Von Hollingsworth and his daughter, Anna, are helping others improve their lives – together
After 30 years as a manager in the electronics field, Von Hollingsworth had become “restless” and he was eager to do something more meaningful the remainder of his working days. But he wasn’t particularly receptive to the idea when – seemingly out of nowhere – his daughter, Anna, suggested they go into business together by opening a gym.
“My initial response was, ‘You’re nuts. Absolutely no way,’” Von recalls telling Anna. “I said, ‘I’m too close to retirement to take that on at this point in time.’”
But, in typical Anna fashion, she persisted.
“Next thing I knew my inbox was full of potential franchises,” Von said. “I started to do a little research on the stuff she sent me. I didn’t give her much feedback because I wasn’t seriously interested at that time. But the more I read about Anytime Fitness, the more it began to make sense.”
Less than a week before Christmas in 2012, Von and Anna opened an Anytime Fitness gym together in Concord Township, OH.
“At the time, I was only a few years out of college and not financially able to open a gym by myself,” Anna said. “But I had a pretty good investor in mind, which was my dad. I had the fitness expertise because I’d been in a gym and knew everything about the equipment and I was a certified personal trainer. I had that to bring to the table. And I’d always been a sales personality type.”
Right from the start, their complementary skill sets served the business well. Von was the “big picture guy” while Anna handled most of the day-to-day operations of the gym. But they were both motivated by the same thing – and it wasn’t money.
“The most fun that we have – my wife, Anna and I – is when we go out to dinner and talk about [a gym member] who’s lost 70 pounds,” Von said. “Or we talk about another member who’s off her diabetes medicine. We talk about the people who come to us and say, ‘You saved my life.’ That’s unbelievable stuff.”
And they’re not content merely helping members while they’re inside the gym. Anna and Von have become somewhat famous in Concord Township for their various community engagement activities. Over the last three years, the gym’s “24 in 24” Challenge has raised $119,000 and helped make wishes come true for local children battling life-threatening illnesses.
“Last year we had 108 members attempt the Challenge, which was 10% of our entire membership,” said Anna. “This year we have an incredible 160 Challengers participating. The ‘24 in 24’ has become the heartbeat of our small business and a huge part of our community.”
And that’s just the beginning. Each of the last four years, Anna and Von have organized a “Miles for Mutts” 5K event, donating a combined $17,000 to their local Lake Humane Society. Additionally, last year alone, the gym’s running club, which includes nearly 200 active members, has raised nearly $7,000 via various events for charities in the Concord area.
The fundraisers are important and impressive. But it’s inside the gym where the magic happens – where Von and Anna have helped literally thousands of members significantly improve their health and fitness.
“I have a blast,” Von said. “I’m in the gym four hours a day and I just talk to people. That’s what this is all about. I’ve cried more working for Anytime Fitness than I ever imagined. I’ve seen so many people improve their lives.”
“I think my dad’s ability to connect with our members is because they can relate to him and he can relate to them,” Anna said. “He definitely creates a culture inside these walls of having a good time, smiling and just putting people in a good mood. I usually just laugh when I see him talking to people because you never know what the heck he’s talking about.”
Regarding advice for others who might be thinking about going into business with a close relative, Anna believes being honest about each other’s skills and limitations is the key to success.
“You figure out who is best for a particular task and then you just kind of have to delegate responsibilities and then respect each other,” Anna said. “With us, we knew that my dad would handle the finances and he would do our accounting and those types of things. You also need to put someone who has the skills to run a gym in that manager role. That’s where I feel comfortable.”
Despite his initial hesitations, Von now describes going into business with his daughter as a perpetual Father’s Day gift – and one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
“It’s ended up being the smartest thing we ever did,” Von said. “It’s been a joy. A whole lot of fun.”