The pandemic seems to have turned the whole world upside down and has torn down many businesses in its path. One company that is flourishing despite it, though, is Fit Sol, the brainchild of Jonnie Ellis and the premier provider of virtual and in-person corporate wellness and personal training. Jonnie’s story is a story of transformation. Five years ago, he wasn’t even in the fitness industry but owned a dispensary in Denver. He relates how his falling out with a business partner led him to create success in the fitness space and the opportunity to serve some of the largest tech corporations in the world, especially with the pandemic restrictions now where basically everything has to be virtual.
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Running Through Life’s Hurdles With Jonnie Ellis
Creating Success Out of Nothing
I am super excited for this show. The motto for this show is ignite your breakthrough and bring your vision to life. I can feel it, we’re going to be going deep on this show. Jonnie Ellis is sitting here with me. He is going to be the guest for the show. He is the Founder of Fit Sol. They do a lot of virtual corporate wellness in person as well. Jonnie, what’s up?
How’s it going? Jonnie Ellis here, Founder of Fit Sol, Fitness Solutions LLC. We are the premier provider of virtual and in-person corporate wellness and personal training based out of Denver, Colorado serving some of the largest tech corporations in the world. Seeing an opportunity in 2020 with all this mayhem that we’ve been going through, adapted, overcame and we’ve become a staple in the wellness industry.
Let’s not talk about too much of what’s happening now because it’s been a shit show. Jonnie and I met at the gym and we started chopping it up and I said, I want to bring you on this show. I don’t even know the story but I know it’s deep. Before we even get started, what are we going to expect out of this? What can we see from this story of transformation? What can you expect?
You don’t always know where you’re going until you get there. Life comes at you in many different ways. You have a vision, you have a plan of action but life comes at you and it comes on its own terms. You have to adapt and overcome. Several years ago, I wasn’t even in the fitness industry. In fact, I owned a dispensary in Denver.
CBD or THC?
THC. I started in 2013, 2014, that led me to the fitness industry through a horrible circumstance. I had a bad falling out with a business partner, I took a lot of time to sort that out but in that time, experiencing that loss and that feeling of helplessness and hopelessness gave me the power that I have now. That’s what brought me to where I am.
Let’s back up all the way. First of all, you have a successful business. You’ve been running it for quite some time now. How many years have you been doing what you’re doing now?
Fit Sol has been going for a few years. I’ve been training professionally for a few years.
You have a lot of groundwork that you’ve already made and you’ve developed the incredible foundation, you’ve able to scale things right. Let’s jump all the way back because we all start from a little happy baby, a little sad baby, a little sparkle in the eyes but now we’re here. This transformation and evolution that we go through called life, this game we call life, starts somewhere. Tell us a bit about your childhood and how you came to a dispensary. I don’t know if that was your first business or not but tell us.
I was born in New Hampshire. I moved to New York, I grew up in New York on Orange County outside of New York city. My senior year of high school, I went to Mountain School.
In New York?
No, in the White Mountains, in New Hampshire. I went from New York for my senior year high school to Mountain School, a prep school essentially where we got to go to a couple hours of class every day and then we get to feed our passions, which I think is important. My passions there were competitive snowboarding and rock climbing. In that time, what brought me out to Colorado was my search to find the best place to snowboard in Rockland and also find a good school. I made my way out to CU. After college I moved, I worked for a tech industry consulting firm called Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I worked there for a few years and then decided that I wasn’t happy.
I felt like I was waking up every day living someone else’s dream, working to make someone else’s dream come true and it wasn’t fulfilling to me. Fulfillment became the center of my life. How do you find fulfillment? How do you define that? What is it? Why have we been talking about it for thousands of years? How do I find that? I took a big chance. I went to the University of Colorado and back in the day, that was the Wild West when dispensaries were popping up everywhere. You had to know someone in the industry if you’re going to college at CU. When I found out that recreational was legalized in 2013, on a whim, I quit my job. I took a flight out to Colorado, I started taking meetings, I found a partner, I bought a business, I opened a dispensary and we were rocking and rolling.
