Original Gymsters: Fordham Students Lifting a Small Business from Concept to Launch
For most Fordham students, a bachelor’s degree is the light at the end of the end of the tunnel after four hard-fought years of exams and assignments.
For Rose Hill senior Richard Morban, though, the economics degree he’ll be awarded in May is merely a badge of honor to collect as he conducts the process of gaining investors and scaling up his business.
“It’s like a medal,” he said, specifying that he won’t be treating his degree as a fallback.
Richard is the founder and CEO of a personal training startup called Original Gymsters, which offers custom personal training and fitness mentorship packages. Through their mentorship program, the team creates a personalized training regimen for each client and oversees the process via frequent email and phone check-ins. This process of personally passing on fitness know-how is something the team believes can change the fitness industry for the better.
“I really think [mentorship] can revolutionize fitness,” Richard said.
The Rose Hill senior grew up in Inwood, a neighborhood close to the northernmost tip of the Manhattan island, and went to middle and high-school in Harlem. His journey from high school baseball player to startup founder began out of his own struggle with personal fitness and health.
“I never liked the feeling of going to the doctor and being told that I was obese and had to start losing weight,” He said. “I’d be like, “Okay, how?”, they’d give me some generic answer, and I’d just be stuck.”
During his transition from high school to college, he found the solution he was looking for: bodybuilding. He became obsessive about researching weightlifting and nutrition strategies for achieving different goals and testing them out on his own body. By age 19, he found himself on stage at The 2016 NPC Grand Prix in Brooklyn, his very first bodybuilding competition. He took home a silver medal for men’s physique in his weight class.
As a Rose Hill freshman, he befriended Jimy Vasquez and Julio Figueroa, avid gymgoers who saw working out with Richard as a chance to learn from a competing bodybuilder. After working out with him a few times, they were confident in his passion for learning and teaching fitness.
“He’s addicted to it for life,” Julio said. “You can ask him pretty much anything and I know I’m going to get a valid answer, I know that my problem will be fixed.” Richard would be certified as a Tier II personal trainer by the Equinox Fitness Training Institute by the end of his sophomore year.
The three focused intensely on gaining size during “bulking” seasons and losing fat during “cutting seasons.” After a few of these cycles, friends of theirs began to take notice of their progress.
“Everyone saw us and said, “We need to go to the gym with you guys!”,” Richard said. “At one point my sophomore year, we had like eight people on the second floor of the gym. It was insane.”
This overcrowding is what first brought the idea of founding a personal training startup to Richard’s mind. “I was thinking, “How do I help all these people, but not jam-pack the gym?” he said.
Over the the next year, he decided his team’s fitness expertise could form the basis for a successful business. For the startup’s name, he chose a title that came to him during a workout with his team, a play on the phrase “Original Gangsters,” or OGs.
During the summer of 2017, Richard began taking the first steps towards bringing his idea to life. He spoke with consultants at an agency called Marketing 360, began working on a website, printed business cards, and appointed his own “original gymsters,” Jimy Vasque zand Julio Figueroa, as the CFO and CMO (respectively) of his business.
Jimy studies business administration and entrepreneurship at the Gabelli School of Business, and has always dreamt of being a on a startup’s founding team.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” Jimy said. “I’d rather build a brand that’s mine than grow a brand for someone else.”
The Original Gymsters team is currently working on securing more funding and adding more qualified personal trainers and fitness consultants to their roster before launch. For Richard, developing a business while tending to a full courseload and training for upcoming bodybuilding competitions is all but easy.
“It’s definitely stressful.” You have all this school stuff going on and you want to really focus on that,” Richard said. “Starting a company is doing a lot of research…trying to learn as much as possible and gearing it towards you.”
He says his studies in economics have helped give him confidence in his ability to launch a startup. “It’s taught me how to analyze a situation, how to work through problems and obstacles through the whole process of building a business,” Richard said. But because he plans on making Original Gymsters his full-time job after college, he’s not relying on the degree to get him a job after school.
Julio, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, studies economics and marketing at Rose Hill. He commutes to the campus, a two-hour train ride from his home in Newark, New Jersey each way. He’s spearheading the process of creating pitches and clearing the company’s vision to prepare for the next step in the Original Gymsters story: courting investors to secure more funding for launch.
This spring, the team will compete for a five thousand-dollar grant from Fordham Foundry , and begin to pitch their business plan to potential investors.
Julio is spearheading the process; it’s something that takes up a lot of the time and energy he’d normally be spending on schoolwork.
“When you’re juggling all that, it’s a lot of work,” he said. To make room for meetings and workouts with his team, he does much of his coursework on the train rides to and from campus.
Despite the time management challenge creating a startup from scratch presents, the team has high hopes for Original Gymsters once they launch in the coming months.
“When we start really diving in to this mentorship program, people are going to love it,” Richard said.