She grew her business by turning the COVID-19 shutdown on its head
By Diane J. Epperly
Before most people have had their first cup of morning coffee, Tamara Brown has already jump-started her day. Clad in a hot pink tank top and workout pants, she greets each of the women by name in her 5:30 a.m. small group training class. For the next 60 minutes she leads them through an intense exercise session from her living room. When Brown steps up to the screen, it is like she is right there, guiding and encouraging her clients. “Keep those hips up. Really try to stretch those hamstrings. You’re looking great.”
Throughout this spring’s COVID-19 lockdown, Brown also launched into another exercise class at dinnertime. Once a week she hosted a cardio dance party, an hour of high energy dance fitness to a hip-hop beat–all from the confines of her own home.
Before the coronavirus changed everyday life, the Columbia native and owner of TamB. Fitness, a women-specific wellness studio, had been a staunch opponent to online training. “I want to be engaged with my clients, to reach out and touch them. I didn’t think it could be the same.” When the governor temporarily shuttered the doors of gyms this spring, she was concerned. What would happen to the business she had built?
Brown didn’t start her career motivating women to get fit. She earned a degree in English from the University of South Carolina and subsequently enjoyed the management position she held at Amazon. “I fell in love with fitness,” she explained of the hobby that morphed into a life-changing passion. What started out as a way to lose extra pounds and release stress took her down a road to achieve certification as a personal trainer and a health and wellness educator.
How it all started
She initially took on a couple of clients. Then a couple more. As Brown provided coaching on fitness and nutrition, her clientele steadily grew. Soon it was becoming difficult to juggle training with a full-time job. “I prayed about it,” she recalled. “I was in the kitchen washing dishes one day when God told me to leave my job.”
While Brown was excited about her new business, Not Your Average Trainer, she was also keenly aware of what she didn’t know. “I went to school to be an English teacher; business was not in my repertoire. I was jumping out in faith, believing I could help other women look good and feel good.” She found that women responded to her you-can-do-this attitude and the energy she poured into them. “I don’t just want to train you to lose weight. I want to inform you, educate you, and empower you to have a total life transformation.”
As women worked to lose weight and build strength, something else happened as well: they began encouraging and supporting each other. When she decided to take the next step, moving from holding classes in someone else’s gym to getting a place of her own, these women came to support her as well. “I didn’t even have money in the bank for the first’s month rent when I signed the lease,” she recalled. Her clients’ financial backing helped open TamB. Fitness studio in Northeast Columbia. “I moved in with nothing–not a jump rope, not a dumbbell. I bought equipment on Facebook Marketplace and Craig’s List and made it work with what I had,” she said.
That was then, this is now
Outgrowing that space only a year later, Brown is thrilled with growth on many fronts. Clients have lost up to 100 pounds. Women of all ages have discovered how to get beyond self-limiting beliefs. She celebrates their becoming wives, mothers, and small business owners. “We have grown to be an amazingly tight-knit community. I had no idea of how big the impact would be,” she said.
Her fears about transitioning to a virtual format seemed unwarranted when her clients immediately embraced the concept. “The only negative feedback I got was, ‘Why didn’t you do this sooner?’” Brown said. The state lockdown also brought unanticipated opportunities for TamB Fitness. Brown added out-of-state clients who found her on social media. Since gyms were allowed to reopen in June, she is now operating locally and online.
Bringing on additional instructors to teach in the studio excites Brown about the direction her business is headed. “COVID-19 has actually aligned me to a position that I’ve always wanted. “I’m able to employ more people, impact more people, and give more of myself to my clients.”
Click to learn more about Tamara Brown and TamB Fitness.