Local Gym Stays Strong through COVID-19
Fit Method 4:13 of Hillsborough County
The fitness industry is arguably one of the hardest hit sectors of business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s left many gym owners scrambling to figure out how to make ends meet until operations can resume at 100 percent. For some, government disaster funding has been essential to keeping their doors open as they rebuild their businesses.
That’s the case for Ana Maria and J.T. Tapias, owners of FIT Method 4:13 on Davis Island. FIT Method offers group training, personal training and nutritional programming.
The duo has been proactive when it comes to keeping their members safe. They closed their doors a week before the statewide shutdown was mandated. “We wanted to be responsible,” J.T. said. “We sent an email to all of our members and told them what we were doing and why we were doing it and everybody responded really well.” In the meantime, Ana Maria was also being proactive in looking for sources of alternative funding to weather the storm. She applied for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), and the State of Florida’s Emergency Bridge Loan (EBL) Program. It was the bridge loan that connected her to the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida.
In the process of completing the required steps for applying for the bridge loan, the duo was connected to business consultant Eddie Sanchez and regional director, Eileen Rodriguez. Rodriguez leads the regional center but also does consulting. J.T. says they were just what the husband and wife team needed at the time.
“It was a difficult time and so we were bracing for the worst and it was very comforting for them to walk us through and really just help us navigate such a difficult time,” he said. “I remember coming off those calls feeling like ‘okay, we’re gonna get over this.’ They just really walked us through every aspect of the business and made us think through things that we hadn’t thought ourselves about, and so, it was incredible.”
It was in those consulting sessions that they also learned about Hillsborough County’s Rapid Response Recovery grant program for small businesses. In addition to providing guidance on that program, Rodriguez and Sanchez answered additional questions regarding the PPP and EIDL loans, and discussed the loan forgiveness process that would come as a result of being awarded a PPP.
Ultimately, they were awarded the EIDL Advance, an EIDL loan, a PPP loan and the Hillsborough County grant, to the tune of nearly $40,000. “Eileen was incredibly helpful in that process,” J.T. said of the programs. “That was incredible because we didn’t have an income for two months so obviously, things were starting to get backed up and of course, once the loans came through, we were able to fulfill our responsibilities.”
While the gym has since reopened, memberships are at approximately 60 percent as some clients are still wary about being in public around others. But J.T., a former professional soccer player who’s no stranger to competition, has faith that business will continue to strengthen. “We’re seeing people gain confidence and come back, slowly but surely,” he said.
In the meantime, the duo is working on creating another business vertical as a result of the pandemic, and they are working hard to launch that business the right way with the Florida SBDC at USF.
“It was my first experience working with them and it was such a positive experience and I found it to be so useful,” J.T. said. “When we first started FIT Method, there was a lot of guessing and guessing in business costs money, so we definitely want to be able to go and get the right tools and ask the right questions and have the proper assessment, so we will definitely be working with them again.