“To truly celebrate CrossFit Eden Prairie’s 6th birthday, I decided to flip the script and put co-owners, Curt and & Anna Follman, in the hot seat. Although, this is a celebratory moment I wanted to have them share the reality of what goes on behind the scenes to create the #workhardbenice community that stands today.” Written by: Hayley Sutherland.
What are some of your favorite moments & memories from the last six years?
It’s fun to look back and realize that some moments were way more meaningful now that we are further away from them! There are too many to count, but looking back now there are a few that stand out. Our 1-year party was pretty awesome….and by awesome we mean we had a band and open bar! We quickly realized that we didn’t need to do that again!! 🙂 There were so many memories from our original space. We had our first CrossFit Open as a community, first WODdle Before You Gobble on Thanksgiving Day, and many more that I’m sure the community members can attest to! When we were moving to our 2nd location [now known as the pitstop due to the short 10-month stint there], we signed the lease to the space while Anna was in labor with our daughter, Hadley! We literally made a “pitstop” on the way to the hospital to sign the lease, I guess the name holds many meanings to this day. That was quite a hectic couple of days, to say the least! A huge sigh “relief” came over us the day that we moved into our final space [where we are currently]. Not having noise complaints, other issues, and having the best facility to date was the light at the end of what felt like a very dark tunnel at the time. They always say 3rd times the charm!
What would you say is the most challenging part of owning the gym?
The most challenging part (as most small business owners will tell you) is the “consuming” nature of owning a business. Owning a small business with your spouse adds its own unique challenges. We’ve heard so many times “I could never work with my spouse….we’d kill each other!” Well….we’ve almost done that many times! On date night we have to tell ourselves not to talk about the gym, and that usually doesn’t work. To most people starting or stopping a membership at a gym or other place isn’t a big deal…but to us, it’s legitimately our livelihood! So relying on people’s decisions in that aspect can be quite stressful at times. Another piece to the puzzle is the natural changes in life that have come along the way. Opening a business when you’re young and engaged is different than when you have a 4-year-old and hoping for more children. All of the early mornings and late nights don’t “mesh” well with that. We all know that CrossFit is an extremely personal business where we have relationships with so many people, so when we aren’t able to be as present as we were in the beginning, it has led us to feel guilty at times, when in reality we are just doing what is best for our family! Although it’s not always butterflies and rainbows, we’re extremely blessed to be surrounded by the countless amazing humans that we’ve been able to meet over the years since opening CFEP.
What would you say is the most rewarding part of owning the gym?
We built something from nothing…together.
This will always be the most rewarding piece to all of this. We created something that wasn’t ever there from the ground up and have been going strong for 6 years now! A lot of businesses [especially fitness] never make it that long. Fitness is cut-throat in many aspects, and a lot of times you see owners start to burn out if they don’t take the necessary steps to relieve some of the workloads. We’ve made it a priority to not let that happen! This community is also filled with some AMAZING people! There are so many times where the generosity and kindness of members in this community has been overwhelming. Even our friends and family who aren’t apart of the gym don’t always understand how great everyone is or how much people care about each other. The typical gym is where you go in, get your workout done, then leave. We do that…but we also raise money if someone needs it, go to happy hours, golf together, attend other members’ birthday parties, etc. We have such a large support group, and more importantly, our daughter Hadley has one hell of a group of role models to look up to!
If you could go back six years ago and give your younger self advice, what would it be?
Anna’s first response to this question was, “to hire a rockstar business consultant and CPA right out of the gate and to ask more questions [be more curious].” As her younger sister, hearing that this was her initial response was no surprise to me lol. When encouraging them to think beyond business their thoughts were the following.
A common theme over the years, especially the first few can be summed up by “Stay in your Lane.” To better define the co-ownership roles and rely on one another’s strengths right out of the gate. Too often we would try to prove we could convert a weakness into a strength, just to show each other that we could do it just as well. This tactic may remind you of any toddler you’re close with, but being in business with your spouse can bring out your inner child at times. It wasn’t always easy to do, but learning when to take a back seat and when to let the other one shine is an important message. This applies to us as both business owners, and as husband & wife. Another piece of advice we continuously remind ourselves of is that it’s okay to drop our pride & ask for help [which we sadly admit is still a difficult thing for us to do] We have learned to accept the fact that everyone needs it from time to time!
Where do you hope to see the gym and community six years from now?
As we eluded to earlier, the fitness industry is always ebbing and flowing, it’s our mission to continue to offer a “best in class” service to all of our members. In our opinion, CrossFit will always be the most effective way to sweat, and the community aspect is hands down the most motivating factor to keep the doors open. The most important aspect that we hope to always instill is the #workhardbenice culture derived from the many members reading this today. We cannot wait to witness many more first skills, PR’s, friendly camaraderie, and so many more people we have yet to meet.
If CFEP had a theme song, what would it be and why?
When I asked Anna what she would choose as the CFEP theme song, she giggled at first and said “I’ll be there for you,” from the cherished 90’s sitcom Friends. Apparently, Curt despises the show [which is a sin in my opinion] but she went ahead and picked it anyways. We looked it up on youtube [which we encourage you to do as well], and we realized that it does fit the mold quite well. We then joked that she would most likely play the role of Monica, and Curt would be her Chandler Bing- therefore doing anything that she says. Ha-ha just kidding.
If you could summarize how you feel about your community, what would you want them to know? (A message from the owners)
Where do we start? Gratitude is the first word that comes to mind. It’s an easy word to throw around, but we wouldn’t be in business today without countless handouts from many of you who still sweat with us, and some of those who have moved on but keep in touch. That one word carries more weight than we can ever express. For those who fought for us and jumped in to help without request and of course without ever seeking anything in exchange. For standing up for our young family when we were “served” at our home when Hadley was just weeks old in an attempt to “bully” us out of the pitstop location. For volunteering your professional time because what happened to us just didn’t feel fair. For helping us move our gym [TWICE] in one year without batting an eye. For hanging in there during “no dropping weights” time. For having empathy & compassion when a decision we made may have felt out of left field as a member but better supported our family life. This list goes on and on but one common theme? Gratitude. From the countless members we have had the pleasure of getting know, thank you for letting us be a small part of your journey. As the theme may suggest, every single person who has had any hand in this business becoming a reality; our family, friends, past, present, future members, and beyond. Thank you.
Written By: Hayley Sutherland