After launching her professional career in the high-tech industry, Chantelle Farmer ’91 MPS ’13 brought the high intensity of the industry into the gym.
Farmer has now been running her own group fitness classes in Ithaca through a business called the FLX Fitclub, since it launched in March. The name FLX, pronounced “flex,” comes from “Finger Lakes,” Farmer said, to emphasize the locality. She also decided to add Fitclub to the name to give the space a community feel.
After spending decades working in the tech industry as a web programmer and technical project manager, Farmer said she found herself in the world of fitness.
Her interest in fitness began in college with trips to the gym with friends. But it was not until she discovered group fitness classes did Farmer realize her interest could become something more.
“Somewhere along the way I started teaching group fitness classes and that was what I found I was really passionate about,” Farmer said. “I tried to think of someway to bring my background in working in startups and my love of group fitness [together].”
Her previous career in the technology industry included work at a variety of startups. She said her work with small businesses gave her experience working many facets of a job that became necessary when starting FLX Fitclub. Within these small businesses, Farmer was able to contribute to varying aspects of marketing, accounting and brand management.
Beyond these professional experiences, Farmer found ways to link her Cornell background to her current work.
Explaining how she applied her masters in information science to the experience of running a gym, Farmer said that it came down to the user experience — something that can extend to a business model.
“I realized user experience isn’t just about technology. It’s about the experience a person has when they walk into your business,” she said. “Even if it has nothing to do with technology, every aspect of their experience is important. That’s something that I focused on in previous jobs and was able to take that out of the virtual world and apply it to the real world.”
Farmer’s engineering background was also useful in her current work at a the gym, she said, using the example of making a schedule.
“It is an optimization project, you have all these constraints that you have to think about and using those constraints make the best schedule you possibly can,” she said. “The way you think about it is from that form of logical training.”
Furthermore, when she was studying for her masters she was able to take business classes, Farmer said,
“I took a few classes in the Johnson school. The lessons that I learned in the business school were really valuable,” she said. “There is such a huge focus in that school right now in entrepreneurship.”
Since its opening in March, FLX Fitclub has experienced continual growth and membership within her gym. Farmer attributes this success to the community ties she and her team have throughout Ithaca.
“The reason why our business has been so successful in such a short period of time is because of all the connections that we have in the community,” Farmer said. “A lot of our business has come from word of mouth. In a small community like Ithaca, word of mouth is really powerful.”
One of the biggest attractions of FLX Fitclub is the community that the business fosters. Fitness is not always a priority for people and Farmer is trying to make it more enjoyable for people.
“People have a hard time justifying paying for something they feel is painful to them,” she said. In order to remedy that, they “try to do it make it enjoyable for people, make it a fun experience.”
The model of group fitness allows Farmer to make this sort of experience. Ithaca has been her home for a long time. When Farmer realized that the community needed the space that she was offering, she began FLX Fitclub to help those in the community.
“Some people come to meet people. It’s not so much about the working out, it’s more about the social aspect of it. We have tried to create an atmosphere where everybody is really friendly and welcoming,” she said. “I have seen people come in from out of town and not know anybody and they find friends.”
For Farmer, Ithaca is an “untapped market” in group fitness. She has many plans to expand her business, however she is currently limited by the size of her space. In the future, she wants to add more classes and potentially a gym space and bring people all across the Ithaca community together.
“Once they are there, everyone is on an equal footing,” she said. “Once you are there in your workout clothes, all the other stuff doesn’t matter.”