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It’s not unusual for businesses to have mascots — they certainly catch the eyes of passersby. But while Disney has Mickey Mouse, Chick-Fil-A has the “Eat Mor Chikin” cows, and we’ve all seen the giant, red Kool-Aid Man — SPARK45 Fitness and Physical Therapy in Carpinteria, California, has a dog named Otis.
“Otis is the SPARK45 official mascot,” said Danielle Bordenave, the owner and founder of SPARK45. “My 2-year-old labradoodle brings so much joy to me and all the clients at SPARK45.”
Otis is one of the many ways Bordenave has created an encouraging environment at SPARK45, even when the club was in its infancy. From there, positive member experiences have fueled its growth.
“I moved to a town I absolutely love, and the community members have been very supportive in spreading the word about SPARK45,” said Bordenave. “My clients are my best and main advertising.”
From the start, Bordenave was highly motivated to make her fitness space welcoming and conducive to clients meeting all their fitness goals.
“SPARK45 Fitness and Physical Therapy started as an idea to create greater health for physical therapy clients,” said Bordenave. “I was managing and treating physical therapy clients in Chicago when I started to notice many of them coming back for the same problem.”
Over time, Bordenave observed a troubling pattern — clients’ inability to achieve long-term wellness. “Clients did great for three, six or even 12 months, but then stopped completing their home programs or were put in pain again from something else,” said Bordenave. “I wanted to combine physical therapy, fitness and overall wellness to help people maintain a healthy and pain-free life.”
She spent time developing ideas and formulating plans that would eventually grow into SPARK45.
“Almost three years after this idea came to me, I moved to Carpinteria … and started to bring SPARK45 to life,” said Bordenave. “I started with around 600 square feet of space, and now have just over 2,200. I also started with less than 10 clients a week, and today SPARK45 welcomes around 200 clients a week.”
A major draw of SPARK45 is its wide variety of fitness classes and equipment choices. “SPARK45 currently offers the Megaformer from Lagree Fitness, indoor cycling, personal training and physical therapy,” said Bordenave. “We strive to create individualized treatment programs to help clients improve their strength, range of motion, flexibility, balance and pain.”
However, everything wasn’t smooth sailing for Bordenave and SPARK45. Anyone who’s ever launched a small business knows how difficult it is to grow to the point of making a profit. You have to consider branding, marketing, how to get clients, and almost all of these variables rely on the same thing: money.
“The greatest challenge, from the start until now, has been gaining funding as a new business,” said Bordenave. “When I first started, it wasn’t possible to get a small business loan, so I had to be creative with finances. As the studio has been growing steadily, I’m constantly managing expenses.”
In spite of being a one-woman show for much of her business life, Bordenave has never wavered in her commitment to members. In fact, she attributes her success to these relationships.
“Above everything else, client engagement is truly the reason SPARK45 has been successful,” said Bordenave. “In our fitness classes, instructors welcome clients by name, and we encourage clients to get to know each other.”
Helping people achieve healthier lifestyles has been the driving force of Bordenave’s mission, and that goal has helped overcome any obstacle in her way.
“Taking the leap to open your own business no matter how big is scary,” said Bordenave. “I’ve found all the best things in life usually are also scary as they push us to be the next, greatest version of ourselves.”