ECDI has a proven track record serving non-tech, “Main Street” businesses, often those deemed by traditional financial institutions as too risky to support. These include, food, retail, service, and transportation focused businesses, as well as health and wellness startups like Lejuan Coleman’s IResolve Fitness Club.
In the past two years alone, 59 ECDI loans totaling $1,120,308 have been disbursed to wellness and personal care-based business owners, accounting for over 12 percent of ECDI’s total loans disbursed. These business owners have inspired others through health, wellness, and personal care services. When others turned them away, we opened our doors, allowing entrepreneurial dreams like Coleman’s to become a living, breathing reality.
Lejuan Coleman had finally accomplished a feat he had only dreamed about. After watching the last post break ground for his new house, he thought about the future he had secured for his family and swelled with pride at the result of his unwavering resolve to make something of himself.
“I was an athlete during my younger days, but got into a very bad motorcycle accident,” Coleman reminisces. “My parents couldn’t afford the physical therapy I needed, so what I had worked for disappeared like that, leaving me feeling helpless. Sure enough, I started acting out and ended up with a criminal record before turning 18.”
Coleman, now owner of IResolve Fitness Club, located in the Discovery District at 449 E. Main St., remembers lying awake at night at the juvenile detention center, worrying about what would come of his life. He thought about the possibility of ending up like his peers, constantly in and out of trouble. Then he thought about the alternative of finding the strength within himself to pave his own path, transcending the identity he had begun to create.
“I found a weightlifting book while serving my sentence and quickly became obsessed,” Coleman says. “I had a knack for not only motivating myself, but motivating others to perform at their best, and I knew that this could be my [way] out.”
After serving his sentence, Coleman moved from his native home of Detroit, MI to Columbus, OH, where he became a certified personal trainer. From 2004 to 2008, he worked in the private sector for corporations such as Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where he provided group fitness sessions to employees. Soon enough, he started to receive other referrals, increasing his client base. Still, Coleman felt unfulfilled. He had achieved so much, but believed he could still do more for his community.
“While doing private fitness consulting, I began to meet troubled teens who had more opportunities than I ever did, along with ex-offenders who hadn’t been able to shed their past like I had. I wanted to find a way to inspire others,” Coleman says. “By opening my own fitness studio, I thought I could create the perfect platform for people to push themselves to their best.”
Today, IResolve Fitness Club is not your typical gym. Coleman has created an environment where all feel welcomed, regardless of their past missteps. For clients who can’t afford individual training sessions, Coleman offers odd jobs, including cleaning the studio, to cover the costs. For those who can’t afford child daycare while they work out, Coleman encourages parents to bring their kids with them to create stronger bonds and instill a healthy framework that kids and adolescents can build upon. With an extended focus on helping families, Coleman has created a “small gym with a huge personality!”
In 2009, Coleman came to ECDI seeking financing for equipment he needed to fulfill his dream. After completing entrepreneurial readiness and business plan clinics offered through ECDI’s Business Innovation Center (BIC), Coleman was awarded a $15,000 loan to help purchase the equipment needed to get his gym off the ground. After operating IResolve successfully for four years, Coleman came back to ECDI, receiving additional capital to expand his services.
“I have three employees – one who’s an ex-offender who needed a second chance, and two others – one a budding entrepreneur herself,” Coleman says. “It’s taken a lot of patience and faith to get to where I am today. If you’re not willing to put the hard work in, you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur.”
Coleman has also been enterprising in finding ways to double-down on his ability to inspire others. He is one of Central Ohio’s leading advocates for My Brother’s Keeper, President Obama’s initiative calling for community leaders to create avenues that enrich the lives of young African-Americans. Every Saturday, he hosts a group of at-risk youth at IResolve. While health and wellness are often the focus, Coleman uses the opportunity to inspire young people to achieve their dreams in all facets of life.
“Sometimes it’s something as simple as just being there to listen,” Coleman says. “I always preach that if you’re willing to work to improve yourself while believing in yourself, anything is attainable. I only hope that when these kids hear my story, they think to themselves, ‘I could own my own business someday.’”
It’s no surprise that when asked about his plans for IResolve, he focuses on community. His next dream is opening a gym for troubled youth.
“Sure, recreation centers exist, but if you don’t fill them with the types of personalities that can invoke change with patience and determination, you’re missing the point,” Coleman notes. “You need to create an environment where children have meaningful activities to look forward [to].”
Now, with a new family home in a safe neighborhood and a strong school district, Coleman is at peace with the decisions he’s made in life, both good and bad. He finds comfort in knowing that his hard work has paid off. With more leisure time on his hands these days, Coleman continues to find innovative ways to inspire others through his story.
“I’ve spoken at prisons and larger health and wellness functions,” he says. “Regardless of the audience, my message has remained the same — you need to keep the faith when times turn rough. If you can’t find ways to believe in yourself, how do you expect others to?”
— IResolve Fitness Club is located at 449 E. Main St., Columbus, OH, 43215. To learn more about the fitness center or to connect with Lejuan, go to www.iresolvefitnessclub.com. —
Since 2004, ECDI has assisted Ohio’s entrepreneurs through their one-stop-shop business services model, suited to meet the needs of all entrepreneurs, regardless of what business stage they’re in. From providing capital to entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses, to providing focused, business-specific educational opportunities to enhance entrepreneurial skill sets, ECDI works with their clients to meet their specific needs. Whether you merely have a business idea or are opening up your fifth location, ECDI’s “never say no” approach has allowed over ten thousand entrepreneurs to take advantage of the services they provide. Visit www.ecdi.org today to learn more.