You went out full send mode. #FULLSEND, some TikTok shit here.
Lots of people told me how crazy I was quitting my job., You always feel like you’re following this roadmap that’s been put out to you. You got to have the white picket fence. You want to have the 9:00 to 5:00 job. You need to have insurance, retirement plan, this and that. I started to get in the way of thinking that our set point as children, we take what a teacher or a priest or whoever this person that we see and we look up to as children, when they tell us what is expected and what is, we take that as fact but it’s someone’s feeling. Science or math, those are facts. To tell me that I need to lead my life a certain way isn’t true.You don't always know we're going until you get there. Click To Tweet
When I finally realized that I had the power of choice to leave that path and go to where my passion was, to try to take a chance, be a part of something new, be a pioneer in an industry that’s beginning not knowing where it’s going to end up or how it’s going to unfold. That was one of the most empowering things in my life to take that chance when everyone around me was telling me how crazy I was to quit my great job that I had, that I went to four years of college so I could get it and then to leave that behind to go chase after a dream. It didn’t work out exactly how I wanted it to but in the end it’s a win. I am where I am now. That’s what matters.
You’re talking about societal means and what society tells us that paints a picture for us like, “You got to follow this path. You got to follow that path because these are the ones that we’ve paved for you.” In reality, these paved paths go down some interesting places and dark roads that don’t even align with the way that our visions have developed in our minds. When you’re talking about taking that leap of faith from working somewhere for a couple of years and being like, “I’m going to take a flight and I’m going to go and do a recreational dispensary.” What were some of the fears that you came across? Were there any fears? I’m sure there was something in there that was like, “What if it doesn’t work out?”
At that time, there was no fear. There was nothing that could stop me. When people told me how crazy I was, it was not even a thought. I knew this was going to work. In the end, the picture that was painted is not as pretty as I would’ve liked it to be but it all worked out fine. The adventure and the journey were what brought me to where I am now. Being present and realizing that at this moment it is the only moment and if we can trust that the universe is going to give to us exactly what we need to get to where we’re supposed to be, when you can believe that anything’s possible. You can accept what is. That’s a powerful thing.
I love how this is evolving into igniting people’s breakthroughs because I feel like we’re limited by what people are telling us and what we even tell ourselves. Many of the readers are like, “How do I take that leap? How do I fucking go for it?” Maybe over the next several of years of your story, we’re going to discover a bit more of an understanding of that. You went from dispensary. What happened with that dispensary? Where did it push you to? You said you felt lost at a certain point and you were like, “What the fuck do I do?” That’s a big gap that we haven’t bridged yet. What’s going on there?
Not only did I feel lost but I had also lost everything. Every dime that I had to my name, my partner took everything from me. Me being young, eager and not doing my due diligence, not getting all my ducks in a row and being too eager to get into a deal which will be a lesson that will forever be with me put me in a position where I was vulnerable and I was able to be taken advantage of. I found myself at a point where everything was gone. I was at the top of the world one day and the next day it was all lost. That was a hard pill to swallow. I wasn’t okay with that. At first, I had a lot of anger, fears and resentment, a lot of things that were holding me back.
It was a long road to be able to make that right and get back what was mine but in that time, experiencing those lows gave me the ability to find my way and appreciate the wins. To slow down and understand that everything’s not always going to be great and perfect but we need to slow down and take the time to appreciate the small wins that we may have. After all this was lost, I was looking to find a new way. I always had a passion in fitness. At the time, my brother was struggling with addiction and mental health issues. I wanted to try to find a way because in my pain, I found power in fitness and finding my strength empowered me. Empowerment through strength is a huge thing for me that I preached to all my clients. When you find your strength and the ability to transform your body, it makes all things seem possible.
I thought that I could help my brother and other people in this way. From my rock bottom, I could come out and on the other side I could bring others with me. What I wanted to do and what my dream was to start a sober living house that used fitness to help people reclaim their sobriety and to reclaim their lives. That’s what brought me into the fitness industry. I never worked in a gym before. I knew how to work out but I didn’t know how it worked. I started training clients. It was more of a hobby as I was in court trying to get my business back. I started out that way.
