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Wild Life Gym - an interview with the owners of Wild Life Gym.

Wild Life Gym. Located on Commercial Way in Squamish, Wild Life Gym is a physical fitness centre whose coaches lead group classes designed to develop physical literacy and improve strength and mobility. The gym also offers personal training, small group training and high performance athletic training.

An interview with Tiera Wilson, owner and founder of Wild Life Gym

How many years have you been in business?

We opened in September, 2018, so just over 5 years.

What is your business story?

My husband and I worked at gyms in Regina, Saskatchewan, where we learned a lot about strength training and about how a good fitness centre operates. We have both always loved the mountains and it had always been our dream to live in a mountain town. And we had also been wanting to open our own business for quite some time, just not in Regina.

So we gave ourselves six months to take our time and decide which town in British Columbia we should move to, and to figure out where would be the best place to open our own gym. Squamish was one of our top choices, although it was the furthest away from Regina. It was also the scariest move, because we didn’t know anyone. However, Squamish had a bigger population, with more people with disposable income to spend at a gym. So we took the plunge, moved to Squamish, and found a building to lease. My husband Steve has great carpentry skills and he did a lot of the work himself.

What inspired you to start your own business?

We loved the community in Regina but it just wasn’t the right lifestyle for us. We were always travelling to the mountains, driving somewhere to go for bike rides, and we really wanted to live in a place where everything would be right out of our back door. Basically, we wanted to live somewhere that you would want to go for a holiday. 

We wanted to open our own business in a new community, and to continue in the fitness field. However, we also wanted to do things our own way, because we had different ideas of how to run a gym. Having worked together in the past, Steve and I had a great partnership and were ready for the challenge of running a business together.

What did you do in the beginning that worked really well?

When we first opened, we offered free assessments, which were great for building connections in the community. We had over 100 initial inquiries for assessments and over 80% of people bought memberships afterward.

It was free work at the beginning but really worth it. After all, we had time available then and we needed to build up our client base.

What sets you apart from other fitness centres?

When we initially moved to Squamish, there was a niche for mobility-based services that wasn’t being met. Our approach starts with laying the groundwork first and not just plunging into weights right off the bat. Instead, we focus on building mobility, strong joints, and a great foundation. We work on establishing great technique and making sure that peoples’ joints can do the movements that we’re asking them to do. The Sea to Sky is full of adventurous people and we want to help them continue to enjoy their activities and stay injury free.

As someone with a business in the Sea to Sky, how has Community Futures Howe Sound helped you?

When we first opened, Community Futures Howe Sound provided us with a loan. That helped out a lot with our cash flow because we didn’t need to worry as much about income right away, which was great because we went over budget with construction and build out. Community Futures also offered amazing advice and support, especially in the beginning. It was nice knowing they were there, that we knew someone who could help answer questions and point us toward business resources.

What is your best advice for someone who wants to start their own business?

Try to minimise your overhead as much as possible and be prepared to work very hard at the beginning. Your life will not be balanced in any terms, the business will be everything you’re doing, and it will be like that for a year or two.

What has been your biggest success to date?

To me, success is offering a product that is consistently high quality. The quality of our product, which is coaching, is something that we do well and that we do consistently well. Ultimately, our greatest success is that we have people who come back again and again, who are happy clients.

What has been your biggest challenge?

We had only been open 18 months before Covid, so that was definitely a challenge. It’s also a challenge to be on top of all of the things that are required in the background of owning a business and it requires a high level of executive functioning. There are so many hats to wear, so many things to get done on time, so many day to day operations tasks. And now we have a toddler, so childcare is a new challenge, as well as finding a balance between life and work.

What is a project that you are working on right now?

We just finished up our new website, which was a big project. I am so proud of how it turned out! We also have a few new coaches on the team, which means new services being offered, including handstand and breathwork workshops.

What motivates you? What do you find rewarding?

I find it really rewarding to see people benefit from attending classes regularly, seeing how it improves them for the better, and how it changes them physically and mentally. I love when people come in, tell us they’re not a gym person, that they feel kind of intimidated. It’s cool watching them grow and change and learn to love the gym. I’m really lucky to work with people during one of the best parts of their day. They often walk in feeling tired and unmotivated and leave feeling active and uplifted. That is really inspiring to witness!

Who is someone who has made a big impact on your life? Why?

SueAnn Farthing, who is my former boss’s wife. Her husband owned the gym Level 10 in Regina, where Steve and I met and then worked together, and she owned a local physiotherapy clinic in town. SueAnne is a strong mom of three amazing kids, is smart, fun to be around, quick to laugh and is so high functioning! I am hugely inspired by her. 

What is something about you that not many people know?

I like to play piano :) 

Skiing or snowboarding?

Ooooo. Skiing. But I’ll always prefer snowboarding on a good pow day.

For more information about Wild Life Gym’s classes and programs, visit their website at  [ ]

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