Presenting the 2019 IHRSA Rising Stars

IHRSA and CBI is pleased to introduce 22 of the industry’s most accomplished and promising young fitness professionals.

VISIONARIES. INNOVATORS. ACHIEVERS.

Each March, as we turn our attention to IHRSA’s convention and trade show, we also await the unveiling of IHRSA’s Rising Stars, a group of “stellar” industry professionals who, each day, work to push the health and fitness industry to ever greater heights.

This carefully curated list of 22 up-and-comers, nominated by the readers of CBI, includes visionaries, innovators, and achievers—individuals who personify the ambition, intensity, and commitment that also mark IHRSA’s 38th Annual International Convention & Trade Show, which will take place this month, March 13-16 in San Diego.

Given their youth—each of these talented men and women is 35 or under—the trajectory of their careers is just beginning its endless upward ascent, which ensures great promise for the industry’s future.

IHRSA and CBI are honored to once again be able to introduce IHRSA’s Rising Stars.

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Michael Adams
Head Coach, Personal Trainer
Goodlife Health Clubs
Chermside, Australia

“Passionate” might be an inadequate description of Michael Adams’ devotion to helping children and adults with special needs enjoy the benefits of exercise. While volunteering at the Aspley Special School in Queensland, Australia, Adams, 26, launched a fundraiser, during which he executed 10,000 squats with a 50-kilogram (110-pound) bar to generate $10,000 so the school could equip a gym. He developed Australia’s first Flying Kiwi Special Needs Powerlifting Cup, and was appointed Powerlifting State Co-Coordinator for Special Olympics Australia. Adams also created the Strong Hearts Disability Health and Movement Program in Brisbane to provide an empowering exercise environment for people with disabilities.

“I want to make it possible for these individuals to enjoy exercise and new experiences with confidence, by providing a place for growth and opportunity,” he explains. A competitive powerlifter and former Goodlife Fitness Professional of the Year, Adams is currently writing a course for fitness professionals about training individuals with special needs.

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Amanda Brown
Director of Operations
Newtown Athletic Club
Newtown, PA

Amanda Brown may only be 25, but she’s hardly a newcomer to the health and fitness club industry. Since her first job as a kids’ camp counselor 11 years ago, she’s been ascending the upward path to leadership at the Newtown Athletic Club (NAC). Over the past five years, she’s increased summer camp revenue by 230%, and expanded the club’s youth programming, which has involved the hiring and training of 100 employees.

Today, Brown conducts training for club managers; develops marketing, sales, and operations strategies; and coaches the leadership team to increase revenue, member engagement, and retention. At IHRSA’s Annual International Convention & Trade Show in 2017, she served as a panel member during a presentation on UFIT, a program that promotes inclusive fitness for special needs populations; she’s currently piloting a UFIT program at NAC. In 2016, she spoke at the convention on developing programming for children with special needs. Brown is a graduate of The IHRSA Institute.

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J.J. Creegan
Chief Operating Officer
Youfit Health Clubs
Deerfield Beach, FL

At the tender age of 15, J.J. Creegan caught the attention of Rick Berks, the founder of Youfit, and, in the 17 years since then, has held nearly every management position at the company. Now 32, he’s responsible for 115 locations across 14 states and 3,500 employees. His defining objective: to fulfill Youfit’s corporate mission of helping members look, feel, and live better.

Among his many accomplishments, Creegan developed a personal training program that, in just three years, exceeded company revenue expectations; and led the launch of Youfit’s eLearning strategy. Last year, he created a national community service initiative, working with organizations such as Feeding America and Habitat for Humanity—the result, a total of 40,000 donated hours of Youfit community service. One of the South Florida Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” honorees, and South Florida Business and Wealth’s “COO of the Year,” Creegan describes himself as a “collaborative, customer- and team-focused executive who excels in hyper-competitive and rapid growth environments.”

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Lachlan Creighton
Multi-club owner
Anytime Fitness
Queensland, Australia

Since the beginning of his career with Anytime Fitness, Lachlan Creighton, 28, has persistently pursued his vision of helping people lead healthier lives—first as a personal trainer and assistant club manager, and, now, as a club owner and operator of three facilities in Australia. Early on, Creighton realized that he wanted to do more to help people than simply work with individual clients. At the age of 22, he opened his first Anytime Fitness franchise in Kallangur, Australia.

