San Angelo is a small town in West Texas, hours from the flashier cities in the Lone Star State, but it’s filled with 5-star businesses that help put the town on the map.
In this Community Spotlight series from Behind the Review, Yelp Elite reviewer Josh H. invites his favorite local business owners to talk community building, business tips, and more. Read all their stories.
The most successful small businesses don’t try to be everything for everyone—it’s impossible to be all things to all people. Instead, it’s about focusing on your specific purpose, your unique offerings, and then connecting with customers who align with your vision and are in need of your services. It can be tempting to cast a wide net to attract more business, but the more targeted and intentional you are, the more loyal and dedicated your customer base will be.
For Amanda Volker and Juan Martinez, owners of West Texas Strength, that means creating a welcoming gym space that’s built for a specific group of fitness customers—the serious powerlifters and bodybuilders—who may feel out of place in the average gym or aren’t interested in the extra frills of fitness chains. Before the pair opened the gym, that sentiment hit home for Amanda and Juan. They tried multiple gyms but couldn’t find one that combined the specialty lifting experience they were looking for alongside the meaningful sense of community.
“It just made something that we love and we’re passionate about less enjoyable,” said Juan. “It’s something that’s a part of our lives, so it should be rewarding. We should enjoy going to those places.”
Not only were they unsatisfied with the options in their area, but they ultimately discovered a void in their local market. If they had needs that were unmet, there must be others who feel the same. So they stepped up to fill the gap.
The pair created a 24-hour fitness space for heavy strength training, weight lifting, and powerlifting. And it’s not the flashiest gym in San Angelo, Texas. It’s not luxurious or pampering. There’s no fancy body wash in the locker room showers or fresh eucalyptus lotions. And that’s exactly how customers like it, including our Yelp reviewer Josh H.
“I joined two weeks after moving to Texas in need of a nearby gym that had flexible hours, good equipment for powerlifting, and functional training most of all,” said Josh, who is a competitive athlete and military strength coach. “I could see on my first visit, this gym had that in spades.”
While West Texas Strength checked a number of boxes for Josh, it wasn’t the variety of the weights or quality of barbells that kept him coming back—it was Juan and Amanda themselves. The beauty of a small business is being able to really get to know your customers—having one-on-one conversations, greeting them by name, knowing their goals and milestones.
“I met Juan and Amanda and meshed with them instantly,” said Josh. “They got me, my needs, my wants, and my own background in powerlifting and strength conditioning. This landed deeply for me—to understand it, to be listened to, to not be pushed, pressed, and sold for a membership alone.”
Juan and Amanda’s ability to genuinely connect with their members is among the many factors that have led to their success. Here are a few other key takeaways from the episode:
- Find the need and fill it. Is your neighborhood missing something that you know how to do? Align your community’s needs with your skill set, and go for it. Take what you want as a customer, what you can do as a provider, and build it into a small business.
- Show customers you care. Your product or service is meant to serve your customers at a basic, transactional level, but connecting with them and showing compassion brings your business to a whole new level. Remembering their names, asking how their kids are, and listening to their stories are just a few ways to create loyal patrons.
- As a team, play to each person’s strengths. No matter the size or construct of your management team, capitalize on the skills of each person. Let the partner who loves numbers handle the books while the creative one takes care of the big ideas. By dividing and conquering tasks, you’ll collectively build a stronger business.
Interviews by Emily Washcovick
These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear from Amanda, Juan, and Josh, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.
Community spotlight: San Angelo, Texas
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