Fitness trainers work to make their businesses fiscally fit

This article originally appeared in Pacific Business New in April 2012
Fitness trainers work to make their businesses fiscally fit (Pacific Business News) - April 2012

By Duane Shimogawa

There are between 200 and 300 certified personal trainers in Hawaii and about a third of them try to make a living from it, according to Eric Yamashita, who has been in the business for almost two decades and is considered by some to be the personal trainer to the stars.
His customers include chef Sam Choy, former Miss Universe Brook Lee and Aloha United Way President and Chief Professional Officer Kim Gennaula. He said he has a solid base of about 25 clients, mostly women between the ages of 40 and 65.
“I want to do this in some kind of capacity ‘til I die,” said Yamashita, 45, owner of E. Yamashita Personal Training LLC. “I’m always going to do some kind of personal training.”
He and his business partner, Rick Tashima, lease a 1,000-square-foot building at 1215 Center St. in Kaimuki.
“It’s pretty tough at first,” Yamashita said of getting started in the fitness training business. “You have to build a niche and a client base.”
The single father said his salary ranges from $45,000 to $100,000 a year, depending on how many hours he tallies.
“When I didn’t have a son, I used to work more hours, but now I work less, so I make less,” he said.
His rate is on the higher end among fitness trainers, at $90 an hour. On average, most trainers charge between $40 and $50 per hour.
While fitness training is Yamashita’s full-time job, Tashima balances his training duties with a job at Hawaiian Airlines.

Nathan Gladstone, owner of Active Changes LLC, does the balancing act as well. The 34-year-old is a full-time teacher at Loveland Academy, a school for autistic students. But for two hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays he trains about 15 clients at either Ala Moana Beach Park or at Kakaako Beach Park.
“I probably could do Active Changes full-time but it would be just too stressful because you don’t have that guaranteed pay and the benefits that come with a full-time job,” he told PBN.
Gladstone charges by the week with commitments ranging from four to 20 weeks. A four-week session costs $179, while a 20-week session costs $99.
Although he would like his own facility, he feels that training outdoors works best for his clients.
“Most people are inside working, so they should go outside for training,” he said.
Along with a business license from the state and a federal tax ID, trainers need to become certified with an organization such as the National Council on Strength and Fitness. Gladstone said the certification fee can range from $400 to $1,000.
“There’s a wide range of certifications and depending on which one a person gets, it can make a big difference,” he said.

Li Si Yang, owner of Journey to Fitness LLC, is one of many trainers who prefer to work alone and not utilize independent contractors or employees.
“It’s mostly because of liability issues and training styles,” she told PBN. “I want to be in control the whole time.”
Yang, 35, leases a 650-square-foot studio at 3410 Campbell Ave. in Kapahulu. She charges between $60 and $85 per session, which usually lasts about an hour.
Yang, who sees herself as the next Tony Robbins, Martha Stewart and Denise Austin all wrapped up into one, saved up about $80,000, which she used to start and sustain her personal training business.
“This was my calling,” she said. “I was meant to do this and my mission is to really educate people about the correct way of exercising.”

Chris Ranes, owner of Fitness Ranes LLC, worked his way up the ladder from being a trainer at 24 Hour Fitness to Punahou Fitness and Spa to eventually owning his own business.
The 30-year-old leases 875 square feet of space at 930 McCully St. He owns between $20,000 and $30,000 worth of equipment and wants eventually to purchase space.
“The biggest challenge is getting customers and giving them good enough service to stay,” he said. “It’s also important to give them knowledge so they can pass it on to others.”