Jen Schweigert, entrepreneur, small business consultant, personal trainer, road runner and triathlete shares her backstory including her expertise in starting a franchise business and building her first business. Jen is crushing in on all fronts - such as placing second in the world in Super Sprint at the World Triathlon World Championships this past year in Abu Dhabi. Amazing!


[Koziol]: Welcome, this is Kate Koziol with the Driftless Makers Podcast and today I have Jen Schweigert who's an entrepreneur, a small business consultant, personal trainer and to top it all off she's also a road running and triathlete. So we're pleased to have Jen with us on the show today. Jen, welcome. 

[Schweigert]: Thank you for having me, Kate. 

[Koziol]: Jen, give us a little bit of background, you've had a great career and many interesting business entities. Tell us a little bit about your history. 

[Schweigert]: Yes. Well, after college I moved to this area. I was originally from the Twin Cities and just got a job in corporate America. I worked at Prudential Retirement down in Dubuque, IA and after a few years of working there, we noticed a need in our town for a fitness center. We had noticed that need. Few years back and then another fitness center came and sort of beat us to the punch and we weren't ready at the time to branch out on our own at that point, so it was always something a bit of a. Back burner idea for us and my husband grew up in a family business and was working at his family business and so it was a natural fit for us to pursue it. When the opportunity became available again, we decided that I would be the point person for that and with his help I was able to get started. It was really great to not only work with somebody that had been in a family business in the past or had the understanding of what it took to be a small business owner, but also just having that support as well as when we decided to start that business, we went the franchise route, which was also something that I would highly recommend to people that are getting started in small businesses because with a franchise. There's so much that's done for you where you get that exposure and knowledge of being a small business owner without having to reinvent the wheel. We started that business in the winter beginning of 2009 and I just recently sold that. It'll be coming up on two years now. So I did own and operate that for almost 13 years prior to selling it. And after selling it, I stayed on as a consultant for the new owner and like you mentioned, started to dip my toes into some personal training. So still owning my own business in that regard, as well as just doing consulting for other small business owners, people that are just getting into it and helping them navigate that path. 

[Koziol]: Tell us a little bit about that, Jen, because many people do look at franchises, but are there a few things that you would recommend others look at or compare when they're looking at franchise models? 

[Schweigert]: Yes, definitely. Franchises are very tricky and it is very important to do research when you go into it. The thing that I liked the most about Snap Fitness was you just typically had flat fees per month. So we paid X amount for marketing, we paid X amount for the computer software. We paid one time fees for every new member we signed up and billing fees and what not, but we never had to pay a portion of our sales or a portion of our personal training revenue or any consumable revenue. So it was really the sky is the limit for us which was a model that I really valued. There are some franchises out there that I would assume that take a cut off of your sales or mandate certain. Things that you need to buy or certain things that you need to offer. And that's not saying that Snap didn't have requirements you know, as the way we needed to look or certain equipment recommendations. But definitely I enjoyed and appreciated the fact that it was really about my hustle. Like if I went out there and I was boots to the pavement, if I was getting my name out there for signing up the new members, if I was making sales and addons that all. It went to me versus having to pay an additional cut to the franchise, which I think really motivate a lot of small business owners because it was the harder I work, the more money I made, it was not the more money that I had to give to them. 

[Koziol]: Excellent, excellent. Yeah, those franchise agreements I agree with you can be very supportive because often times when you're starting a business you're not an expert in every single area like having to build say your own you know software platform for enrollment and tracking and what not getting those elements is terrific, but then balancing it at what is the cost. That Snap Fitness in this case is looking for. So that's great. I'm sure that people that are looking at franchises might want to circle back to you not as a legal consultant but just as a professional consultant on those kinds of dealings and what to look for and what pitfalls that there might be. So when you were running Snap Fitness, you and your husband, was that the first time that you ran a business? He said you said he came from a family business, but was this your first independent entrepreneurial venture? 

