Startup Southerner has partnered with Bunker Labs Nashville to bring you stories of veteran entrepreneurs in Tennessee. Want to get plugged in? Register Now for Muster Nashville on May 24.
Unlike many adults who are on a perpetual search to find something to be passionate about, Kenton Boutwell found his passion very early on. “I’ve been involved in fitness all my life, first with the martial arts and later as I transitioned over into full-time fitness,” says Boutwell, a native of Sontag, Mississippi. He has a myriad of fitness instructor certifications that prove his continued commitment to his passion, including a masters degree in kinesiology and exercise physiology.
And on his path to building a career in the fitness industry, he also served in the Air National Guard for six years, starting immediately after high school. “It seemed like the natural thing to do,” Boutwell says, referring to his stepfather who served in the Army and his grandfather who served in the Air Force. He’s grateful that the military helped pay for his education.
As a trainer in the fitness industry for nearly a decade, Boutwell has enjoyed being able to pass onto others what he’s learned. But he’s also noticed some problems in the fitness industry. “Most fitness trainers receive very little compensation for their services, if they are working for a corporate gym,” says Boutwell. “For example, most gyms charge $50-100 per hour for training and pay their trainers around $20 per hour.” He also realized that not everyone can pay those trainer fees, making fitness seem even less achievable for those who need such services but cannot afford it.
Boutwell came to the following conclusion: “I feel like there’s a lot of changes that need to be made in the fitness industry as a whole, and I want to be a pioneer for that.” And in the last few years, he’s begun to address those changes he’d like to see by building several companies, including GymCloud and Evolve Fitness Nashville.
With his focus on helping as many people as possible get fit, GymCloud is more than just a fitness company; it’s an app platform enables anyone to work one on one with a certified fitness professional, regardless of location or schedule to lose weight and get fit. Boutwell says the online model also makes expert advice much more accessible and affordable.
When asked if he had any tech experience prior to building GymCloud, Boutwell said that he had none and has had to learn many things outside of his skillset. “In the early phases I had a close friend who oversaw the technology portion. Gradually, I became more involved with the developers and now I work one-on-one with the programmers to build the product. Most of my tech knowledge has come from experience.”
He opened his gym a few years later, with a focus on helping people get fit with minimal equipment. Evolve Fitness Nashville is still the only kettlebell gym in Nashville, says Boutwell.
In 2016, Boutwell happened to hear about the Bunker Labs program through the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and attended Bunker Brews, one of their monthly gatherings. Soon after, he became part of the very first EPIC cohort of Bunker Labs Nashville. Though he had already started the two businesses, Boutwell found the program helpful. “It gave me a network of like minded people to connect and share similar experiences with.” He pitched his company at the inaugural Bunker Muster Nashville event, and he’s looking forward to seeing new and familiar faces at the upcoming Muster event.
As for advice to other entrepreneurs about their health, Boutwell offers this wisdom: Don’t put it off. Being an entrepreneur is all about constant improvement in all of life’s facets. You can’t perform optimally in any capacity, if your fitness is neglected.