Joy Ferguson overcomes challenges to create businesses

When asked what she does for a living, fitness trainer and owner of BUILT, Joy Ferguson, says she’s a responsibility manager. She knows that people won’t stick with an exercise program unless they feel like they’re making progress. So, in addition to helping people take charge of their personal form, she recognizes that it’s her job to make exercise fun and tolerable. One of the most rewarding things for Joy is hearing her clients say, Remember when I couldn’t do it?

Joy grew up on a farm in southeastern Pennsylvania. Her parents felt Joy was the perfect name for their daughter, as they say she always looked on the bright side of life, no matter what challenges came her way. Growing up, Joy was always reasonably fit. It remained so, even after the birth of their first child. But after the birth of her second child, she realized that the weight she gained during pregnancy didn’t come off so easily. As a result, he started taking classes at a local Golds Gym and got hooked on lifting weights. Not only did she enjoy the feeling of strength it gave her, but she was also able to set goals and monitor her progress. It was fine with me and we tend to gravitate towards the things we like, he said.

After he married he moved from Newark to Lewes. She enrolled in a Curves program for about 30 days and then switched to Quest Fitness, which was operating out of the Beacon Motel at the time. Shortly after joining, a second Quest Fitness opened and some of the fitness trainers hired her to work there, which she did from 2003 to 2013. She also started her personal fitness training business in side, calling it Fit Happens. Then, on April Fool’s Day 2013, he opened his own gym, called BUILT. It started with about 100 members and 25 personal training clients. His business continued to grow and within two years. He outgrew his space and moved to a space in Five Points, which had more space and better parking. At its peak, Joy had seven part-time trainers, 150 people enrolled in classes and about 30 personal training clients. Then COVID hit.

BUILT closed due to COVID in March 2020 and did not reopen classes until June 2020. It was able to keep its training clients on a limited basis. Through no fault of her own, Joy was devastated that this very successful business she had built was essentially taken away from her. He did not qualify for PPP loans, but received help from the government in the form of a HELP loan that had to be repaid. The financial impact of losing her business forced Joy to sell her house and relocate. The new location not only had a house, but an outbuilding that she remodeled to accommodate her classes. He eventually reopened BUILT in the new location and resumed classes and training, but his class membership had dropped from 150 members to six.

In 2023, Joy had to move again due to some personal challenges. He now rents space in a small building behind the Antiques Mall on Route 1. He refers to the space as a fitness shed, but has been able to resume classes and keep his fitness clients. Their customers range from 17 to 77 years old and some date back to their original business in 2013.

Being a fitness trainer affects every aspect of your life. Joy says: It affects when I go to bed, how I eat and my care. But it’s essential to his business to maintain his best health, as he starts classes from 5 to 5:30 in the morning and goes until 6 in the afternoon most days. Having been in the fitness business for as many years as she has, she has seen people of all shapes, sizes and degrees of health. Unfortunately, he notes that many people don’t think about their health until they have a medical problem or health scare. Instead of being proactive, people tend to be reactive when it comes to committing to a healthier lifestyle. And people feel so much better about themselves, both physically and mentally, they regret not starting earlier in life.

Despite the many challenges and multiple moves to maintain her business, Joy has always remained optimistic. She feels fortunate to have clients who are very grateful to be part of the BUILT family. Over the years, Joy has not only helped people get fitter, but has also built many friendships with her clients. As Joy says, what’s better than having clients and people I work with who are also my dear friends.

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