[Schweigert]: Yes, It was my first small business venture and I would say that I ran it independently of Jim because Jim still works in his family business and now he was there to support me and answer any questions and deal with some of the things that I deemed to be difficult for me in the beginning. But yes, it was my very first time and it was a complete eye opener and it did amazing things for our relationship and and that's not to say that we don't or didn't have a good relationship before, but coming from corporate America where you know you, you go in, you clock in and then you leave it. 4:00 o'clock or 5:00 o'clock depending on when your shift gets off and you don't have to think about it really until the next day, weekend rolls around. You don't think about your job again until you roll into work Monday morning. But that is definitely not the case. As a small business owner and especially in a customer service based industry in which I was in, it was a 24 hour business and you know you could get calls in the middle of the night or. You know about somebody not being happy or a fire alarm going off or Lord knows what and you're you're the bottom line. You have to be there to handle those things. And that was something that I didn't really realize. And as a small business owner, you wear many hats. I was the plumber. I was the janitor. I was the salesperson. I was the, you know, marketing person. I did it all. I repaired equipment, you know, and I I learned along the way how to do those things. And I think that was very rewarding for me, to not only have that relationship grow, but to grow as an individual and as a woman and being stronger and being able to use my voice. But the thing that I just cannot stress enough is that when you do decide to go into running your own business, it is all consuming you. There are so many days, especially in the beginning when I was working, you know, 10 plus hour days and you're the only one there and and you can't just walk out the door and leave it because you have to deal with it the next day, you know. And it was a lot more than I thought, but it was the best experience and I would do it again 1000%. 

[Koziol]: That's great to hear. I've, I've often told people you can always tell the owner of the business because they're the ones out front picking up trash or replacing the, you know, whatever the brochures in the racket, just like they're everywhere doing everything. Because as you said, it's kind of the buck stops with them. It's got to get done. Outside of the wonderful ability to sort of hold your own and be a stronger business person and a more well-rounded person, what this maybe would you say was the greatest surprise as you work through being the owner manager of Snap Fitness? 

[Schweigert]: Wow, that's a great question. I think the greatest surprise was just maybe my ability to grow as a person and being able to stand up for myself and, you know, demand what I needed and recognize if someone wasn't treating me. Fairly and how to handle that and just also how to interact and work with people from all walks of life. You know when you're in a customer service based business, it is very, very different from a business to business business because anyone can walk in off the street and have certain expectations and they can be. Very great people, they could be. Not so great people, but just being able to navigate all of that with something that was a surprise and also when you invest your time and you really care about it, you can build such an amazing community. And I was able to do that with our Snap Fitness. It will be. It'll be 15 years that I've been a part of the community, the end of this year and the relationships that I formed with the people in the business or in that space have just been amazing. And the number of people, you know, customers, I guess members, clients what have you that would be willing to. Help me out if a situation arose and I couldn't be there where the numerous personal friendships that other members have made and the way that they've reached out to each other in times of need and in times of joy. I mean it truly was just so amazing and so special and I think that that was a big part of it because of how much I put into it and how much I care. And when people see that you truly care then they care more about your business too. 

[Koziol]: Well put, well put. And it really is, especially I would think in the fitness industry because not only you are empowering people to do, you know, take ownership for themselves and take care of themselves and be physically stronger. But also to be able to maybe stand up for themselves a little more or be proud of who they are and what they're doing. And to achieve goals. And those endorphins that kick in when you go up another weight or you do another rep or you know, you make another life a goal. And those are, you know, those are life changing. And it's more than just being the person who maybe sells them the fruit or something else. It's really transformative, the kind of work that you were doing, men and women and older and younger and everyone is sort of part of that, that great snap community. But you touch on this a little bit and I want to just explore it for a moment. Some of the women that you worked with, do you feel like they were able to, either through their workouts or through your work with them in business be able to take a little bit more of a stand or felt that they were at one point, you know, sidelined or or maybe not valued as much. What would be your recommendations if anyone listening kind of feels like they don't have a right to make their thoughts known, whether it's in business or other, you know, conversations they're having, how, how do you address that and what tips might you give them? 

