An interview with Karen Stoychoff Inman, co-owner of Elite Athletic Development in Arlington Heights.
Q: Describe your business. What do you do?
A: Elite Athletic Development helps the "everyday" athlete achieve their health and fitness goals in a supportive community-based setting, and under the guidance of our nationally certified performance coaches. Our results-based training program is inspired by CrossFit and forged by work with our athletes during more than 33,000 visits since 2006. Our athletes tell us they recognize the difference in their lives, thanks to training at EAD. They report they have more power, strength and agility; improved balance, flexibility, and range of motion; reduced injuries; stronger athletic performance; weight loss; body composition changes; enhanced confidence; and that they just feel better.
Q: What made you start your business?
A: Jim founded Elite Athletic Development in 2006 with a simple premise. He believed then -- and believes even more now after celebrating our fifth anniversary -- that the "everyday athlete" deserves access to the same strength and conditioning training used by top-caliber collegiate and professional athletes. Inman honed his vision after listening to members of the high-end fitness facility where he worked at the time lament that they just weren't seeing results. Their 5k time never got faster. They didn't lose weight. They suffered through endurance events. They couldn't swap out body fat for lean muscle mass. They experienced recurring injuries. They were bored. Yet they continued to slog through the same machine-based workouts day after day. Inman knew that if he could pry people off the elliptical trainer and into a dynamic, functional fitness program with other motivated people he could tap into their athletic potential ... even if they didn't know it existed.
Q: What has been the most difficult obstacle in running or starting a small business?
A: Managing the never-ending list of equally critical daily operating tasks and long-term strategic initiatives with incubating innovative ideas to service existing athletes and introduce EAD to new athletes.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: The sheer volume of work required to sustain and grow a small business. Owning a small business is a relentless pursuit of your passion.
Q: What do you enjoy most about operating your business?
A: Creating a warm, welcoming community where a diverse group of people come together to do better and be better, regardless of what "better" means to each person. It's gratifying to see people talking and laughing after class and recognize that connection was made thanks to sweating through a very challenging training session. It's also rewarding to help people achieve goals they never considered attainable. There's the former bodybuilder who can raise his arms overhead for the first time in years, and who now understands that being able to move is more important than striking a pose. Or the 74 year-old woman who regales the ladies in her knitting club and Bible study group about her recent dead lift personal record. Or the older sister of a collegiate athlete, who prior to training at EAD, never exercised and who recently completed two half-marathons and is currently training for her first marathon. Or the women who have put their lives on hold -- for husbands, kids, careers, elder care and life in general -- and thanks to their EAD experience overcome just about any physical or mental challenge they confront.
Q: Is this what you pictured yourself doing when you were young? When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: Both our families owned small businesses -- restaurants, bars, service stations, grocery stores -- so our respective formative years were steeped in entrepreneurial spirit. After spending years working corporate positions -- Jim in restaurant management and fitness; Karen in public relations -- we decided we could no longer fight our genetic predisposition. I guess in hindsight we both wanted to be good at many, many things, because that's what is required to run a successful small business.
Q: If you could give one tip to a rookie business owner, what would it be?
A: Regularly ask your clients for feedback and take action what they tell you. It's been our experience that our athletes care as much about this business as we do, and over the years they've provided excellent suggestions how to better meet their health & fitness needs.
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Address: Elite Athletic Development North / CrossFit Arlington Heights, 12 W. College Drive, Arlington Heights, IL 60004
Elite Athletic Development Downtown / CrossFit Axis, 43 W Dunton Ave., Arlington Heights, IL 60005
Owners: Jim Inman & Karen Stoychoff Inman
Year business started: 2006
Web address: www.eliteathletic.com