After struggling with it for four years, he relocated the facility and resolutely doubled membership within 23 months. By assisting with the design of a Member Care Plan— which supports members by providing personal trainers who offer goal-oriented coaching—he produced monthly usage rates exceeding 65%. Creighton has partnered with a charity, the Healthy Life Project, to provide free health assessments to club members and the local community. Creighton also is a partner in MyFirstGym, a new children’s fitness franchise.

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Jason Dolan
Co-founder, Director, Franchisor
Core9
New South Wales, West Australia

Jason Dolan, 35, served on the Australian Defense Force for 14 years, and during that time, developed a deep appreciation for peak physical fitness. In 2013, capitalizing on his elite training expertise, Dolan launched a new health club chain, called Core9. His clubs not only feature a unique type of efficient, effective, and personalized workout, but also provide career opportunities for former military and emergency service personnel who are re-entering civilian life.

Today, there are a total of eight veteran owned Core9 facilities. Each offers flexible 31-minute programs that combine gymnastics, kickboxing, and military-style techniques that stress cardio, strength, and functional training. Dolan oversees the business, but continues to work with members of all ages to help them achieve their fitness goals. The company recently won the Australian Franchise Council competition, and is now participating in the 2019 International NexGen contest for franchisors under 35. Known to be tenacious, positive, and personable, Dolan “lives for the higher purpose of others.”

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Alejandra Flores
Retail Coordinator
Steve Nash Fitness Clubs
Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

Described by her boss as “a self-starter who’s committed to excellence in everything,” Alejandra Flores has proven a valuable asset to the Steve Nash Fitness Clubs since she joined the company when she was 19. Graduating from her first job as a front desk attendant, she’s accepted roles of increasing responsibility, including those of operations manager, district operations manager, and assistant general manager.

In her current position, she makes purchasing decisions for apparel, retail items, and supplements for all 25 of the chain’s locations, enhancing member service and driving revenues. Flores, 25, was named the Steve Nash 2016 Top Operations Manager of the Year; the 2016 Top Performer; and a Top 10 Sales Performer for February 2018. She’s also an avid participant in community fitness events and charity fundraising initiatives. “No challenge has ever stopped her, which is why she’s flourished so rapidly,” says her supervisor, Nastasia Genova, the company’s vice president of fitness. Genova, herself, was among “2017’s Rising Stars.”

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Layne Garner
Pilates Director
Claremont Club
Claremont, CA

Since her first day on the job in 2010, Layne Garner has been transforming the group exercise program at the Claremont Club. Her role at the time: assistant to the group exercise and Pilates director. “I fell in love with Pilates, became certified, was happy to teach in the studio, and was eager to challenge myself more,” she reflects.

Now, as the club’s Pilates director, Garner has increased gross revenue by 354% since January 2017; hired, trained, and held onto eight new instructors; and implemented a successful teacher training program. The program not only generates significant revenue and a respectable net income, but also attracts high-caliber instructors, who, in turn, attract more participants. To increase access to Pilates for people of all abilities and budgets, she’s created a variety of training packages and class programs.

“My goal was to update and rebrand the image of Pilates, and provide the vision and energy that would draw people in,” Garner explains. She’s succeeded.

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Kenn Gudbergsen & Alexander Schrøder
Co-founders
TrainAway
Copenhagen, Denmark

Frustrated by the hassle of finding a gym to use while traveling, fitness enthusiasts Kenn Gudbergsen and Alexander Schrøder combined their entrepreneurial ambitions—both have bachleor’s and master’s degrees from the Copenhagen Business School—to found TrainAway. This free app allows individuals to quickly access health clubs worldwide via their smartphones, purchase a guest pass, and present this pass at check-in. TrainAway collects the payments for the passes and sends the host facilities monthly activity reports and payments.

“We’ve made this as easy as possible for exercisers, and extremely efficient for club managers, in order to facilitate great experiences and return visits,” explains Schrøder, 28. IHRSA has now partnered with TrainAway to digitize its popular Passport program globally. Currently available in 21 countries, TrainAway continues to expand. “Our success is founded on our strong network of health clubs, and our willingness to listen to, and learn from, gym owners and operators,” says Gudbergsen, 27.

