Courtesy of Jacquie Peterson
Sara Labbe (right), a member of Pink Gloves Boxing in Anaconda, Mont., prepares to throw a punch.
New companies start up every day, but how many of them have a knockout punch?
Just as the economy was sinking in the spring of 2008, two recent college graduates — both former football players — decided to plow ahead with a new business venture: a women-only fitness program focused on boxing.
Garret Garrels was running a personal training business in the small town of Anaconda, Mont. He was teaching his clients the basics of boxing. One of those clients wanted to invite a friend to join the workout. More people joined. Soon Garrels got the idea for Pink Gloves Boxing.
Now, twice a week, a group of women meets at Smitty's Barn just outside town. If you walk through a gravelly parking lot and up a few stairs to the wooden porch outside Smitty's, you'll hear music and cheering. About 10 women, ranging in age from their mid-20s to their mid-50s, are boxing. There's no contact, no ring and no real competition.
"I had a baby and I needed to get back in shape," Erin Nicholes says. "I needed something that provided a little social interaction, and a really great workout, and this did that for me."
Garrels, who studied exercise science, recruited his old football teammate Nick Milodragovich, who had studied engineering. The idea they had was to create a women's fitness program. The group turned into a community as well.
"It's an emotional release, and it's a physical release," Milodragovich says.
Selling A Concept
Since they started their group at Smitty's Barn, Garrels and Milodragovich now have a licensed product and they sell "Pink Gloves Boxing" to health clubs across the country. But it's not always an easy sell.
Courtesy of Jacquie Peterson
Sara Labbe, left, and Joyce Garrels work out as part of the Pink Gloves Boxing program in Anaconda, Mont.
Sara Labbe, left, and Joyce Garrels work out as part of the Pink Gloves Boxing program in Anaconda, Mont. Courtesy of Jacquie Peterson
"What we're seeing is a lot of excitement and then a lot of hesitation to commit the money," says Milodragovich.
The company charges gyms a monthly $200 retainer fee and an initial fee of $3,500. Garrels and Milodragovich train employees how to teach the class and set them up with all the gear like T-shirts, dog tags and pink boxing gloves.
Earning Pink Gloves
Participants don't wear pink gloves right away. The program runs on a tier system, so getting your pink gloves is sort of like earning your black belt in karate.
The Wilmington Athletic Club in North Carolina now offers Pink Gloves Boxing five times a week.
"You take a risk in anything you bring into a club," says the gym's program director, Sarah Goodwin. "You don't know if your members are going to adapt to it or like it or not, and a lot of people don't like change. But you can make it your own and give feedback to the people who started the program just to make it better overall."
So far, the program is going well there. Goodwin says at least 10 women show up at every class. Members there pay a little extra to attend pink gloves classes.
In addition to the gym in Wilmington, two other clubs on the East Coast have signed up for Pink Gloves Boxing.
Waiting For A Profit
Garrels and Milodragovich have invested about $10,000 in their venture. They have yet to make a profit, but Milodragovich had enough confidence in Pink Gloves to quit his day job as a civil engineer. The two still work as part-time personal trainers to help make ends meet.
Garrels, who has tried his hand at business ventures before, hopes this will be the one that takes off. "Nine out of 10 businesses fail," he says. "And this is my fourth one, so if I say I've failed three times then my odds just keep increasing."
At the moment, Garrels and Milodragovich are getting ready to launch their program at another gym in Helena, Mont. They're also talking with a club owner a bit farther away — in Sweden.