After nearly three years of running a fitness and life-coaching studio in Marshfield, Gates and Lanora Samaniego have moved to Springfield and are focusing their efforts online.
The married business partners say it was their past experiences in the Marine Corps and working as over-the-road truckers that spurred the idea for MotoMe LLC.
“It starts with that lack of purpose. You don’t have a mission anymore,” says Gates, of the struggles veterans face after returning home. “It’s easy to move up in ranks in the military. At home, it’s overwhelming and then you just shut down.”
According to a recent poll by Pew Research Center, about 47% of post-9/11 veterans says readjustment to civilian life from the military was difficult, compared with 21% of older veterans. That struggle is having catastrophic effects. A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs report found veterans are 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide than civilians, with nearly 17 veterans taking their own life daily.
“We had to do something,” Lanora says. “We found through fitness, it was a way to build camaraderie.”
Now out of their new home at the Efactory, they’re building a portfolio of videos, online courses and podcasts to reach a wider audience with a multidisciplinary approach to wellness.
“This is originally what we had in our minds to do,” says Gates. “The trend with fitness, especially, is more people want to be served privately or do it from their home. We could really focus on pushing everything you need to know online and then see you over video chat or phone calls.”
From studio to web
The Samaniegos closed their Marshfield studio in December 2018. Established in spring 2016, they had built a portfolio of 75-100 clients per month, with a core membership of 30 people. They became certified as life coaches and personal trainers, and primarily offered fitness classes.
“The idea was if we could get into a brick-and-mortar spot, it might be a catalyst for us,” says Gates. “What we ended up with was a small-group fitness gym. It wasn’t totally what we wanted to be.”
She says they were breaking even, generating $30,000 in annual revenue last year, and slowly growing their client base. But she says MotoMe’s mission is to provide a more holistic approach.
“There’s a gap in the wellness system. If your personal trainer isn’t talking about your life goals, there is some kind of disconnect there,” says Gates. “What’s your purpose? What tools can we build up over time to build your self-efficacy? What does your ideal life look like? Let’s go there.”
The pair hired fellow Efactory tenant Calibrate Digital Marketing to revamp their website, which launched in August. They invested about $6,000 for MotoMeLife.com and marketing materials.
Gates says she’s confident the switch in delivery of services will pay off for the business. They just started working this month with their first client that found them through the new site.
“I can only help a certain number of clients per day. The reach just wasn’t there,” she says of the fitness studio. “If we can build programs and put out enough content and bring enough value that you can start to apply these things into your life via our website, that’s our goal. We’re moving into a platform where we’re more choosey of who we take on privately.”
MotoMe now has five private clients. The owners charge $250 an hour for life-coaching or fitness services and offer a 12-week program for $1,200. Their online model will start at $97.
As former over-the-road truckers contracted through Prime Inc., the Samaniegos say they know firsthand how difficult the lifestyle is on one’s body and mind.
“It’s a hard, sedentary life,” says Gates.
They’ve met with their former employer to discuss creating a partnership to provide online wellness training to truckers. They say nothing has been finalized yet.
Lanora says if truckers want to improve their physical or emotional health, they need to be highly motivated.
“It’s so easy to just roll out of your chair and into bed,” she says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports truck drivers are twice as likely to be obese compared to other workers, and only 25% of male drivers and 20% of women drivers exercised for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
That’s not surprising to Matt Hancock, Prime’s coordinator of driver health and fitness.
“The industry in general is just a little bit more unhealthy,” he says. “They are sitting down all day.”
He says mental health is another area that’s critical to address, and one that Prime is just now acknowledging and directing resources toward.
“They are isolated so much,” Hancock says. “I’m trying to create accountability partners out there with programs and bring to light those mental health aspects.”
New to the company, he’s not yet met with the MotoMe owners but says he’s open to subcontracting for online mental and physical health tools.
“We have a lot of resources that we can do in person, but we’re so widespread,” Hancock says. “We’re really leveraging technology the best we can. I’m putting the awareness and the resources together to help them get healthier online.”
Focusing on the trucking industry hits two target audiences for MotoMe, as the U.S. Census Bureau estimates one out of every 10 truck drivers is a veteran. That’s about double the rate of workers in general.
The Samaniegos say they are focusing on growing their online content.
They currently have four podcasts online and are working on developing content for a YouTube channel.
They also are partnering with Allen Waldo, a counselor with the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center, who works out of the Efactory. He’s helping MotoMe apply for certification in the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program.
“If they get certified through (Veterans Affairs), they can do work directly through the VA health centers,” Waldo says. “That would give Lanora and Gates a huge advantage to contract through the VA clinic.”
He says the federal government is required to award roughly 3% of its contracts to disabled veterans’ small businesses, but that requirement is closer to 60% for VA health clinics, like the one in Springfield. He estimates the rating and verification process can take roughly six months.
“If the VA wants to contract with the type of service they have, they should be toward the front of the line,” Waldo says.
The Samaniegos hope their story of finding purpose can help fellow veterans and over-the-road truckers do the same.
“Let’s use the adversities of the past as strength to move forward,” says Gates.
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