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Bas Hollander
Training Manager
Les Mills Japan
Les Mills International
Toyko, Japan

“I help people reach their full potential,” says Bas Hollander, 33, who, before joining Les Mills Japan, was a special education teacher for high school students with special needs. When he, himself, was a teenager, Hollander’s judo instructor introduced him to Les Mills’ RPM cycle class, and he was immediately hooked. Today, Hollander applies the same respect, discipline, and dedication that he learned as a judo champion to his role as a certified Les Mills instructor. He’s served as an international master trainer and training manager; developed classes, such as THE TRIP and GRIT; and expanded the trainer team in Japan from 12 to 72 members.

As a program leader of Les Mills’ BORN TO MOVE children’s exercise program, he’s not only an “amazingly energetic cheerleader,” but also is committed to finding solutions for childhood obesity. Described by a colleague as “passionate, fun, and funny,” he “genuinely thrives on making the world a better place for other people.”

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Lee Ann Jolly, Ph.D.
Co-director of Community & Culture
Little Rock Athletic Club
Little Rock, AR

Given Lee Ann Jolly’s sweeping contributions to the Little Rock Athletic Club (LRAC), it’s no wonder that she’s often described as “simply a force.” According to Burke Jolly, her husband and co-worker, “Dr. Jolly has completely changed the landscape of group exercise, small-group training, program development, employee recruitment, and member retention.”

Jolly, 32, devised QUICKSHOTS, a fastpaced, 30-minute, small-group workout that incorporates HIIT and targeted resistance training. She subsequently had the program accredited by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM); wrote a training manual; and certified 20 instructors. Jolly has helped increase group exercise participation at LRAC, and reduced attrition by 4%, by fostering a positive, inclusive environment.

“Our focus is to establish uplifting, tight-knit communities,” she says. She’s also the co-founder of Jolly Bodies, LLC, and was a presenter at IHRSA’s Annual International Convention & Trade Show in 2017.

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Lindsey Leemis
Director of Digital Marketing
acac Fitness & Wellness
Charlottesville, VA

Lindsey Leemis, 29, has a rare combination of qualities—she’s a tech expert who also has strong people skills. She’s been described as “an extremely gifted digital marketing strategist and system and data integrator who’s always up for a challenge and learning new things.”

With her big-picture vision, she’s created new processes and systems that have streamlined work processes and improved operational efficiency at acac. Her re-engineering and integration work have helped create a clear, consistent vision across the club’s key departments, allowing the company to strategically focus on key metrics. She’s also improved the club’s management software and devised a new sales and marketing system.

Thrilled to be part of acac because she’s passionate about holistic healthcare, Leemis firmly believes that exercise is medicine. “It’s extremely rewarding to see the effect that exercise has on people’s lives. It’s almost impossible not to make a difference!”

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Michelle McCauley
Director of Marketing
California Family Fitness
Sacramento, CA

Michelle McCauley was eager to join California Family Fitness (CFF) in 2016, because, she says, she wanted “to give back to the Sacramento community and represent a well-loved brand.” After just three months on the job, she conducted a focus group with the senior leadership team to rebrand the company’s image, and identify strengths and weaknesses in its business model. As a result, she developed a new brand campaign, involving a number of initiatives, to grow the membership base and enhance the member experience. In the two years since, the company has significantly increased its revenue, and is on pace to post the largest membership jump in its history.

McCauley, 35, has expanded CFF’s community outreach efforts with several initiatives: Body Fit Kids, a local school district program; new programming, such as CPR, nutrition, baby-sitting, and self-defense; and partnerships with local nonprofit organizations, including the Triumph Cancer Foundation, WEAVE, and Women’s Empowerment. “If people associate our brand with a positive experience, and feel that way in our clubs—then I’ve done my job.”

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Paul Meshyock
General Manager
Club La Maison
Wayne, PA

Since becoming the general manager of Club La Maison, a 38,000-square-foot facility, in 2015, Paul Meshyock has helped improve many of its most important metrics. Over this brief period, he’s increased average dues per member from $46 to $78; boosted the retention rate from 71% to 81%; grown gross personal training revenue by 83%, and the net margin to 46%; and enrolled more than 2,180 new members. Club president Stephanie Sposato calls Meshyock “one of the best managers,” and says, “His staff really respects him, and I get many compliments about him from members.”

