Up Front With Matteo Baker, CEO/Founder Of 220 Fitness
Posted Feb. 1, 2012, 12:51 am
Brenton Garen / Editor-in-Chief
After more than 16 years in the Gym Industry working nationally on both coasts for big name companies, Matteo Baker decided to open his own gym in the form of 220 Fitness in Santa Monica to create a unique gym experience.
His experience is vast and ranges from corporate branding, training development in many positions, implementation of company systems, sales, marketing, and production to consistently meet financial goals in the fitness industry.
Baker has combined his experience to develop a unique vision to offer new concepts that makes the gym an experience that’s fun while achieving customer’s individual goals. Baker said he believed building a solid team is the key to true success, as it is not just one person, but an entire team needed to work together to deliver amazing product and service to keep customers coming back for more.
220 Fitness celebrated its one-year anniversary on Thursday. What do you attribute your success to when many new businesses are struggling in this economy?
Putting together a strong team who actually enjoy what they do. The people we have on board like seeing people get results. Team, a unique concept, risk taking and having fun seems to be what the community wanted.
What were the biggest challenges during your first year and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenges were the obstacles you don’t see coming, or lack of experience in certain areas such as construction, permitting, and finding the right people. Once we found our groove and with the support of Santa Monica residents, sailing has been much smoother. The great news is every mistake that was made worked out to be a huge learning experience and obviously nothing fatal giving us more strength for the future. We have winners and we persevere in the face of adversity, which is ironic because that’s what we teach our members.
With more than 10 years of fitness club executive management experience with the big players in the industry, when did you first have the idea to start your own gym?
Well, as soon as I realized how much revenue I could generate for others who were less than appreciative, that’s when I first thought that I needed to take steps to do my own thing. I believe it’s the same story millions of others have had when they felt like a small fish in a big pond. I was never comfortable accepting that I could see my future; I knew that the American dream of starting a company and making it successful was real. However, I’m the first to admit how easy it is to get comfortable. Losing is the only way I believe one knows how to become a winner. I’m very humbled to this industry, and life in general.
After I came back from Asia as Vice President, the only position I could find was a General Manager in training position. I was a GM or higher for more than 10 years alone, so again I was humbled. A good friend of mine, Wladimir Klitschko, said ‘Matteo you can not go backwards. You are way too talented to accept this, let’s start our own gyms.’ I said ‘Okay, lets do it,’ and he asked ‘what do you need?’ I said I must develop a business plan, figure out what type of model we want to run with, find a location, and put together a budget. Where do you want to do this Wladimir? He replied: New York City. Off to NYC I was for just over a year developing my business plan, doing several months of research, and even found a location, 220 5th Avenue, Flat Iron District. Hence the name 220. Wladimir got extremely busy with his career as Heavyweight Champion of The World, so I said I’m too far into this thing now, I’m going back to LA and starting there.
What elements did you take with you from your previous positions and what have you done differently to make your gym so unique?
Many things that the big companies do are proven methods that work, however I felt that some things are not exactly what the public wants. I found that many executives who make decisions that impact customers are sometimes not what members are looking for. Many of the bigger companies have CEO’s, VP’s, and Executives that have never even worked out. One of the gyms I worked at had a VP that came straight over from Dunkin Donuts. No offense to Dunkin Donuts as it’s obviously a very successful brand, however the parallels I’m not seeing. I am fortunate that I learned all the Standard Operating Procedures of four different major gym brands without knowledge, which has been helpful in 220’s development.
What differentiates 220 from any other gym?
Well first of all we have been told our gym is like “Recess for adults.” We feel that we are like a hybrid gym, giving the public the best of both worlds. The fitness industry has evolved into many smaller studios that specialize in certain programming such as yoga, spin, boot camp, etc. Or a person goes with the big gym philosophy where you have many machines and you get a membership card then you’re on your own. We are kind of a combo as we have all the classes with over 75 a week. The classes vary too, which gives you options so you don’t have to do the same workout every time. If you miss your class, no problem, we have state of the art brand new equipment so you don’t miss your workout.
Why would one expect to get in any better shape at your facility than any other?
We have established our classes that are amazing, however the personal training is what has proven to be very effective and fast. We have shot two reality shows at 220, “Chelsea Settles on MTV,” and “Love Handles” on Lifetime Network, both fabulous ladies lost over 50 lbs. Lainee, who is one of our favorite members, has lost over 60 lbs and has changed her life tremendously. Our trainers are of a different tier. Trainers don’t start their careers here, we hire only established well-skilled, experienced, professionals. Results are a fact here, not a hope.