I started saying, “I’m going to make this work.” I got in touch with a buddy who was opening up an F45 over at Sloan’s Lake. I took on the task of launching that business with him. Within about 6 to 9 months, we were ranked the number one F45 in the nation for sales and customer retention. At that point, I thought I figured this out. I think group fitness is the best way to get me the most exposure to build a thriving personal training business that can then give me the opportunity and the means to go after my passion project, which was going to be the sober living house to try to help people through fitness.
Things evolved from there. Every day in class, my thought was, how many people can I get in front of every day? I don’t have a large social media presence. I work organically through relationships. What I want to do is touch as many people and help as many people as I can in each day. The dichotomy here in our industry is that we’re encouraged to display ourselves online to get traction. However, something that I believe in is not to explicitly tell people who I am or to show that too much because it then gives people the opportunity to see themselves in me. That’s a true human connection. That’s powerful. Finding real connection and truly helping people to transform their lives was what got me going on all this.Feeding our passion is very important. Click To Tweet
You said something interesting there about human connection and relationship. I personally believe and I say this every time, I don’t know business, I know people, relationships are what build businesses. If the readers were like, “I don’t have a social media presence. I don’t know what the fuck to do. I want to build a business. I want to make money.” At the end of the day, we have our own reasons to why we want to make money. It generally isn’t because I want to make money and have money in my bank account and own cars.
It’s more like, “When I was younger, I didn’t have money and we couldn’t put a lot of food on the table, so I like to be fulfilled in that way. I want money to be able to afford for my family.” We do those types of things. What would you tell someone who is trying to figure it out for themselves? Maybe they don’t have a social media connection anywhere, they don’t have many followers, they’re trying to build a business for themselves in person. What’s the number one tool you’ve used to develop these connections and to evolve your business?
Being authentic and truly trying to listen rather than be heard to try not to display yourself, to give other people the opportunity to see themselves in you.
What do you mean by that?
If I allow people to make their own judgments about who I am, they’ll find some connection somewhere. If I tell you exactly who I am, I am A, B, C, D and E.
They’re going to paint a picture in their own minds and then try to relate to that.
Yes. I want to lead my life with acceptance. I want to lead my life with love, with passion. I want to try to help people. Beyond that, I don’t define myself in many other ways. It’s giving people the opportunity to see you as they see you and find something we haven’t come through.
A relationship through action and communication rather than expressing your story to someone else and be like, “I relate to you in that way,” but more so experience with that person. It’s the relationship bond. It’s huge. You went into fitness, started developing your business, started personal training people. Tell us the rest. Where are you now? Let’s bridge this so we can get rolling. I want to learn more.
After the personal training business took off, I left the group fitness realm and that’s when I launched Fit Sol. Fit Sol had taken off. We had a full book of clients, trainers taken clients that I can’t put fit on my schedule. I started looking into the corporate wellness industry, the opportunity right there that corporations have budgets. They have teams that are disconnected and this was even when people were still in offices. I started out with in-person corporate wellness. I had clients like Prologis, McWhinney, Apple, tons of big-name companies based in Denver. I go in a couple of days a week at the teams together, we’d work out, do our thing and that was going great for a time.
When COVID slowed things down, everybody left the offices. It’s a funny thing when I was stuck in the house for a few months, as a way to hold myself accountable was approached by ClassPass. They asked me, “Do you want to stream virtual classes on ClassPass?” “I’m not doing anything else anyway, I’m taking walks, I’m going on bike rides. I might as well do this. At least I’ll do my work out every day.” This started as a way to hold myself accountable. Next thing you know, 90 days later, I was ranked number four virtual trainers in the world on the ClassPass platform, accidentally trying to hold myself accountable.
That was through the authenticity, the connection and my ability to connect with people through this new virtual space. In that time, this all developed into a whole new market for me. The offices weren’t coming back online. What I started to do was reach out to corporations to see how they wanted to keep and retain their talent in their top condition. Mostly, tech companies are the target market. They’re always looking for unique ways to keep their people engage their teams connected and find something more that they can offer. That has led me into this virtual space. Now we have clients like Microsoft, Intel, Dell, LG, ViewSonic, CDW.
