When Inc. Magazine released its annual list of the fastest growing private companies in America last week, it was chock-full of firms operating in the high growth, high margin sectors of the economy that you would expect — investments, technology, financial services and pharmaceuticals, to name a few.
But of the 57 Alabama companies that made the list, one stuck out, not just for its remarkable growth over the past three years (790 percent), but because it’s in the business of “changing people’s lives” in classes of about 20 at a time.
Birmingham-based Iron Tribe Fitness is a classic American entrepreneurial story. Here’s how they tell it:
It all started in a two-car garage in Birmingham, AL, on October 1, 2008.
That’s when Forrest Walden, his wife, and two friends got together for a little experiment. They were all struggling to stay in shape, despite their busy lives.
They hated those big-box gyms (with 700 other people waiting for 10 machines)… they didn’t want to pay big bucks for a personal trainer ($100 an hour? No thanks!)… and they were bored silly by repetitive workouts on DVD (What? Kettlebells again?)
So they put together a new kind of fitness and nutrition program, right there in the garage and, well… the results were astonishing.
Just 23 days later, every one of them had lots more energy, they were sleeping like babies, and they all lost inches from their waistlines.
Fast forward from 2008 — that small group is now Iron Tribe Fitness. It’s the fastest-growing gym of its kind in America, with more than 60 locations being developed in 15 states.
Yellowhammer caught up with Iron Tribe COO Jim Cavale last week to get his thoughts on the company’s inclusion on the Inc. 5000.
“We are extremely humbled to be on a list with so many other brands that we admire — brands who have not only made this list past and present, but also brands who have paved the way for a brand like ours to follow their lead and make an impact on as many people as possible,” said Cavale. “That’s the common bond of the INC. 5000 companies: IMPACT.”
Cavale said they sought to differentiate themselves from the competition by creating communities, rather than just popping up gyms.
“Iron Tribe’s brand purpose has been to create fitness communities that change lives,” he explained.
And those communities include a wide variety of people, from competitive athletes to soccer moms to grandparents — and not just in Alabama anymore, but around the country.
“Forrest and I anticipate that we will have 38 gyms opened up in markets throughout the United States by the end of 2014, with more than 60 Iron Tribe gyms scheduled to be open by the end of 2015,” he said. “Our franchisees, operators, coaches and corporate staff are completely committed to bringing ‘LIFE. changed’ to as many new member athletes as we can each day.”
Part of that community building also includes coordinated philanthropic efforts that are being felt in other parts of the world.
“The global fruit takes place in events like this past weekend’s Workout For Water right here in Birmingham at Railroad Park, where hundreds of Iron Tribe athletes came together to fund $300,000+ or 100+ clean water wells to villages throughout India and Africa,” said Cavale.
“It’s one thing to be honored as #602 on the INC. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies List, but it’s another to be able to do it simultaneously with a team of franchise partners, operators, coaches and member athlete who truly are rallying together on a daily basis to make an impact on such a local and global level.
“God has truly blessed us and we hope that we can connect that blessing with His purpose, by redistributing it from Birmingham to as many communities as we possibly can worldwide.”
With the company nearing its 6th anniversary and having just coming off a year where it brought in about $4 million in revenue, it’s a safe bet that Iron Tribe will be making an impact both locally and globally for years to come.