Alpha Team Jen Jen Doris and Cory HOVER perfectlyOur entrepreneur plan started off AWFUL.

Backstory: We met on E-Harmony over a decade ago bringing our families together.  Two kids each.

Then there was that time at band camp where we decided to quit our cushy full time 6 figure jobs and open a business that we believed in.  Both of our mother’s were battling cancer (brain and breast) so life with them along with our own children became a top priority.  We were working long hours and pretty much OWNED by our employer.

Both Pat (Randy’s mom) and Mary (Sarita’s mom) pushed us to work hard and believed we could do this on our own…whatever we set our mind out to do.  Both of us have held jobs since we were 14 and in looking back we both gave 110% to whatever the employer asked of us, if not more.  We did not have the courage to jump into the Entrepreneur world individually but as a team we decided to go for it.

That’s when we began 805 Boot Camp.  No, wait, we started as Extreme Boot Camp and thought we would be partners with the owner of Extreme, Linda Taix.

Randy’s mom had already passed on and my mom was on death’s door.  She was able to understand that we’d made the leap and were starting our “own business”.  I am so grateful she loved photography and was with us at our first Street Fair taking photos of our beginning.  I am thankful she was able to see we got on the FRONT PAGE of our local newspaper announcing our camp had begun a fundraiser to fill the Simi Valley Library with the latest Health, Fitness and Nutrition books.  She was extremely proud!

We had two full camp tours when we were called to the Extreme HQ’s to discuss the “agreement” we had signed to go into business with Linda.  She took us out to lunch at a local La Canada steakhouse where she was well known by every person we met.  Seated in a corner booth she told us we needed to “sign some papers”.  It was a contract to be a Franchise.  Thankfully Randy had already had experience with a franchise model and he began reading while Linda and I talked about how great our Simi boot camp was going, the locations and marketing needs and wants we planned.  She smiled, nodded and excitedly agreed with me on most everything.   Then we talked about our Thanksgiving Day boot camp where we raced a relay carrying a frozen turkey.  She explained that she really did like the idea and in the future we’d just need to run it by her before doing anything like that.  I got immediately confused because I actually did not understand what in the world she could be talking about “getting her approval”?

Randy had finished reading over the 3-inch stack of contract paperwork and pushed the binder to me to begin reading.  I did not listen to their conversation, I read…every word.  I have this irritating (to the sales person) habit of reading every word in every single document I’m supposed to sign after making some dumb moves trusting people when I was the General Manager at Panda Software.

I hit the section about costs and compensation.  There was a $35,000 amount due to have the franchise.  I interrupted Randy and Linda and asked about this $35K, “what does the $35K buy?”  You see, at this point in time, EBC was a giant boot camp in La Canada California – known only by the local community.  ZERO marketing or public relations had happened to make this business model known by Linda (or anyone she hired).  While I, on the other hand, began writing for the local paper, sending press releases out on updates and covering our fundraising and community involvement with photos.  As of our 2nd camp I had a website created (because Linda could not or would not) and we’d done newspaper ads (which I created using PAINT!!), mailers and we walked business to business MEETING people in our fatigues and announcing our program. So, when I saw that $35K I was again puzzled and confused.

“It’s for the name Extreme Boot Camp” Randy replied.

“What do you mean, ‘the name’?” I choked on my iced tea in reply and looked at Linda and Randy.

“Oh, you guys don’t have to pay that.  It’s just for the future Franchises.” Linda assured us.  “I love you guys and we’ll work it out.”

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This was my friend Linda.

Linda, by the way, was at our WEDDING along with a few of her Trainers.

She, as well as her employees that did not have families to spend Thanksgiving with, were invited to my mom’s yearly Thanksgiving Feast.  At this point I trusted Linda and believed she would make this happen.  BUT after decades of experience in marketing and sales, her lack of action on helping us create the Simi Valley boot camp made me realize she did not know much about marketing and how it was crucial in building a business, let alone Public Relations.  Businesses don’t build themselves.

