Stephen Manners is #MadeForKnoxville.
From West Knoxville to Syria and back again, Stephen has experienced firsthand how to build trust in community. As a former Special Forces Engineer turned fitness coach, he combined a notebook full of dreams with the skills needed to succeed as a business owner.
As a green beret, Stephen joined a brotherhood of teachers and trainers. He worked with a highly specialized military team to train the local forces in Syria during his deployment. Though he grew immensely from his experience and rose to become an 18Charlie, Stephen knew he didn’t want to feel locked into a big enterprise like the U.S. Army for the rest of his career. While still overseas, he began jotting down his dreams of being his own boss in a notebook. Upon returning to the States, he met his future wife Bridget, personal trainer and owner of Eddie’s Health Shoppe. This reignited Stephen’s love for health and fitness training, leading him to finish his degree in Exercise Science. He gained valuable experience as a trainer while working at a local gym and ultimately started his own company, Forever Fit Coaching. While the concept of implementing flashy new offerings is tempting, Stephen has learned that offering a consistent product to a strong community of happy clients is the key to growth. He and his wife intend to continue investing in their existing online services and in-person customer experiences.
“I use my skills–learned and sharpened in special forces–to serve individuals and help them become healthier, fitter, and stronger.”
In Their Own Words…
I am a Knoxville native, grew up in west Knoxville and Lenoir City where I went to high school. After that, I enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a Special Forces Engineer, an “18Charlie.” As a green beret I worked amongst the military’s elite in Special operations, a humbling experience and a brotherhood I will always be a part of! In 2018 I finished my time in the service and returned home to Knoxville. I completed my degree in Exercise Science and specialized in Personal Training. As a green beret, we are teachers first and foremost. We use our foreign language capabilities (among others ;)) to live with, teach, and train partner forces across the world. I used my skills learned and sharpened in special forces to serve individuals and help them become healthier, fitter, and stronger. I worked locally as a personal trainer from 2019 – 2021 getting hands on experience and honing my craft. At the end of 2021 I left South Landing Fitness (an amazing gym in SoKno on Sevier Ave and the place which taught me so much) to begin my own coaching business with my wife Bridget. Forever Fit Coaching was born and is my full time job. In 2022 we served over 100 clients locally and virtually (within our app) and successfully launched our business to a profitable first year. We are a nutrition coaching company that specializes in 1:1 coaching for weight loss, muscle gain, general health or competitive goals.
What led to entrepreneurship:
My big pivot moment came during my deployment to Syria in the summer of 2017. I loved my job in special ops, the greatest job in the world. But it took everything, it had to in order to perform at the highest level, and I didn’t want to be locked into a business as large and corporate as the United States Army for 20 years. When I left as a 19 year old kid I did so with one goal: let the army pull the potential out of me, and set myself up for success. I needed a launchpad and special forces was just that. During my summer training locals in Syria and sleeping through the rocket fire, I began writing in a notebook my entrepreneurial ideas. A security company is what I had in mind, it coincides with my skills. Whatever it was, I knew I would return home and carve my path into being my own boss and autonomy for my life. Immediately, when I returned to Knoxville in 2018 I met my future wife, Bridget Reymond–owner of Eddie’s Health Shoppe on Union Ave, and continuer of her father’s family business that has been serving Knoxville health support and supplements for over 20 years. She was a competitive bodybuilder, and already a personal trainer. She inspired me to pursue my degree in exercise science (an old love of mine, I’ve always been into lifting weights and being healthy). That started me on the path of fitness and nutrition once I split from the military.
To play to your strengths, and follow the momentum. Initially, in the first few months of business, all I could think of was growth and systems and the next offering. My wife did good to bring me back to reality, and focus on serving the clients we have. Once we began to deliver results and a positive experience to our clients and members’ word spread, quickly. We experienced more growth organically and by referral and word-of-mouth than I could have ever generated with good ideas or something new. Now, as we move into our second year of business our marketing and general approach is lining up more with that of Mark Schaefer and his concept of Belonging to the Brand. Nurturing our community is the goal now. Our service delivers impeccable results to all who work with us, and we have sharpened that offering to clients. We want to enhance, vivify, and grow our community and allow that to continue to carry Forever Fit Coaching like it already has so far.
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