Next in our “Ten Minutes With…” blog series, we talked with Shannon and Heather Hudson, the co-founders and CEO/COO respectively of the world’s largest kickboxing chain: 9Round Fitness. Here’s everything Shannon and Heather had to share with us about entrepreneurship, building a brand from the ground up, clarifying your brand’s messaging on an international scale, and how marketing and PR tie into all of that…
You have both shared that your 9Round journey was not an easy one, having opened your flagship studio during a recession without enough money to put a sign on the building. How has sharing your entrepreneurial struggles helped you connect with your audiences? Shannon: It is always a very humanizing story to tell. Unfortunately, most people only see you at the top of the mountain, but never saw you when you were at your lowest point. We always try to tell that story to new franchise owners in order to show that hard work and perseverance always win.
After “starting at the bottom” as you did, what’s it like to have the marketing power of the world’s largest kickboxing fitness franchise today? Shannon: It’s nice! We can really leverage the unit count and create a lot of buzz. Especially on social media and within our unique workout system. We have the opportunity to promote fun opportunities on behalf of our brand, such as “World Push-Up Day,” themed workouts, etc.
At 9Round, everyone gets their own “fighter” names. What was the inspiration behind each of your fighter names: Shannon “The Cannon” and Heather “The Hero”? How do these fighter names connect to the personas you’ve taken on as the spokespersons of your brand? Shannon: At 9Round, we believe everyone is a fighter in LIFE, so that’s why we give all members a fighter name. Plus, it’s fun and breaks the ice. In my case, I chose “The Cannon” because it’s the only thing that would rhyme with Shannon (LOL)! But it also makes sense because I like to be explosive and fast both in business and in life. Heather: I feel like everyone has a hero inside them. In fact, “be your own hero” is a regular mantra of mine because it’s a powerful philosophy. That’s why I resonate with Heather “The Hero”.
9Round has seen incredible growth in recent years, reaching almost 800 studios around the world. How has your brand’s mission to make people “stronger in 30 minutes” translated to other countries where there are language barriers and/or cultural differences? Shannon: Exercise is a universal language. Motion and high energy are great ways to communicate with various cultures.
How have you expanded your message for the embrace of a global audience? Shannon: Regardless of gender or culture, everyone has a desire within them to be stronger. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I need to lose some strength. I’m too strong!” That NEVER happens, so our message of making people “stronger in 30 minutes” continues to resonate on a global stage.
We have seen some incredible transformations of 9Round members since we began working with your brand. How does it feel to hear and see the success stories from people around the world who have benefitted from the brand YOU developed? Shannon: That is the reason why Heather and I get up every day. It’s what gives us JUICE to do what we do… It’s serving a higher purpose.
Shannon – How would you compare your experiences as a professional athlete to your lifestyle now as the owner of your own international fitness franchise? Do you think your time in the spotlight as a world champion kickboxer prepared you well for taking on your role as the “face” of the 9Round brand? Shannon: It’s very similar actually. The same basic principles apply when you are trying to do anything at the highest level: You have to train and stay focused. And my professional athletic career has absolutely helped me in my current role, as my background gives the organization massive credibility. I don’t think any of our kickboxing franchise competitors have a CEO that is a World Champion in the ring like me… I would gladly challenge any CEO to a few rounds in the ring with me. 🙂
Heather – You’re a strong advocate for female empowerment through fitness. What does it mean to you as a female leader to know that so much of your brand’s customer base is comprised of women, and how do you and the 9Round brand continue to connect with them? Heather: I’m thrilled to know how many other women are empowered by the brand, just as I have been throughout my fitness journey. I’m passionate about women finding their internal power through fitness and I continue to be an advocate for that. I enjoy pushing people not only in a physical way, but in a mental way, by passing on what I’ve learned as an entrepreneur to others who are on the same path.
What advice would you offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs? Shannon: Diversifying your brand’s purpose in the beginning is a waste of time… Quite frankly, it’s bull$#*!. Pick one thing and become GREAT at it before pursuing other avenues. Heather: In line with that, be ready to focus and not get distracted by things that don’t grow your business.
How have PR and marketing played a role in getting you to the successful point you’ve reached today? Shannon: It’s been an amazing asset! It has helped with our strategy of being omnipresent. When we are all over social media, on covers of magazines, delivering podcast interviews, etc., it’s always a plus.
What is it like working with BizComPR to help share your message? Shannon: We have worked with several PR firms and have gotten more traction with BizCom than any other. Their customer service is fantastic, and their results are all that matter. In two words, “They Deliver”.