I kept reading over the other expectations:  full access to our personal computer, we would use her email system and server (my personal experience was sending her multiple emails and calling multiple times before getting an answer to a question on a regular basis and I assumed it was because she was busy creating the Franchises for EBC).  We would pay her a percentage of our income.  She would dictate how we would run the camp.  I did not see this as being in alignment with what we quit our jobs to do but I didn’t say anything at the table.

We finished up lunch and lugged home the binder.  I continued reading while Randy drove.  He told me the story of the franchisee that had be allowed to not follow the same rules of the other franchises.  The only person at risk in this is the FRANCHISEE (that would be Randy and Sarita) who would be hit with penalties, paying what was not paid and attorney’s fees.  That freaked me OUT.

It was crystal clear: we needed to begin our own business and do it without Extreme Boot Camp.  We made an appointment to get back to Linda and give her the news.  For us we figured we would remain friends and help each other – we were 40 miles (and 40 minutes on a GOOD DAY) away…ONE WAY.  There would be no risk at us taking her clients or business at all.

In her tiny office in La Crescenta we squeezed in a third chair to tell her our decision.

As Randy spoke she absorbed what we were saying.  I was sitting in the doorway (there was no other space) and she was unable to leave the room.  If she were able to I think she would have run out and begun screaming at us.  Her face got very red and her eyes became furious.  I was snot expecting this from someone that called themselves a friend. Someone that knew about our moms, our kids…I would have expected she would want the best FOR US.  It seems I was very wrong on that assumption.  We were screwing up some plan we did not know we were part of.

We left there with her angrier than a hornet AT US.

A few days later we were served with papers and sued.

And that’s the start of our adventure as 805 Boot Camp!  Yipeeeeee!!!

Sued in Federal Court for a variety of things but the courts show “Trademark Infringement”.  The paperwork was 6 inches deep of all that we had taken from her.  She claimed she had invented outdoor boot camp as well as certain exercises like push-ups.

We had to hire an attorney and like idiots we got one that knew NOTHING about this sort of thing.  He was cool and we liked him a LOT but if you ever get sued for something seek help by an attorney that specialized in that area.

Our attorney told us we could easily fight this and quite possibly persevere but it would cost us a lot of money (and we did not have it).  So we settled and paid her $15,000 plus attorney’s fees.

We had an explicit date to have absolutely zero Extreme Boot Camp essence on our business model.  From the website to the apparel.  We were not allowed to have a name that began with the letter E.  We were not allowed to have black shirts.  These demands were silly and as though we WANTED to be Extreme Boot Camp or mistaken as them, which we did not.  If we did not comply 100% with the demands in the injunction we would be open to be sued AGAIN and pay for her attorney’s fees.  The date we had to make was May 1st, 2007.

I got on that task immediately writing back and forth with our attorney proving COMPLIANCE to him.  He helped with an extra set of eyes to make sure I was correctly moving forward.

Meanwhile, my mom was on her last days on earth.  I was up doing camp then driving to the hospital in the Sunland area to see her.  It was an AWFUL period of time and then I’d come home late and be crying all the time.  I was also very sick with those blisters so couldn’t eat or drink much.  I watched my mom die every day while working and trying to get the injunction complied with.

My mom died on April 29th.

On May 3rd we were served with 12 inches (NOT KIDDING) of paperwork that Linda’s attorney’s had printed from the website proving we had NOT actually removed all the remnants of Extreme Boot Camp.  SHE WAS SUING US AGAIN.

The evidence she included were screen shots of photos, of SEO tags… our website (and I built it with the help of Go Daddy) still had crumbs of Extreme Boot Camp on it DESPITE the fact that I’d spent hours with Go Daddy being assured I’d complied with it.  I kept meticulous notes of these tech support conversations because I was new to this world of web design.

Either way, my mom died and two days later Linda sued us.  Cold, huh?  I thought so too.

The prior months we had to come up with a new business name (that did not begin with the letter E so the acronym would not be EBC which was Extreme Boot Camp’s acronym).  I went to the Simi Valley Town Center and personally surveyed 50-70 people describing our program and asking them what single word came to mind.  Endurance.  Nooooo!!! I could not use Endurance because it was the letter E.

