Transforming bodies, transforming business

Four years ago, Michelle Campbell’s mother came home from the doctor with a prescription for cholesterol medication. Michelle was weary of the medication and its unintended side effects on her mother, so she suggested a few lifestyle changes instead. A health and fitness buff herself, Michelle often encouraged her family and friends to pursue a healthier lifestyle. Initially, her mother opted to take the medication, but she immediately began having the discomfort associated with its various side effects.

Michelle immediately created a wellness plan for her mother that included a healthy diet and exercise three days per week. Six months later, her mother returned to the doctor and was told she no longer needed to take the medication.

“They were shocked,” said Michelle. “I thought, if I can do this for one person, imagine doing it for countless people. That’s when I decided to become certified as a personal trainer.”

Michelle Campbell personal trainer

For the next three years, Michelle trained people “here and there” as she says, balancing workouts with her full-time job. Last fall, a friend encouraged Michelle to apply to Start:ME East Lake, a 14-week business development program in partnership with Social Enterprise @ Goizueta at Emory University. She started Body by Chelle, which trains clients at the East Lake Family YMCA or in a client’s home, and enrolled in the program.

“I was hesitant because I started my business but I didn’t have any business sense at all,” she said. “I thought this may be just what I need to get my business off the ground. I was training people, but I never really treated it as a business.”

Start ME: East Lake works with micro-entrepreneurs that reside, operate or provide valued products and services in the East Lake community. Each spring 15-18 entrepreneurs work to develop their businesses through access to skills-based classes, mentoring by business leaders, access to finance, legal and other business experts, and networking events.

“When I first started, one of the mentors asked me who are you marketing to?” said Michelle. “I had no idea. But, Start:ME helped me narrow my business plan. I’m a mom – I have 5-year-old, a 3-year-old and a 2-year-old. I decided to target busy moms with children since I know how difficult it can be.”

Most of Michelle’s clients reside in the East Lake community and are busy mothers – the target audience she identified during Start:ME.

“Through Start:ME, I defined my target, developed a business plan, and built a website,” she said. “I even used the connections I made through the program to help me build the site.”

Even though her class has graduated, she keeps in touch with the other business owners from the 2017 Start:ME East Lake class.

“Some of my classmates continue to meet monthly to build and grow our businesses. It’s not just networking – I’ve gained friendships.”

A long time East Lake resident, employee of Columbia Residential at The Villages at East Lake and Drew Charter School parent, Michelle has taken advantage of the tight knit community and programs offered by the East Lake Foundation. Besides Start:ME, Michelle has taken courses through the East Lake Foundation’s Resident and Community Support Program, including the Homebuyer Education course, and is on her way to buying her first house. Michelle also is giving back to the community, working with the East Lake Family YMCA to host fitness classes for residents, in addition to her private clients within the East Lake community.

“When I started, I had zero true clients and before the program ended I had a client base.”

Michelle is proud of how far Body by Chelle has come and has long-term aspirations for her personal training business.

“I’d love to get more fitness equipment and office equipment to run my business,” she said. Eventually, I’d love to get a vehicle to transport fitness equipment to the park and hold bootcamps.”