Most people that know me know I am an “idea guy.” I constantly have topics, ideas, or suggestions running through my head. This could be the next great invention or business idea, a new song, a children’s book, or a number of other things. Many are useless, SOME I’d like to consider good.
Either way, one topic that constantly runs through my mind is the one that entails running a small business with my spouse. My sidekick & badass boss lady would be the one and only Anna Follman. I want to share our story in hopes to express my gratitude for her constant efforts to be the best we can be as owners, a couple, and parents.
This time is so hard for everyone, but I think it’s universal that we could all use reminders on how we are appreciated. This turned in to kind of a long read, but let’s do it. #iappreciateyou
Here we are in May of 2020. I realize in this post I will give a 7 year story of our life instead of just focusing on the main topic, but I’ll summarize what my true intent was. I’m someone who can go off on tangents quite easily.
Please read on if you can…
Anna and I started CrossFit Eden Prairie in the fall of 2013. We both had corporate jobs, but saw an opportunity for our mutual love of CrossFit in the southwest metro. So we took a chance! Did we have any business knowledge? No. Did we know how to set up an LLC or S-Corp? No. Were there many other things we had no idea what we were doing with? YES. But what we had was a drive to be successful and own our own business. Anna sold the condo she had purchased, I cashed out some stock, and my hometown bank in ND agreed to sign off on a $30k line of credit for us to get things going. We were doing it.
So in September 2013 we opened while also managing other careers. We would get up early to coach, go to work, coach again and repeat the next day. To say it was juggling a lot of balls in the air was an understatement. Throughout this time Anna and I sort of fell into “roles” so to speak. I was more of the on-site presence. I would coach the majority of the classes every day, complete all of the physical requirements of “building” a growing gym & clean. Anna was the go-to for ALL of the important things behind the scenes. Marketing, programming, managing the team, accounting & bookkeeping. She did that all while still working a full-time job. It was not uncommon for Anna to have 3 laptops at her desk at once as she navigated her jobs and daily life. Anna’s weekly Sunday routine was programming for the next week’s classes. She did this for 5 years without pause. Could she have programmed out months or weeks in advance? Yes. But did she? No. How were the members feeling? What was the weather like next week? Being she wasn’t physically coaching a lot of classes this was also her way to put a “stamp” on the gym as well. Our “pain” was because of her.
On that note, my wife can multi-task LIKE A BOSS! It makes me dizzy with how much stuff she remembers. I can barely remember what I ate this morning.
OK, back to it.
Did I mention that while we opened this business, we were also planning for a destination wedding that took place four months later? Or should I say Anna was planning this because I didn’t really do much. A couple months later I was able to quit my part-time job and focus solely on the gym as we continued to grow and add classes. Anna still kept rocking all of her jobs. By the time the year was over we built a townhouse, decided to open another CrossFit gym [CrossFit Prior Lake], and then don’t forget Anna was now pregnant with our little Hadley. Easy-peezy, right?
Not too long after CFPL was opened we learned we had to look for a new space for CrossFit Eden Prairie due to noise. Finding a new space is definitely not an easy task, but luckily we ended up finding one that summer.
Fun fact here! The lease to our gym was signed ON OUR WAY to the hospital. Anna was having contractions while we were standing there signing the lease with the brokers. Again another reason to show how badass she is.
As always, Anna held strong and balanced a ton.
August of 2015 was when the little boss lady arrived, and Hadley didn’t come easy. I remember Anna waking me up at 4AM after she’d been laboring for 24 hours — she was exhausted & visibly trembling and freezing. Hadley’s heart rate was spiking to 200+ BPM and the nurses all of a sudden got very intense. Anna then had an emergency C-section due to an infection she developed during labor. Thank goodness she and Hads wound up being healthy, but fast forward a few years and we are now realizing that the infection caused adhesions in her tubes and has led us down the road to IVF. (more later) That whole experience was crazy in itself, but guess what Anna did the day they removed her catheter? Cleaned her damn hospital room, did her hair, and ran payroll for the gym. I mean seriously, WTF?! The nurse hadn’t ever seen that before plus our coaches probably got overpaid due to the pain killers she was on, who knows. LOL. That woman is beyond strong and determined.
So here we are….new baby, new gym space, going smooth right?
Our first day of classes at the new space…noise complaints from our neighbors. You’d think we’d have learned our lesson from having issues at our first location, which we did. Our lease had all the verbiage we needed to operate as a CrossFit gym. For 9 months we tried to find a new space [again], all while getting threats and pushed around by our corporate landlord. I remember one day we were at home and getting “served” with a threat to be evicted.