I noticed the pride people of Simi had though.  Coming from La Crescenta, Glendale, Los Angeles, Hollywood and Burbank I’d never been in a neighborhood where people were NICE to you.  It was a point of pride.  I was happy to leave the 818 and live in the 805.

That’s when I realized: we should be 805 Boot Camp.  Again, leap of faith in an idea.

We hired a designer for our logo (I’ve got to write the story of this rip-off) and have a website built.  We paid him $5,000 and got a rendering of our logo and THAT’S IT.  Do NOT trust a guy named R. Grant Perry, Jr  who had a business called Cre8v Planet with the address of 37 Langhorne Circle Newport News Virginia.  He took our $5,000 and left us high and dry.  I just now hunted the internet for him. He’s STILL claiming to do websites and probably ripping people off.  What a jerk.  What a LESSON.

We got our new logo (which I really like), printed our letterhead and shirts on every color but black.

Camps continued and we hired two Instructors.

But Linda wasn’t through with us just yet.

She immediately opened a storefront (which was a stipulation on that original Franchise) on Erringer (right behind El Torito) and staffed it during odd hours.  We peeked in when they were closed once and saw a few stationary bikes and racks of weights – that was it.

She paid two instructors to drive all the way out from La Crescenta EVERY DAY to deliver camp in the same parks we were in.  It was as though someone was giving her the information about where we would be.

One dark morning in Lemon Park we were running the dirt path and her campers purposely ran into (physically) our campers going in the opposite direction.  That could have been bad but we’re not into fighting and shrugged it off.  Clearly there was animosity being carried on by her employees and transferred to her actual clients!  Crazy!  It happened more than once, so we chose a different park.

Lessons learnt so far:

  1.  Do your own website and UNDERSTAND what is going on rather than believe what a tech support person tells you
  2.  Do not trust someone you believe is your friend…look at their actual actions rather than their words
  3. Hire professionals with MEGA references to help you create in an area you are not knowledgeable in
  4. Trust your gut on humans
  5. Don’t give a dime to someone to work for you without seeing the results – if anything give them HALF.

The plan to keep our business open was looking more and more difficult.

We called a friend – a REAL friend – Joan Murphy-Contreras (know Byrd) who set us on the right path back to believing in our original purpose.

Despite dropping everything we knew to be stable for ourselves in 2005, we did.

And 12 years later we’ve got LOTS to share on what went great and what went south along with people you might trust and those you just cannot trust.

Always learning!

805 Boot Camp had its first camp and it was rocky and sketchy and we were worried about that damn law suit for years…nothing happened on it.

We moved on and it looks like she opened up 30 franchises!

On a whim I was taking design classes at Moorpark College with Svetlana Kasalovic and a student sitting near me in the lab noticed my 805 Boot Camp water bottle.  We struck up a conversation and it seems her boyfriend had purchased THREE Extreme Boot Camp franchises and they were all doing awful with zero support on marketing and public relations.  I felt bad for the girl and her boyfriend but there was nothing I could do.

She told me that the Simi Valley boot camp model was used as a way to close him on purchasing because it was so successful.

When I got home I looked up how many Extreme Boot Camp Franchises existed.  They were ALL OVER Southern California.  I took screen shots at the time but they’re on another external hard drive so I cannot be sure.  I’d guess 20?  WOW.

Her website was word-for-word a copy of our introduction.  She started programs that matched our program (like our Low Impact Program).  Her photos were the ones my sister took and she was asked to remove them (and she did).  It was hard to not be angry about her behavior.

The law suit was never heard in Federal Court.  That was 11 years ago.

Since then we have had a few other face plants and learning experiences getting our diploma from the University Of Hard Knocks.

We stuck to it and in the end we survived the attacks from her as well as the few other people that sincerely wanted to put us out of business.

I’m a believer in karma and I am pretty sure when they get served up it is going to suck big time.

 

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