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Birdtown Crossfit

13000 Athens Ave., #300A
Lakewood, Ohio 44107

Jillian Neimeister of Birdtown CrossFit

Meet Jillian Neimeister, co-founder of Birdtown CrossFit in Lakewood (a first-ring suburb of Cleveland), a gym that provides instructor-led small group workouts. Neimeister and co-founder Tricia Tortoreti plan to hire two additional trainers next month. 
How is CrossFit different from a more traditional gym?
CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program. We focus on constantly varied workouts with functional, high-intensity movements that are scalable to your fitness level. We have everything from gymnastics and bodyweight movements to rowing, jumping, throwing and weightlifting.
We want each member to become healthier, faster and stronger -- not only in the gym, but in real life. The specialized attention and training may be the largest differentiating factor between CrossFit and a traditional gym. This is what draws people into the gym. What gets them to stay is the community. Our members grow to be friends and socialize far outside of our walls.
How do you work together as partners and friends?
Emails, texts, shared calendars and weekly meetings help us manage together. We worked together for a couple of years prior to opening the gym so we already had an idea of how the other operated. But training clients together is very different than running a business together, especially one that we run in addition to our full-time jobs. Flexibility and compromise are key. It’s like a marriage.
Over the last ten months of planning and five months of being open, we’ve identified our strengths and weaknesses in business management. Scheduling, dealing with vendors, nutrition -- talk to Tricia. Media, design work or creating incredibly long task lists? I’m your girl.
What organizations helped you get your business off the ground?
Some of the major organizations that helped get Birdtown CrossFit off the ground include Bad Girl Ventures and ECDI. Through working with these two partners we were able to expand our network and take advantage of contacts we wouldn't have otherwise made.
What’s the story behind the name Birdtown?
The story behind Birdtown isn't ours to tell, it's the neighborhood's. Birdtown is a specific neighborhood in Lakewood that was originally built as a "company town." There are eight streets in close proximity that are all named after native Northeastern Ohio birds.
We chose to name our gym after the neighborhood we're in because we want to be an integral part of the community. We give back to the community as much as we can as a young company, from being a sponsor for the Lakewood Meltdown to donating a membership package for a raffle at the local animal shelter.
Can you share a funny story about opening a new business?
Our first day started off with a little panic when a police officer walked in during the first class. Turns out he ran my plates while I was driving to the gym, knew my name from CrossFit circles and wanted to check out the place. Did I know that when I saw him walk in at 6:10 a.m. our first morning? No. But it gives me a good laugh -- five months later.
What were your emotions when you first opened the doors to Birdtown CrossFit?
Trepidation? Enthusiasm? Fear? Rush of excitement? Our first day was overall a victory. More friends and new members visited than I ever expected. Our marketing strategy to gain new members with two weeks of free classes and a crowdfunding campaign was a success. And there was nervous excitement with our open house when we moved into a larger space.
Ideally, where will your company be in a year? In five years?
Ideally, in a year we’ll have over 100 members, which would put us well ahead of our business plan expectations. We’ll have more trainers and equipment, expanded hours and specialty classes, nutritional programs, and host certifications and competitions.
In five years, our space will be much larger. We chose our location based on anticipated future growth. We’ve been thinking about the long-term from the start. 

Interview by Karin Connelly

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