Family health issues lead to fitness business

Campbell with tube

After Michelle Campbell found ways to help her mother become healthier, she used her knowledge as a foundation for her business, Body by Chelle Fitness.

“My mother was suffering from the side effects of her medication so I helped her create a diet and exercise wellness plan. When she returned to the doctor six months later, she was told she no longer needed the medication,” Campbell said. “That was about 10 years ago.

I was so inspired that fitness became a passion for me. I fell in love with it.”

Another personal experience also spurred Campbell’s interest in fitness. “I never worried about what I ate when I lived in Jamaica,” she said. “There we walked everywhere and the exercise offset any calories I was taking in. We moved to the U.S. when I was 17 and my family and I would go out for fast food on a regular basis. Also, we took public transportation instead of walking. I was surprised to find I was gaining weight and my mother was developing cholesterol problems.”

Campbell started studying exercise and nutrition and soon learned the impact these could have. She became a certified fitness trainer and started offering her services in the East Lake community where she lives. “It wasn’t a profitable business; in fact, I only had one regular client. Then someone told me about Start: ME, the 14-week accelerator program started by Emory’s business school for micro-entrepreneurs. It was the best move I ever made,” she recalled.

Through Start: Me, Campbell said she had community support for growing and developing her business as well as learning a good deal about operating a business. “The people at Start; ME helped me to figure out who my target market is. I discovered the people most in need of my services are busy moms with small children. They want to be healthy, but they don’t have time to figure out what they should eat or what exercise will be most beneficial.”

Another reason she enjoys working with mothers, she said, is she sees the value of a healthy lifestyle being passed from one generation to the next. “Children see their mother exercising and planning healthy meals and that becomes part of their lifestyle as they grow up.”

Campbell, who now has a regular group of clients most of whom are women with children younger than 6, offers one-on-one counseling and training as well as group and online support. “It’s very personal; it’s completely geared to the individual. Each person has fitness goals that are not always about losing weight. Some people want to be stronger or have more energy. Also, we have to figure out how to fit their routine into their lifestyle,” Campbell said. “Each client relationship starts with a conversation.”

She said coaching and a bit of cheerleading are often part of the picture. “Some people need a little push to get out of their comfort zone and they need encouragement to keep going when they aren’t seeing results right away. It may take three months for changes to start happening,” Campbell explained.

“I really want to help people change their lifestyle. I don’t want someone to lose weight or reach some other fitness goal and then go back to the lifestyle that created the problems in the first place,” said Campbell, adding that her company slogan is “transforming minds, transforming bodies, transforming lives.”

She said she is especially proud of this year having achieved certification with the Interactive Sports and Science Association. “It’s a top certification program and includes not only exercise and nutrition, but entrepreneurship. I am not a nutritionist, but I have learned enough about proper eating that I am certified to advise people,” Campbell said.

Currently, Campbell’s clients are almost all within her East Atlanta neighborhood, but she said she envisions contracting with corporations to develop fitness programs for their employees.

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