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Phoenix Forward

School of Business grad launches successful fitness boot camp

Woman working out

Six years ago Erika Billingslea was a 24-year-old business management graduate with no direction. And then a change in her personal life changed her career direction, too.

She was working in a law office and running herself ragged. Her life had become sedentary, and she was eating a horrible diet. "The next thing you know, I couldn't fit into my jeans," she says. Discouraged by the weight gain, she left the office one day, walked into the first gym she saw and signed up for a personal trainer.

That personal trainer, she says, changed her life by making her realize that exercise could be fun. Billingslea soon became a gym rat and quickly decided to become a personal trainer herself. She received certification from the National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association, an organization founded by fitness guru John Spencer Ellis, and then she started offering in-home personal training and classes.

Today, she is the owner and operator of Toned Bodies Boot Camp, a women's fitness program in Monrovia, Calif. Known for its challenging workouts, the month-long boot camp attracts women of all shapes and sizes, ages 18 to 60. Training sessions take place two nights a week, and roughly 15 to 20 women attend the boot camps each month.

As a business owner, I'm the boss.
If something's not working, I change it.

"What sets my business apart is that I have a niche," she says. "I focus on women who are interested in functional group training. In that group, I cultivate an atmosphere of friendship, camaraderie and purpose. I also place a heavy emphasis on nutrition and am continually educating my clients."

Billingslea says she is constantly evaluating what is working in her business and what is not, including profits and losses, vendors and business loans. Her degree was invaluable, she says, because she learned about ethics and accounting, in addition to organizational and human resources skills.

"These days you need to stand out in your industry," she says. "Having a degree gives you an edge over your competition."

A new mom of a baby girl, Billingslea says the boot camp gives her freedom to set her own schedule. "As a business owner, I'm the boss," she says. "If something's not working, I change it. If I need a day off, I take it. If I need more cash flow, I create opportunities to make that happen. The sky's the limit!"

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