marketing and accounting tasks, Shawn is able to focus on what he loves most – working out with his clients and helping them become the best versions of themselves. He also has a practicum student from NAIT working with him, who he hopes to bring on full-time. “It’s a way to earn passive income and support new trainers who are building their own client base,” he says.
Fully immersed in running and growing his business, Shawn is excited about the future, especially as group training opens up in Alberta in December. “In five years, I want Shawn R Training to have its own gym, three or four other trainers, and an open floor plan so I can also rent space to other yoga instructors or bootcamp trainers I know.”
Shawn continues to receive support and mentorship from the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program and has the opportunity to apply for follow-on funding after two years of successful business performance. Equipped with new skills, knowledge, passion and ongoing support, Shawn R Training is in great shape to reach its biggest goals.
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