From a technology standpoint, do you like Microsoft, Dell, Apple?
I’m an Apple guy but I haven’t quite gotten to lock them down.
Your brother played a huge role and you wanted to develop something for rehab centers. Tell me more about that. Do you still want to do that? What happened with that idea and that story behind there?
That is still my passion project. When I’m able to build out a facility and I have the means to do those things, that’s what I will do. My connection with that is after my brother passed away in July 2020, rather than having a traditional memorial service for him, my family and I got together and we decided it would be more meaningful to find some organization that we could raise money for and donate to. We were talking about dual diagnosis, rehab facilities, it seemed a little cheap to me to write a check and pass it off to someone. I wanted to do something that I could stay connected to and that would also keep me close to my passion of wanting to one day use fitness to help people come out of dark places and find a way out to the other side.
We found Phoenix Multisport, which is a national organization. Now it’s a sober active community, a free gym for anyone with 24 hours of sobriety. I reached out to Phoenix Multisport and told them about my brother and his struggles with mental health and addiction. We put together a workout fundraiser and I got together with them. I invited out my network and we were able to raise about $20,000 to buy them new equipment for their gym. I try to stay connected with those guys to get over there when I can to do some workouts with people and show my support and keep that vision and passion alive.
Sometimes we push some of our big passions in our lives down and we suppress. We’re like, “I don’t want to serve that. It’s not the right time to serve that. It’s too difficult to serve that.” It seems like you keep on pushing with your passions no matter what, that’s a huge strength. The majority of us aren’t able to find those passions in us and to be able to pursue it and trust the process. Where do you find that strength to be able to keep on pushing forward and to keep on achieving new things and to keep on discovering new things? I may be wrong but it doesn’t seem like you’re the type of person to sit on a couch and watch some TV and Netflix and go to work and be good. What’s missing for most people you think?
I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s something missing for people, it may be something that they haven’t discovered inside themselves yet. I think we all have it. We all know like we know right from wrong. We’ve learned lessons through our life that we have deep down there somewhere and we know the answer but we need to reconnect with that somehow. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a lot of pain and loss and suffering to be able to dig deep and find those answers inside yourself. A lot of people call self-help books. I like to think of it more as self-rediscovery. These are truths that we’ve had all along inside ourselves. We sell ourselves short thinking we don’t have everything we need inside of ourselves. For a long time for me, I was codependent.
I needed people around me all the time. I needed things or titles or something to define myself with. The biggest milestone or transformation for me was when I realized I have everything I need inside myself. Imagine yourself in a white room with nothing, if you were there and you found herself without anything, how would you define yourself? If you couldn’t use any words or things that you had or that you do, who are you? That is a powerful thing when you’re able to define who you are, what you stand for and what you believe in without anything outside of yourself. When we all realize we have everything we need to take over the world if we want to then that’s what’s going to set us off to the next level.
At the end of the day, I’m someone that I express myself on social media. I don’t know if you see any of my stories. I’m goofy as shit. I’m like full send all the time. If I want to go like this with my lips, I’m going to do that with my lips. If I’m going to twerk on camera, I’m going to twerk on camera. I’m not going to do what I want to do right now on this table. Authenticity and what you’re talking about, transparency and self-expression is what “self-help” is all about. What are you about to grab? You’re about to pull some something out. Is this magic?
One thing where if we’re taking a step back and if I’m telling people, “How do we define who we are without looking outside of ourselves?” I had some practices that got me to that point. That’s not an easy question to answer, but it’s important to have daily questions to ask yourself and these questions I wrote in 2014. I still ask these to myself every day because you can forget to do these things when you get out of practice, you need to practice presence. You don’t have that. These things take practice.
