While most entrepreneurs try to remove any obstacles to starting a business, ninja warriors Drew Knapp and Luke Chambers are planning to succeed by creating them.
The Suamico residents and finalists in Season 9 of “American Ninja Warrior” are collaborating on the opening of a ninja gym on American Drive in De Pere. Knapp is the business owner and Chambers is operations manager. The gym will be called Warrior Jungle (www.warriorjungle.com).
Knapp, who started competing on "American Ninja Warrior" five years ago, is looking forward to applying his vast experience in gymnastics, rock climbing, parkour (the art of movement) and calisthenics training to help children and adults reach their fitness goals.
“This is functional fitness training,” Knapp said. “We’re offering the atmosphere and bringing a new and unique service to this area and Wisconsin. Warrior Jungle will give you the opportunity to work on your overall fitness. You will learn to climb, jump and do more than you ever could in ways you never thought possible. Plus, it is a lot of fun and you don’t feel like you’re working out.”
Chambers agrees with the fun factor and believes the gym will have a wide reach.
“The cool thing is that people will travel for this," Chambers said. "We used to travel to Minnesota just to train and other people would tell us that they would travel for hours to get there. If you build it, people will travel to get there.”
The location in De Pere, slated to open in the fall, was selected for its proximity to the entire northeastern Wisconsin region. The gym will be about 6,000 square feet with 25 ninja warrior obstacles. The obstacles will change on a regular basis to keep the course interesting and add new challenges. There will be classes for all ages.
“The good thing is that both kids and adults can participate,” Knapp said. “We want kids to learn proper technique and help them learn and grow. For classes, we’ll start early in the morning to target the fitness base of people who work out in the morning. Typically, our big hours will be in the late afternoon and early evening when students are out of school and people leave work.”
There will also be birthday and other parties, corporate outings, field trip programs and personal training. The idea is to make the gym functional and social.
“We want this to be more of a community," Knapp said. "There will be member events and get-togethers to grow the social aspect and build a family. People want to come in and get strong but it makes it so much more worthwhile when you’re part of something.”
Chambers will work on the marketing aspect to make that happen. With a business major from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, his skills include the operational aspects while Knapp considers vision and leadership to be his strongest skills. With no experience in running a business, Knapp spent time with mentors from the Small Business Development Center, one of SCORE’s partners, to write a business plan.
He said, “Numbers and projections were the hardest thing for me, and that took the most energy to write up. With everything else, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do.”
As the final pieces fall into place, both are excited for the opening and the chance to motivate and train others. Their mission statement is, “Dedicated to making fitness fun.”
Their unconventional approach to fitness was obvious when asked what a single, best exercise might be.
“Probably tree climbing,” they said. “But, the biggest thing is just starting. It takes courage to say, ‘I’m going to do this.’”
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.