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Harnett SBC Helps Elite Gymnastics in Start-up and Expansion

Chris West of Elite Gym met Small Business Center Director, Nancy Blackman, in 2000. Someone had told Chris's father about the services of the Small Business Center, so Chris met with Ms. Blackman to discuss his business plan for starting a gymnastics business in Dunn.  Chris graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in Exercise Sports Science.  As a part of the degree requirement, he completed an internship with Strength and Conditioning Coach Jeff Connors.  He also was an ECU cheerleader for one year and taught gymnastics part-time for three years while pursuing his degree.  

With assistance from the Small Business Center and after Chris developed his business plan, Elite Gymnastics, LLC opened in September of 2000 at 413 South Clinton Avenue in Dunn.  Jenny West, a graduate of Midway High School and a student at Campbell University, stopped by the business when she saw the sign go up.  Jenny had been involved in competitive gymnastics and cheerleading and was looking for a part-time job.  The couple met, and she started working at the business.  They started dating about the time she graduated from Campbell and were married in 2009. Being true entrepreneurs, they started talking about finding larger facilities or building their own building when they got back from their honeymoon.   Finding a perfect building for a gymnastics business is not easy, because not many buildings for rent have 22' ceilings and an 8' pit.  Their business needed more space so they could provide an after school program, a viewing area with large windows, a birthday party room, playground and large parking areas outside, and room for future expansion.  

The land for the building was purchased in 2007.  In 2009, Chris and Jenny again contacted Nancy Blackman at the Small Business Center about a business plan and finding capital to finance the project. After they finished their business plan and obtained a loan from a local bank, the West's started building an 11,200 square foot building on their property.   They did encounter several major obstacles, but they worked through them one by one.  The end result is a large, functional gym that both the City of Dunn and Jenny and Chris can be proud of.  

The moral of this story is "all is well that ends well."  The building is complete after much hard work, perseverance, and help from their family and friends.   Ms. Blackman stopped by to check on the progress of the building one day and Chris's parents were sanding sheetrock that Jenny's family had  installed.  A student's parent actually showed Chris and Jenny how to do the sheetrock mudding and also helped them put together equipment and paint the floor.  Family members and friends helped install the spring floors.  

On April 26, 2011, Chris, Jenny, family, friends, students and Chamber members gathered together to celebrate the grand opening with a Ribbon Cutting for Elite Gym, LLC located at 710 S. Fayetteville Avenue in Dunn.  Since the new building afforded Chris and Jenny the opportunity to provide more programs, they had changed the business name to Elite Gym to better reflect their expanded offerings.  

The business currently has 7 part-time employees and 2 full-time employees.  Even though Jenny works full time for SAS in Cary, she says she also works full time at their business.  They both work very hard at their new location. Chris states that someone told him that a person who is not at his business doesn't have any business.  They feel what makes them unique is their teacher-to-student ratio, their emphasis on safety, and offering the best price around.  They offer tumbling for ages 2 to 22, All Star Cheerleading, After School program, birthday parties, summer camps, open gym, and private lessons.   They love working with children, and feel that kids always need recreation and exercise.  
For information about this business, the West's can be reached at (910) 230-4020 or via email at elitegymllc@embarqmail.com

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