BODYROC Fit Lab CEO and Founder Shaun Chambers is ambitious, entrepreneurial, and innovative. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he adapted to maintain his two workout facilities in West Hartford and Avon and pushed forward with his plans to open Smash Avenue, a second business that aligns with BODYROC.

MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price first met with Shaun in September 2016 (read: Entrepreneur Launches Fitness Startup in West Hartford), not long after he opened his first gym in West Hartford. She caught up with Shaun between training sessions to get an update on his entrepreneurial experience.

NAN PRICE: A lot has happened since we first met. You opened a second location, launched a new business concept, and, of course, we’re all living through the current pandemic. How have you innovated and adapted?

SHAUN CHAMBERS: With the workout facilities, we needed to accommodate all the state mandates and regulations. The biggest thing was helping everybody understand our new structure so they’re still engaged and excited about coming back even though things are different. We’ve incorporated a number system that keeps people on separate pieces of equipment at a distance, which has made everybody extremely comfortable. We’ve also done several deep disinfecting and sanitizing processes at our studios. It feels like we spend more time cleaning than we do training now!

As far as innovating the programs, we’ve set up BODY ROC on demand where you don’t have to actually be inside of the space. You can get your favorite trainers, favorite workouts, and nutrition tips from any smart device. We’ve also done outdoor training, one-on-one Zoom trainings, and training via Facebook live. I mean, you name it, we’ve done it.

NAN: Any COVID-19-related silver linings?

SHAUN: Absolutely. We have a great following on social media, so that gives people who aren’t local to us the opportunity to take part in our business. That’s amazing. And it obviously offers the opportunity for exponential growth.

NAN: Here’s a chicken and egg question. What came first, the idea for Smash Avenue or COVID-19?

SHAUN: The idea for creating a rage room came prior, COVID-19 just made it brilliant. There are just so many things going on in the world and everybody needs a safe place to vent, an outlet where they can completely be themselves in whatever state they need to be and have that be okay. Of course, we have so many stigmas in our society where some things are just not appropriate and smashing things is one of them. We’ve created a safe space where we say, you can smash your way into a better mental space.

I’m collaborating with two partners, James Ross and Daryl Ross, to help operate the space, learn the ropes and build this business with me.

NAN: Is this new business parallel or perpendicular to BODYROC? Also, how are you marketing?

SHAUN: I think it’s parallel. Getting it started, we decided to test out the concept to find out if this is something people actually need. So, I set up plywood in my garage at home and had a friend mine tag it with graffiti to give it a vibe. I had a videographer friend come by and interview a few people, just asking them about the significant events going on in their lives and how they’re feeling. Then I asked if using a rage room is something they would try to help get through some of their challenges and frustrations.

If they said yes, we fitted them out in coveralls, helmets with the face shields, and work gloves; gave them a weapon in a room full of breakable items; and let them go to town while we videotaped their experience. Then we asked them how they felt afterward.

The responses blew us away and we knew it was something that would work. We posted some of the videos online and waited to see people’s responses. There was definite interest. We got questions like: Where is this thing? How do I sign up? Is this in Hartford? From there, we let things happen organically. We continued to invite people and boosted some posts on social media.

Also, we felt like there could be some synergy with local organizations in our community who could use the rage room concept, so we reached out to the Jordan Porco Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs to look into forming some collaborations.

Going back to the parallel, of course, I have the two BODYROC locations and the membership pool we built over the years to advertise the new businesses. So, that’s how we got it started and it’s been doing great so far.

It’s changing people’s lives, which is exactly what I hoped it would do because, in every business I open, it’s got to be innovative and it’s got to affect positive change in people. Smash Avenue is just spot on. And it’s actually a workout, too.

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