[Schweigert]: Well, sure. Well, I have found that the women in the space, when they come in and when they are, you know, lifting weights or reaching a goal. Getting in a good, you know, cardio based workout, all of that lifts your esteem. It's amazing when you walk in the door you can be having a rough day or not feel the greatest, but you go back in the weight room and you move those weights around or you hop on the treadmill. Just how your perspective changes and how much stronger and capable you feel as an individual and I would say some of the strongest. Women that I know have come out of that space and that doesn't necessarily mean, you know, the most super fit or the fastest people, but just people that are willing to work on themselves. For me personally, when we opened the business, I was not even 29 yet. So I was, I was quite young and I also looked very young and I'm very petite and so I remember I could not wait until I turned 30 because I wanted to at least say I am 30 years old. You need to respect me based on age alone, you know, and it's very easy to get talked, be talked down to. But I think that if you find yourself in a situation in which you feel that you're not being respected or you're not taking advantage of, definitely pause. Take a moment to take a deep breath. Think about the situation, run your thoughts through your head and I guarantee you it will feel like it's hours and hours, but it won't be that long. And then respond because when you respond too quickly then it tends to escalate the situation and emotions can be involved and especially women like we don't want to have our emotions get in our way because I think. Some people would naturally think, oh, you're an emotional woman crying, you know what not. But if you can take a moment, organize your thoughts, and then move forward, then I think that that's better. And then also don't be afraid to demand respect. I did have an interaction with somebody a few years back in which. He was just speaking to me in a tone that I did not appreciate. He would not let me speak. He kept interrupting me and I waited for him to talk and then when he would start interrupting me, I stopped and I said, “You need to stop. You need to let me finish and I will not allow you to speak to me in that manner and in just some very even-keeled voice.” And it went a little bit, a few rounds, but I was finally able to get my point across and we were able to take care of the situation. But I think so many people too, in general, if you don't feel comfortable, will allow themselves to get sidelined. And I think that you, you have to be willing to step up for yourself and I tell you. That would not have happened at year one or year two of my business operating. But after being in the space and doing it on my own for several years, I felt comfortable because I knew I had the knowledge. So be comfortable in the knowledge that you have and don't be afraid to demand that respect. 

[Koziol]: I love it, Jen. That is inspiring and thoughtful and a well practiced tactic that I think many of our listeners will benefit from. So thank you for sharing that. We're going to take a quick break now and we're going to come back and we're going to talk to Jen about her global marathon career. She's multi-talented. We'll be right back in just one moment. 

[Commercial Break]

[Koziol]: So we're back here with Jen Schweigert, who's an entrepreneur and small business consultant, personal trainer and she's also a worldwide Roadrunner and triathlete. She owned Snap Fitness in Platteville for many years and is still associated with that with our personal training. But Jen, thank you for joining us and we want to talk to you this morning about. Your marathoning. Please give me the backstory on this. I am intrigued. 

[Schweigert]: Yes, well, I actually got into running a little bit later in life. You maybe wouldn't know it by just looking at me, but I was just very average person in high school. I did some swimming and you know, was. Average shape and went to college and I put on maybe the freshman 70 pounds or something ridiculous. And by the time my senior year rolled around, I knew that I needed to make a change. And my roommate at the time had said, you know, why don't you try running? And I think I might have laughed at her and I said, you know, I can't even run a block. How are we supposed to do this? And she was very patient with me and she had suggested how about we just go run a block, walk a block and and go from there. And we did. And a few months later I was running my first 5K, which was a Turkey trot, you know, downtown Minneapolis. And I was hooked. I love the way running made me. Just how strong I was, how I could see the world on two feet. I was very, very casual about it. It was something that I just did for fun and just to stay in shape. Fast forward a few years and I decided to run a few marathons, and again, very average. I went into one marathon in which I was injured and one marathon in which it poured rain for two, two of the hours that I was running and I had. A couple of bad experiences and a friend from college at the time had suggested going into triathlon with my running background and as I mentioned, as a swimmer in high school, she said you have two of the three down, you just have to bike. And we decided to run a triathlon together and we did that in 2010. Again, I was just very, you know, middle of the road. I enjoyed doing it, but nothing spectacular. A few years later I decided to try to take my talents, I guess to the next level. And I started working with a coach and worked with one coach for a few years and again, just, you know, was. Fine. And then I made a decision to switch coaches at the end of 2016, of 2017, and that coach did wonders for me. He unlocked this athlete in me that I did not know was there. And I just started going from middle of the pack to competitive to podium finishing to now. I think. I don't know. 5 plus time Boston Marathon Qualifying Runner to World Champion participants in the Half Ironman Distance to qualifying for Team USA for the Amateurs, for Triathlon, the Standard or Olympic distance and the Super Sprint distance. To last year in Abu Dhabi at the World Triathlon World Championships, getting second in the world in my age group in the Super Sprint and 12th in the world and my age group in the standard distance. So it's been much like, I guess my entrepreneurial career started out and just kept going and it's just gotten better and I love it. You know, it's amazing. It's something that I just have a passion for and and not only passion for myself competing at a high level because I hold myself to a very high standard, but welcoming new people into the fold that no matter their ability, it's always fun for me to run with a new person or get a new person into triathlon because it's it's just a great way to be out there and be fit. 

