Q&A | Talking shop with owner of fitness brand I Am My Billboard, Ed Wilson
One of the issues that many businesses face is knowing whether or not they are able to withstand unforeseen circumstances should they arise. Flint native Ed Wilson knew that even with the emergence of 2020's pandemic, he wanted for him, his family and business to stay afloat while also continuing to scale.
Armed with a killer sense of discipline and a savvy business mindset, Ed was able to get through the year of all years by consistently investing in his fitness studio mid-shutdown, and creating clothing and products to further strengthen his brand, I Am My Billboard.
Upon the reopening of his fitness studio in Flint, we linked up with Ed for an exclusive Q&A where he spoke on his transition from poetry to fitness, the dedication he has for his family, being resilient in business and more. Keep reading to get the goods on Ed Wilson of I Am My Billboard.
The GOODS: First off, thank you for this opportunity! How have you and your family been holding up during this time of uncertainty?
Ed Wilson: “We’ve actually been pretty great. This situation gave us a lot of time that we don't normally have. Running multiple companies and having a family, sometimes you go from one thing to the next, so not having to go into the gym at all gave us so much time that we actually reinvested into the gym, and were able to complete a full renovation the time we had to be closed. It also allowed us to spawn a couple of different products and create different revenue streams. So, not only did we make it through, but we actually put ourselves in a position to do better financially as well.
The hardest thing for us is having to keep our kids and they can't really go and move around as much. We did things at home, we built a whole playground in the yard, they got a new deck. I mean, we basically turned the basement into a movie theater just to keep them from feeling like they were stuck at the house. Our goal has been to make sure that our keys are as effective as possible, and I think we did a decent job of that.”
TG: What kind of challenges did your business face with the emergence of COVID-19?
EW: “You don't like losing 85% of your income, that's never fun, right? But, we were never in panic mode. I told my wife not to worry about it and that we were gonna take a mandatory vacation and hang out. We looked into disaster relief and everything that we were supposed to do for businesses. We did our job, so there was no panic for us.
I was conscious enough to tell her that the one thing that I didn’t want to do as a business was shrink up during the pandemic. Things got tight around the country, so I knew that I wanted to continue to make investments in the company and make heavy investments in the fitness studio, like a state of innovation, equipment, software, etc. You have to be ready for expansion and explosion at all times.”
TG: I know you were a huge contributor to the poetry community in Flint for years. What made you want to transition from that to health and fitness?
EW: “Oh man, I'm gonna be here all day! (laughs). So, here's the honest answer. I never quit or retired from poetry. What happened was we found out that we were pregnant, and my first thought was that I needed to be making more money than I was. I also was trying to figure out what I could do to be local, so I could be home with my family. Fitness was one of the things that I would do for free. I had been doing it the entire time I was an artist, it's something that's always been a part of my life.
I was on the road 50% to 75% of the time as a traveling artist. I started thinking of business ideas and names that would be a good representation of me. The name, I Am My Billboard, is what came to me. Then, something happened where the Lord told me not to book any more shows, which was crazy because that’s how I made my money. This happened while I was getting ready to go on stage at one of my favorite shows in Cincinnati.
I’m performing in a haze, seeing my whole future play out right before my eyes. I don't even remember the show. We didn’t even stay the night. We hopped straight on the road and drove home because I wanted to figure out what to do. I decided to take my fitness business serious and people just started showing up, and I never looked back. So, it wasn't like I didn’t want to do poetry anymore or distance myself from the poetry community. It was really more about being present for my wife and family.”
TG: What does your morning routine look like?
EW: “Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I’m up at 5:00 in the morning. I drink 24 to 30 ounces of water, grab whatever food I'm taking to the gym, pack my gym bag real quick. My first class starts around 6 a.m, I take my pre-workout around 6:45 while my first class gets done at 6:55. I do my personal workout from 7:00 to 8:15. My 8:00 classes begin, then 9:00, 10:00, and 11:00.
Then, I have a four hour break where I come home and I'm a daddy and husband, or I'm working on the payroll, consultations, trying to get people signed up, trying to push the businesses forward. After that, I'm back at the studio at 4:00 p.m. My day is over at 7:00 and then I'm home for the night. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my light days on purpose to give me an opportunity to rest or decompress or work on something.”
TG: Have you always been naturally disciplined, or did you have to work on cultivating it?
EW: “I'm naturally disciplined, physically. The mental aspect of business is something I kind of learned and had to adjust to along the way. When you're not in a system, you’re all over the place. You have to create a system of your own. I created my own system and learned what works best for me, that’s what helps me to be disciplined.”
TG: How has the reception been since reopening the gym?
EW: “It's been amazing. We were getting hounded even before I opened because people were ready to start working out again. I had never had a stint like that where people were just coming in and just laying down money in advance and getting excited about working out! So, the reception has been amazing.”
TG: Tell me about the new merch you've released for IAMB. What can we look forward to in the near future from the brand?
EW: “We have a Fall drop coming any moment now. There's gonna be a combination of stuff that you can wear to the gym, and stuff that you can wear outside of the gym. For example, my favorite new item is the harvest gold, it’s like a perfect yellow. It's literally my favorite hoodie right now. It's just a different colorway. We haven't done these types of colors before, and I can see people grabbing it just to wear out and about, not just to work out in. We have merch for girls and women as well. We're trying to expand on the market, and we get such a great reception when we release pictures of the merch.”
TG: If you could have one gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it be?
EW: “If it was my opportunity to speak to everybody all at once, I would probably want it to say, “Never let anybody or anything change how you feel about you.” Like, never let any person or any circumstance change how you feel about yourself, what you believe about yourself, or keep you from betting on yourself.
Oftentimes, we feel like we have to have some sort of visible success before we can walk around feeling like we're a success, and I just think that that's false. I think it’s more circumstantial because the person that you have to be in order to achieve that success, you already are anyway. So technically, you should be walking around like that anyway.
If you walk around like that, you're probably going to run into success a lot faster because most of us are not. Another reason why I would choose that quote for the billboard is because I can think of plenty of situations where people have had opinions about things we were doing, and it was all negative, even from family members. “You can't do that. You can't handle a gym in Flint, Michigan. Nobody's gonna do that, the price is too high. Nobody’s gonna pay for that, man.”
I never listened to that, and now we are making more money than ever. I have more free time than ever. I'm a full-time businessman and a full-time father. If I would have listened to the naysayers, I would be miserable. Don’t let people change how you feel about yourself.”
TG: Any shout outs?
EW: “My wife for being the backbone of this whole operation. I couldn't move around like I do if it wasn’t for her. Oh, and shout out to Kyona McGhee for getting us together with the trademark! Also, shout out to everybody who genuinely likes to see people win because the feeling is mutual, you know?"
To stay up to date with Ed Wilson and I Am My Billboard, follow him on IG, Facebook and Twitter at: @IAmMyBillboard
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