A graduate of The IHRSA Institute and a participant in the REX Roundtables for Executives, Meshyock, 34, takes his professional development seriously. He often can be found reading business and leadership books, or listening to webinars, in his spare time. “I’m so incredibly proud and lucky to be on this team,” Meshyock observes. “Without them, none of these achievements would be possible.”

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Kiley Mutschler
Senior General Manager
Active Wellness
Austin, TX

Ten years ago, Kiley Mutschler began her career with Active Wellness in the role of an intern. Since then, she’s been promoted to senior general manager, and now oversees four accounts, with a value of $2 million, that, collectively, serve some 3,500 members. Put in charge of introducing and implementing Myzone technology and programming, she’s helped boost revenue by 10%, year over year.

Mutschler, 32, also instituted member engagement and retention programs that have produced a 20% increase in membership and higher profits for the owners of the four sites, which Active Wellness manages. At one facility, she helped double membership from 700 to 1,400 members, and, last year, drove program revenue to more than $83,000. In 2018, partnering with local businesses, she created the Turkey Trot 5K in Austin, and raised funds to provide 8,000 meals via the Central Texas Food Bank. “We get the opportunity each day to come to work and make a difference in someone’s life,” she enthuses.

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Aaron Ramsay
Owner
North Adelaide Fitness Centre
North Adelaide, South Australia

“When I learned about careers in the fitness industry, I jumped at the opportunity they offered to help people through the power of health and fitness,” recalls Aaron Ramsay, 30. Ten years after he began working as a personal trainer at the North Adelaide Fitness Center (NAFC), he purchased the club, and applied core values of transparency, respect, authenticity, quality, and flexibility. Ramsay also introduced new sales and marketing processes, boosting membership by more than 20%. In 2017, a fire that occurred nearby forced a brief shutdown, limiting NAFC’s operations, but Ramsay, undaunted, forged ahead.

Among other things, he developed R50, a group training program that makes use of split routines, periodization, trainer supervision, monthly food plans, and tracking via ongoing InBody scans—all at an affordable price. Ramsay serves on the fitness committee of Recreation South Australia, planning professional development; maintains a NAFC community garden; and supports numerous charities, including the Cancer Council, the Leukemia Foundation, and local athletic clubs.

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Amy Silver, R.D., LDN, CPT
Nutrition Coordinator
Fitness Formula Clubs
Chicago, IL

“My mission is to help people modify their behaviors in a way that matches their lifestyle, and that prevents and/or manages disease long-term,” explains Amy Silver, 27. She’s accomplishing that mission by reinventing the nutrition program at the Fitness Formula Clubs. In charge of managing and training 10 registered dietitians at the chain’s 12 locations, she’s increased revenue to $30,000 per month, and, for the first time in the company’s history, made its nutrition program profitable. She’s also been instrumental in professionalizing the business further, transforming it into a Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) provider, and adding a diabetes prevention component and ongoing educational sessions.

“FFC is paving the way for higher-quality care and better prevention of lifestyle-dependent disease,” says Silver, who’s also a certified personal trainer. One colleague agrees, noting that, “Amy has an extensive list of testimonials from clients with a range of medical conditions. She’s literally saved their lives.”

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Nicole Snow
Head U.S. Trainer, Presenter
Les Mills International
Chicago, IL

When, at the age of 18, Nicole “Nikki” Snow became a group exercise instructor, Les Mills quickly recognized her talent, and hired her as a U.S. trainer, assessor, and presenter. Over the years, she’s starred regularly in Les Mills’ training videos, which are distributed to thousands of instructors each quarter.

Now 32, Snow is developing new modules for the company’s advanced online and live instructor training, and also serving as a regional training consultant. Her consistently positive attitude has earned her the role of Les Mills Reebok Ambassador, which involves traveling to sites worldwide to inspire instructors. In addition, since 2013, Snow has served as the group fitness manager for the Chicago Athletic Clubs, overseeing 200 instructors who serve 20,000 members. “When you create a safe, positive environment for people to explore movement together, it’s extremely inspirational and motivating,” observes Snow. “It’s the gift of empowerment, and the reason that I do what I do.”