[Koziol]: I'm almost speechless. I don't know. I think I'm taking notes. I mean, I knew a little bit about this from you, Jen, but I didn't know the scope that you're crushing it. You are absolutely crushing it, that is so cool. Thank you for sharing that. You were not super fit. You know, you didn't have a great body weight that you were comfortable with. And then you started and you grew and now you are amazing. And I knew that already. But tell me about this coach. I love the phrase you said, “Unlocked” this athlete in you. Is there anything else that you can share about this sort of transformative moment in your recent expansion and explosion in this in this arena? 

[Schweigert]: Well, first of all, give a little plug for him. His name is Bill Martin and he's out of Verona, WI with SBR coaching. I really think individualized plans and focusing on my strengths and my desires really help because I'm a person who I like to work really hard. So for me, my ideal run is to give me an hour run. In which I am running on the treadmill at speeds that if I fly off I'm going to put a Jen-sized hole in the wall like that is my yes that is what I love and I am not the type of runner who just wants to go out and just run for hours on end so for me when I get a workout which I, the hard workouts, I am ready to attack right away. The ones in which he says, oh, go run for an hour, I might be sitting around all day before I get up. The motivation to just go for a run and he understands that and so and of course. Every workout can't be, can't be gut busting or breathing hard. You have to have the aerobic base. But we make a good team in the fact that he knows that I like to work hard. So we work on those aspects while also doing the supplemental work. I think also to being able to work with someone where he can see OK Jen is a really great runner. I only need her to run maybe three times a week, so I'm also a very low mileage runner and he knows. Oh, she's a good swimmer. So instead of somebody who might need to be in the water three or four times a week to be successful, she can get by with two times. And working with the coach really helps me because I also tend to travel a lot with my husband, who travels a lot for work, and in the past it was difficult because I would feel very overwhelmed with missing workouts. For example, if I was supposed to swim three times a week and I just couldn't get access to a pool, then I would feel like I was falling behind. Whereas with Bill I can tell him my schedule, what I have access to and we just work around it. And I know you and I have touched on this before in a previous conversation, but I think the training is very much similar to how you run a business. So there are times in which you're pushing really hard. You're out there, you're pounding the pavement, you're in like a growth mindset. And then there's other times in your life where you just have to build a base in which sometimes just keeping your head down, moving forward, ticking off the tasks are all you can do and that's fine. I think that it's very difficult in training and in business to be just. Firing on all cylinders day in and day out, you need to have those peaks, you have valleys and you have your base building and it's just recognizing what season you're in and making sure to take advantage of that. So when you're ready to work hard, making sure that you are really working hard and when you are base building, making sure that you're not neglecting that because that's important to just keep moving forward. 

[Koziol]: That's great. I I think that advice is so important for marathoners, for athletes and for business people like you said. Because oftentimes, and I've heard this from some other people as well, they feel like they're lazy. If they're not at it 24/7, they feel like they have to be go, go, go go go. And I love the phrase you use depending on what season you're in. So there's times for building and there's times for kind of blue skying and figuring it out, planning for the next step. So there's times to really double down and there's times to let your foot off the gas a little bit so that you can get caught up and you can kind of refresh and replenish yourself. Jen is one of my Board of Directors at the Platteville business incubators and she and as I was the rest of my incubator board leaders there, they all work with me to mentor the businesses and we have 15 to 20 businesses at any given time at the incubator. And so we sit down and mentor sessions at least twice a year, sometimes more often. And Jen, a phrase that she said at one of the mentor meetings was you have to win the morning, which I love that and I've kind of carried that with me. Can you give me a little bit of background of what you mean when you say “win the morning”, Jen? 

[Schweigert]: Definitely. And actually today is a perfect day for you to ask me that because I feel like I totally won my morning today. I had quite a bit of training that I needed to do. I had an 11 mile run and an open water swim. My open water swim was with my coach up in Verona, so that's about an hour away and I knew that if I didn't run first. That it was not going to happen just because it's summer. It's going to get hot. I'm going to procrastinate. So to stay on top of it. I woke up today at 4:00, which is not a normal occurrence without the door by 5:30 to get my 11 mile run in to come home, fuel up and then get on the road by 7:45 to up to my swim at 9:00. And we swam for an hour and then I was able to have a meeting with him and then come home and then continue to do what I needed to do with my day. And I find that when I get up and I get going that I am so much more productive on the whole. You have to realize that the more that you can get done in the morning. The less that you have to worry about throughout the day. The days in which I don't win the morning, and there are many of those as well, I find myself sitting around procrastinating, not being as productive. And also it affects my mood and it affects my work output. I'm just not as pleasant to be around, and the work product that I put out, whether it's in training or in my other roles, are just not up to the standard that I like to. Hold myself accountable to you. And then when you take advantage of getting as many things done as possible in the morning, then you're setting yourself up well for any distractions that come along. Because on a perfect day you're going to be able to get all your things done and nothing out of the ordinary is going to pop up. But those are very few and far between, especially as a business owner. If you don't take advantage of those early morning hours, then who knows what's going to happen. 