Something we have been reminded of over and over is how amazing our members are. Speaking of members and being appreciated….perhaps the next blog post! 🙂 Long-time member Paul Lukas legally represented us pro bono, we most likely would not be in business today without his help. Most members somehow stayed, even while being forced to never drop a barbell and keep the noise down. It was brutal, but our fitness family made it work. We were so indebted to our community for understanding. So at this point we are 3 years in now and are on our 3rd location, not exactly how you’d draw that up!
As always, Anna held strong and balanced it all.
Being a new mother is hard enough, but add these things on top of it and it’s insane. To outsiders this sounds like we were living the American dream, right?! Running our own businesses and being self-employed and starting a family. We won’t lie, it definitely had its perks, but damn is it stressful! I’m pretty sure we almost got dropped from our self-paid health insurance every year yet Anna somehow navigated the insurance waters to make sure we had decent coverage. I’d coach a ton of classes at both gyms, Anna would continue to run both businesses in addition to being a stay-at-home mom. As we continued to grow and raise our daughter we realized that it sure would be nice to have us all home for dinner some time.
Our goal over the past two years has been to diversify our income and not 100% rely on the gym financially. Selling CrossFit Prior Lake, seeking other work opportunities, and promoting coaches within has been part of that strategy.
Before I shift to more of the personal side of things, I want to make sure I shed some light on an earlier topic from the beginning. We are now at a point in the story where we’ve owned our own business for almost 7 years. Anna and I have sat in meetings with other gym owners and those individuals barely even look at her. In fact, one time a gym owner sat with us to see if we wanted to buy his gym. He sat down, looked at me, slid paperwork to me, and said “here you go Curt, do you want to buy it?” Anna was literally 3 feet away and he completely ignored her. So I said “well just so we’re clear Anna and I make our decisions 50/50 (actually 75/25 to Anna if I’m being honest) so you’ll be talking to both of us.”
All right, back to the personal side and finding balance.
Remember when I said Hadley’s delivery and infection caused some issues? Now is when that comes into play. A little over 2 years after Hadley was born we decided to make a conscious effort for another family member. Hadley didn’t take long so we were told there wouldn’t be anything to worry about. Another year passes and our doctor grows more concerned, and over time starts to do some tests to see if there are issues. Anna went on many different drugs/hormones, had numerous procedures, all to find out that Hadley’s infection caused adhesions in her tubes. There was almost little to no chance of us getting pregnant naturally. The most frustrating piece is that this is a direct side-effect of what happened with the delivery, yet we were never told that. Thankfully we have never been told number 2 can’t happen, we just have to go the path of IVF. So there is the direction we head.
Having witnessed this process I really don’t feel the physical toll that has been so hard on Anna. She is tough as hell and can handle anything, but it’s an emotionally & physically draining adventure. Imagine putting drugs into your body (for over a year) telling your body to operate in a way it isn’t naturally supposed to. My job is easy….I do my business into a cup. I think we’d all take that over what Anna has had to go through.
So, we get through the egg retrieval, eggs get fertilized, and now we wait to start. The first implant in the early part of 2020 unfortunately didn’t work, so we were waiting for the 2nd try. Then you know what happened?
MUTHA F***** COVID-19!!! Seriously, COVID. [I think you all feel the same]
A global pandemic is not anyone’s fault. We can’t control it, but that’s the hardest thing because we can’t just “outwork” it to victory. The gym was required to shut down and we had to completely overhaul the business to try and keep memberships and offer some type of service. Know who spearheaded that? Anna. She and the team have been doing an amazing job keeping things afloat, but it is still an extremely scary time. We feel for all small businesses out there and their employees.
Lastly, this isn’t meant to compare Anna or our life to anyone else. I truly believe most people work hard, whether personally or professionally & that everyone has their own struggles in life. Some choose to share and some don’t. Neither is right or wrong. I’m also not saying “my wife is a harder worker than your wife,” I just know that our story is unique and that Anna’s talents are unique. Many people listen to our journey and it resonates with them. Others don’t and move on. Either way is fine with us.
WE are a team, and we’ve built many of our dreams together. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. The reason we have been successful, the reason we have made it through so many ups and downs…is because we are a team and in it together.
So to wrap this sucker up…I hope the leader of my family; the wife, mother, & boss knows how much she’s appreciated. As said earlier, this time is so hard for so many people. Think of this post as my “therapy” during these crazy times. I’m also not one to get into posting a lot of personal stuff, but if there’s anyone else who thinks they’d like to tell someone how much they’re appreciated…now is as good a time as any! We could all use a reminder on how we’re appreciated.
Written by: Curt Follman