From Side Hustle to Thriving Business

Every small business owner starts as someone with a passion. Whether that passion is for food and they decide to open a restaurant, or they love fitness and decide to open a gym (or a sports nutrition company!), small business owners all start as people with big dreams of making their passions their jobs. We reached out to our favorite husband and wife team, Lori and Jason Upton, who own and operate F45 Training in West Carmel, Indiana to learn more about how they turned their side hustle into a thriving business.


Thanks for sitting down with us today, Jason. What made you guys decide to start a small business?

Thanks for having me. Lori isn’t feeling well so it’s just me today. We’ve had a number of small businesses and love working together as a team. F45 started out of our passion for fitness. We actually met at the gym so it’s always been something special between us.

That’s amazing! How did you decide on F45? 

We went to Chicago and did a workout at an F45 there and were immediately hooked. We knew that was going to be next for us.

Really? What was so compelling about it for you?

Part of it was the community. We saw an opportunity to build something so much more than just a gym. Everyone was cheering each other on and we felt so welcomed. Not to mention it was a killer workout. We had a blast and knew we wanted to bring that to Indy.

The pandemic has definitely made community so much more important after we’ve all been isolated. What do you think is unique about your community at West Carmel?

We are a really tight knit group. We all know each other and our people feel comfortable coming to us with things that are going on in their life. For example, one of our members is going through breast cancer and we can all be there for her. She can come in and workout and everyone is on her team. We’re a family of strangers, but we’re a family.

“A family of strangers;” I love that. So tell us what it’s like owning a business with your wife?

We’re a great team. We balance one another. Lori has empathy running out of her pores. She’s amazing with our members. She knows exactly how to motivate them and push them to their full potential. I work more on the operations side of things. I’m always running around fixing things, DJ-ing on Hollywood Saturday’s, or sanitizing things to make sure our gym stays safe throughout the pandemic.

Divide and conquer, huh? Tell us about one of your favorite member success stories. 

I won’t use his name, but we have an incredible guy who came in with his daughter. One of my favorite people. He was in his mid-fifties, an active golfer, and he was also pre-diabetic. He was ready to start working on his health and he started coming a few days a week. Just like us, he was hooked immediately. Then he started coming every day and it was like he became a new person in front of our eyes. He carries himself differently now. He feels confident and strong. And his last physical had glowing numbers. In about eight months, his life was totally different. That’s the power of fitness and a great community.

He sounds like an awesome guy. So what’s the biggest challenge with small business in your opinion? What’s the greatest reward?

I mean right now, the obvious answer is Covid. How do you provide a safe environment for your members to work out and feel comfortable? When you’re required to close your doors, you have to get creative with how to serve your members. We’re constantly having to pivot and think of ways we can keep our members fit and healthy while balancing that with their safety and our business. The challenge with small business is that you never quit working. Your life is your business. Your hobby is your business. Your business is your life. It’s 24/7. But the flip side of that is that you get to become a family with some amazing people. You get to build relationships and be a part of their lives. And you get to do it with the person you love most.

We can definitely relate to that and I think you put that absolutely perfectly. So how would you encourage someone to come try F45 for the first time?

Our best advice is to come try class on a Saturday. You get all the energy for the Hollywood hour. We have great music, and it’s so much fun. When you’re trying F45 for the first time, don’t be scared. Don’t worry about preparing for it. It’s not about doing what someone else is doing. It’s about coming in, getting a good sweat on, and giving it your best. We want you to be able to leave our gym feeling good so that you can come in and do it again tomorrow. It’s not about breaking your back. It’s about giving your best and getting a good workout.

Awesome. So one last question: you guys sell Red Leaf at your gym. What do you guys like about it?

We love the flavor and that it’s safe. You can have as much or as little stimulus as you want and that’s really hard to find. There is so much competition out there. We can trust Red Leaf. Our members love it, too, and they order it every month. We also love supporting fellow small business owners.

Thank you so much! We love partnering with you guys and being a part of your community. 

We want to thank Jason and Lori for sitting down to talk with us about F45 and what it’s like to run a small business during a pandemic. If you are in the Carmel, Zionsville, or North Indy area and are looking for a killer workout, check out F45 West Carmel here: You’re guaranteed to get your butt kicked to some killer tunes and excellent motivation from Lori.