[Koziol]: Right. That's terrific. So just to scale it back a little bit, what did you want to be when you were little? 

[Schweigert]: You know that is funny because we were looking at an old scrapbook of mine from childhood in which I was interviewed by, I don't know, a local paper, and they asked me that question and my response was, I want to be a lawyer because I like to argue and I also like winning. I just found that hilarious. And so now maybe arguing is probably not the word that I would use, but I do definitely enjoy winning, and I think that that's part of the competitive nature in me that helps me to succeed as a business owner and helps me to succeed in. Road running and triathlon. And I think I'm very much like I touched on earlier, I hold myself to a very high standard, which can be a problem once in a while when I don't perform as well as I think I should or no, I should. I mean, we're not our own worst critics, right? I think those characteristics that I've had since maybe birth, I guess have really, really helped me. 

[Koziol]: I think if you're up at 4:30 and putting in 11 miles, yeah, I can't think that you're lazy in any stretch of the imagination. So we'll just ask a couple more questions before we let you go. And thanks again Jen Schwert for your time today. I really, really appreciate it for what you do for the community and what you do for business owners. I know that your small business consulting will be well adopted in the region just because you you do have great advice. All of this that you've done running Snap Fitness, placing very high in the world in Abu Dhabi, many Boston Marathons. I mean your resume is really impressive. What are you most proud of? 

[Schweigert]: Oh, well, well, thank you, Kate. I mean, I really appreciate that. I honestly think the thing that I am most proud of is the community that I built at Snap Fitness. It's incredible. And I hear people talk all the time of how much they enjoy that space, how much they feel uplifted when they are there, how much of. Community that they feel the gym is that they've made relationships friendships and otherwise just from that gym and and how I know that I can just count on those people if if I ever needed anything and everything that we've been through like we just recently lost a gym member and the way the community and the members rallied around that and. Her spouse and the outpouring of the love that they show to that person was just incredible. And I don't, I don't think that you find that anywhere and it's definitely not something that I've ever encountered in any of the other fitness centers that I have belonged to. And so yes, I think just growing something from scratch to a successful business that's been a part of the community for 15 years and the. Relationships that have been built from it is something that I will definitely hang my hat on as one of my most proudest accomplishments. 

[Koziol]: That's amazing, you know and the ability to form a community across ages, across differences of opinion is so important these days and it being taking place, you know across a treadmill or across an aerobics session is so valuable. It's healthy for the mind and for the body. 

So that's really, that's terrific. Anything you wish you would have done differently in this, you know, amazing race that you've been running for the last many, many years. 

[Schweigert]: Gosh, that's a great question too. I think being willing to step up sooner and being more confident in my skill set and in my knowledge sooner would have been better for me because I think, again, there were times in which I probably was taking advantage of or not treated fairly. You know for whatever reason, maybe looking young or being a woman or maybe just because people felt they could do something. And I yeah, I think maybe that would have been the only thing is just trust myself and be more confident. But it was something that I I arrived at and maybe I just needed that time to do that. But. Yeah, I would say that to any business owner, if you, if you know that you have the knowledge and you can answer or respond in situations in which you're feeling taking advantage of, do it. You know, I'm not saying you know do it disrespectfully, but have confidence, use your words and make sure that your knowledge is known. 

[Koziol]: What a perfect note to end on. I've just had the delightful pleasure of speaking today to Jen Schweigert, who's an entrepreneur, a small business consultant, personal trainer, Roadrunner and triathlete. And I'd highly recommend if you ever have a chance to connect with Jen on any of the above, it'll be time very well spent. So thank you for your time today, Jen, and thank you for being such a vibrant and positive community builder and member in the Platteville Business Incubator and the Platteville community. 

[Schweigert]: Well, thanks so much Kate for having me. I really enjoyed it. 

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