I learned something from Eric Stevenson. He passed away. He was a shorter guy. He was in a wheelchair. He said, “When your life is working, I want you to write down ten things. Those ten things that you’re doing every day that makes your life good work.” For me, I drink a gallon a day. I meditate every morning. I am eating the right amount of foods that I want to each day, those types of ten things. I call my dad or my mom. When things are not going good, look at those ten things and see how many of them you’re doing. I did that practice. What I discovered was whenever my days were not going good, I was not doing my ten things. Many times, it starts with doing one thing. Maybe you are an addict. Maybe you are going through tough times or you’re going through codependency and you’re leaving that situation. That’s addiction as well.
When you’re exiting those types of relations, when you’re in a tough place, go back to ten things that you feel like can do good for you during that day and structure your day around that. What I learned is when I did those ten things right, anything that came in that wasn’t those ten things, I always say, your life is a choice, I chose no, I don’t want that. Whether it was going to drink with friends, that doesn’t work for me. On a Wednesday, that doesn’t work for me. This hamburger, should I eat? No, that’s not working for me on my diet. It’s such an interesting topic. With that being said and leading into it, tell me about these daily questions.
These can lead to being able to another important thing that we can touch on, we should be able to write our life’s curriculum. What do we stand for? What do we believe in? That goes into how we define ourselves as who we are. The daily questions, how would I live this day if I knew it was my last? Number two, what do I have to be grateful for in my life? Number three, what’s one thing I could do now to make my life extraordinary? What can I do to make now incredibly fun? Number five, how can I help someone else now? Those are the five questions that I start every day with.
It’s like a ladder of gratitude and affirmations. It’s like recognizing yourself but recognizing the connections you have with the world and how you can give that off to other people, almost share the energy that you’re feeling. Is that what it is?
It’s a positive reinforcement loop.
You do this every morning?
Every morning, like reviewing your goals.
Do you read it or do you write it in an actual journal?
I read and think on it. Make your questions, I encourage everyone to have those hard questions that you ask yourself. You’re not always going to have an answer. That’s the challenge, to search deep down inside yourself. How do you answer these tough questions? It’s easy to give the simple answer but give it some thought, dig deep and think about what matters, where you want to be, how you’re living each day to get yourself there. Are you going against what you want? You need to make sure that your actions are congruent with your aspirations. If we have a goal in sight, we need to have a plan of action and we need to execute on that plan of action. If we don’t keep ourselves focused day in and day out, it’s easy to go off in the wrong direction and lose focus.
I’m going to correlate this to something that we experience in everyday life. If you’re eating and you’re trying to be optimal with your health, you know that every day you should be eating fruits and vegetables, you can eat something bad here and there. Are you someone who is having a cheat meal every single day or are you not? That’s almost like our visions and the path that we’re trying to create. Do you want to keep on putting hurdles in front of you and running through them and then hurts, it’s uncomfortable and it creates discomfort? Do you want to pave the way towards your future and success?
For many of us it’s like, “I want to look good naked in the mirror. I want to look in the mirror and I want to smile. I want to be happy. The cars are cool and the house is cool. I want to be fulfilled. I want to feel great.” It almost starts with that. How are you eating? Are you doing the essentials of your life? Are you living? Are you drinking water? Are you putting food in your system? Calories, it’s a unit of energy. It correlates so well. For you, it seems like you’re structured, you get a lot done, you’re motivated and you’re continuously pushing forward. Tell me the quirky side of you, the fun side, who is Jonnie Ellis at its flesh? If you could do anything in the world, who are you? Who is this guy?Experiencing the lows gives you the ability to find your way and appreciate the wins. Click To Tweet
I am open, accepting, willing to try new things, unafraid, willing to fail and learn, always finding a way through trying times, leaning on the people around me for help knowing that I can’t do it all on my own and trying to be present in each moment and lead my life with passion and love.
Do you like to dance?
I love to dance.
Do you like to rap?
I used to rap in college. I performed a couple of shows.
Can you freestyle?
I can a bit if we had a beat or something. Here we sit. B. Meyer, CreateU, let me see you. Tell me a bit about yourself. I can’t do it now.
My beat was good. Your rapping wasn’t good.