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Jordan Stein
General Manager
UFC Gym
Long Island, NY

Described as “a selfless leader and a 100% ambassador for UFC Gym,” Jordan Stein holds a number of company records, including ones for point-of-sale personal training revenue ($28,672 in one month), and total club revenue for one month (over $700,000). He’s also a two-time member of the brand’s President’s Club, having exceeded $100,000 in personal coaching sales in one calendar year; and of its Million Dollar Club, for personal production exceeding $1 million in revenue.

In his current position, he manages a 24-hour, 40,000-square-foot facility with 100 employees and 10,000 members. In that role, Stein, 32, is responsible for generating $600,000 in revenues per month; running weekly sales training for the UFC Gym Signature division; and serving as a brand ambassador for UFC. In the latter capacity, he works with the company’s current franchise partners and explores domestic and international possibilities. “It’s rewarding, on a daily basis, to take a proactive approach to empowering the fighting spirit within our community,” he says.

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Karen Teles
Marketing Manager
Academia Competition
São Paulo, Brazil

In 2008, when Karen Teles became a marketing assistant and communications analyst at Academia Competition, she quickly put her new public relations degree to work—in a dramatic way. Teles produced news releases; developed internal communications materials, newsletters, and email marketing campaigns; created a social media project; fine-tuned the company’s web content for search engine optimization; and organized events.

Now, as marketing manager, she excels at market research, and—despite the challenges posed by Brazil’s troubled economy—has created a competitive advantage for the chain with a market-repositioning campaign, “Viva por Esporte” (“Live for Sport”). Teles, 32, also has introduced digital marketing tools, a customer relationship management (CRM) system, crisis management plans, and new communications and marketing tools.

“Karen,” one colleague observes, “is a collaborative leader who works to enchant, inspire, and transform people’s lives with the speed and brightness of a star.” According to Teles, “Helping people to achieve better health and a better life is just incredible.”

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Nicole Turner
Service-Desk and Aquatics Coordinator
Lifeworks of Southwest General
Middleburg Heights, OH

Nicole Turner has demonstrated, over and over again, that she’s able to take on virtually any task at Lifeworks of Southwest General, providing coverage, proactively, whenever and wherever it’s needed. Over a two-year period, she’s served as a service desk associate; group exercise instructor; exercise specialist; lifeguard; and, now, as Lifeworks’ aquatics and service-desk coordinator. She’s acquired a lifeguard certification, learned to teach aqua fitness, and filled in to conduct group exercise classes.

“She consistently goes above and beyond for the good of everyone involved,” observes Karen Raisch-Siegel, the executive director of Lifeworks. A member of the Cleveland Triathlon Club and a 2016 finisher in the Ohio Half Ironman, Turner, 25, thrives on challenges. “I want to continue learning so I can help others to love their workouts,” she says. Turner has a very bright future, predicts Raisch-Siegel. “This young, inspiring individual, who always has a smile, constantly knocks it out of the park for us.”

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Carol Vilela
Sports Scientist, Lead Trainer, Group Exercise Instructor
West Wood Club
Dublin, Ireland

One of Ireland’s most sought-after personal trainers, Carol Vilela focuses on special populations, including individuals who are elderly, pregnant, diabetic, or undergoing rehabilitation. A sports scientist and injury-rehab specialist at West Wood Club, Vilela, 28, works primarily with clients who are grappling with back injuries. To tend, proactively, to the new clients on her three-month waiting list, she’s now creating a series of videos on back care and injury rehabilitation.

In addition to being the lead trainer in West Wood’s personal training department, Vilela also is a popular Les Mills group exercise instructor, conducting RPM, Sprint, BodyPump, CXWORX, and THE TRIP classes. “I’m always learning something new in order to help people live better,” she reports. “My life’s ambition is to promote health, as well as positive results, both physical and mental.”

According to Alan Leach, the chief executive of West Wood Club, “We’re so lucky to have her—she’s a massive asset.”

Julie King

Julie King is a contributor to Club Business International.