It is bad. I retired years and years ago.
This was cool to sit down with you and to tap in and learn. It’s interesting because we look at people around us and we’re like, “He is this. He is that.” Assumptions. Have you ever heard of the four agreements?
Never make assumptions. Your word’s your world type thing. Don’t take yourself too seriously because at the end of the day, we’re all quirky, trying, living and dealing with shit. The world isn’t like one person at a time is going to be feeling the energy of the world. No, everyone at the same time, it’s like, “I’ve got to make sure of my finances. I’ve got to look over here.” We all have fears. We all are challenged with things. You represent that but it’s even hard, from the outside-in we make these assumptions. I didn’t know this about you. I didn’t know the things that you’ve been through or the come up that you have but everybody has a story.
The most detrimental thing that we can do is suppress our story, to try and say, “No, my story doesn’t matter. My past doesn’t matter. That doesn’t matter.” At the end of the day, how much is the matter? It’s your vision. People are like, “I don’t have a passion.” Have you uncovered who you are? Do you know who you are? You’ve done work. When you first started, was it easy?
No. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of hard work and daily work to get to where you want to be.
How do you get started with that? What would you suggest?
Take an inventory of your life, being honest with yourself, taking responsibility for your actions for one, taking responsibility for the place you are in the world, that’s step number one. If we understand that we act with intention, then we cannot be surprised by the results. If we’re acting with intention and we have a goal in mind and we have our curriculum that we live by, results shouldn’t be unexpected. Everything is not going to work out perfectly. If your vision stays clear, a success or a failure is another thing, we have to carry on and keep that vision alive. You can’t change what your motivations are because of the roadblocks that you encounter. Believe that you have to stay true and know who you are and what you stand for. That is, at the bottom line, the most important thing for every individual to try to define who you are, what you stand for and what’s important to you.
Have you ever seen that guy that runs straight through all the hurdles to the finish line, sprinting through?
That’s me. What you’re saying is that. Let’s run through the hurdles. Maybe you should duck under a couple of them because shit hurts or jump over a couple of them, there’s got to be hurdles in your life, fucking smash through them. Jonnie, thank you for joining me. Thank you for hopping on the show. We ignited some breakthroughs, brought some visions to life. Get started. The path is never easy, you’re going to be challenged. Take an inventory of your life. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a corporate and you’re an employee or you’re an entrepreneur and you’re struggling, if you get started and you stay consistent with the positivity in your life, remember your word’s your world the way that you’re thinking. You start choosing that much more. You start choosing yes instead of no. You start choosing what’s next instead of what came before. You start choosing the root or the path to success and you never stop. You will find what you’re looking for.
Take a chance, bet on yourself.
Jonnie, thank you for joining us. Where can they find you?
You can find me on Instagram @Jonnie_Ellis. I’ll be out there looking for you.
If you have a question, send him a direct message like a couple of his posts. The man’s all yadded. I didn’t even go into the stories of that but I’m sure we’ll have you on another show. We can chat about it, bring you on the YouTube. Thank you, Jonnie. I appreciate you. Thank you for getting vulnerable and authentic with everyone. If you’re struggling, we got you. Keep on reading on all the shows that we have. We’re on iTunes. We’re on Spotify. We’re everywhere. We’re here for you. We want you to ignite your breakthrough and bring your vision to life. Know that your vision is there. At the end of the day, go out and reach for it. It’s in front of you. Sometimes we’re blocking it off ourselves. You can find me on Instagram @TheBMeyers. We also have our CreateU Instagram. We got our greens. We got a lot of stuff. You can always holler at me. Remember, ignite your breakthrough and bring your vision to life.
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About Jonnie Ellis
Fit Sol will work with you to understand the ethos of your company, the challenges of remote working for hybrid teams and create a positive reinforcement loop tailored to match your company culture.
We believe connection building and team bonding are essential elements that all successful companies who strive to attract and retain top talent need to prioritize. Invest in your teams mental and physical fitness and reap the benefits! Morning huddles will always benefit from a work out with Fit Sol.