Leap of Faith: From Lowes to Body Works

Kelsey Allen and Jamel Watkins had it made. They were Operations Supervisors with Lowes Home Improvement Distribution Center in Valdosta, and they had been with the company for several years while making a good living.

Both Allen and Watkins made working out and staying in shape a part of their lives outside of the workplace. In addition to keeping themselves in shape, they both were personal trainers for those who needed the guidance of fitness teachers. According to Allen, they spent a good bit of time in workout gyms all over the Valdosta area.

“We weren’t members of just one place specifically,” Allen said. “We were in every gym in town.”

There was one gym, however, that the two friends and co-workers weren’t spending a lot of time at, and that was American Body Works. Then, a fellow Lowes co-worker who worked out at American Body Works invited Watkins to come and work out with him there. Soon afterward, that same co-worker approached Watkins to tell him the gym was up for sale. At the time, Watkins and Allen were more interested in working out than owning a gym, so according to Allen, they “brushed it off.”

Fast forward to a couple of months later, that same co-worker once again mentioned that the gym was about to be closed. That’s when Watkins and Allen approached the gym owner, Dr. Roy Swindell, about possibly purchasing the gym. Then, as Allen puts it, they “decided to pull the trigger.”

A deal was reached, and the two friends and Lowes employees decided to leave the security of stable employment with a solid company, with good a salary and benefits, and become owners of a business for the very first time. They found themselves as the new owners of Body Works in February of 2018.

“It was definitely a leap of faith,” he said. “We had the fitness background, but the business part of it was a completely different thing. The gym was struggling, and we really didn’t know what to expect. We knew we were way in over our heads.”

However, the new business partners also saw an opportunity.

“We’re gym people, and we started reaching out to a lot of our contacts from our days of personal training,” he said.

The partners are still reaching out, as they attempt to grow their new business and get more people in their front door.

According to Watkins, their goal is fairly simple and straightforward.

“We want everyone that walks through our door to leave feeling better about themselves than the day they first walked in here,” Watkins said.

To help the two partners and the members of Body Works realize their full potential is Shannon Watkins and Lindsey Howard. Watkins is the general manager for Body Works and will also serve as regional manager for additional locations of Body Works. Howard is the personal training director and serves as a personal trainer for members. They joined Body Works in July and have been charged with the responsibility of not just attracting new members, but to give members more choices.

“We’re offering yoga classes and the muscle pump class,” Watkins said.

Like any workout facility, you’re going to have those who are just starting out, and they have never worked out before. With that in mind, Watkins says that Body Works wanted to make sure everyone who joined the gym would be comfortable.

“We have members ranging from professional bodybuilders to soccer moms,” Watkins said.

That’s why they have two separate areas of the facility for those who prefer a more “family-friendly, relaxed atmosphere to work out in.” Then there’s another side of the gym, which is more for those of a different mentality.

“We have the Iron Eaterz area that is for the more old-school style of workout enthusiast,” Howard said. “That side has no A/C so that members can get in there and really work up a good sweat. It’s mostly free weight, with loud, heavy-style music blaring.”

Watkins and Allen also own a second location of Body Works, located in Lake Park. They are also looking to expand.

“We are tentatively scheduled to open our Albany location on or around February 15,” Allen said. “We are looking at two other locations right now, one in Moultrie and the other in Gulf Port, Mississippi.”


Written by: Phil Jones
Photography by: Eric Vinson

2 thoughts on “Leap of Faith: From Lowes to Body Works

  1. I’m proud of you my brothers and they definitely gives you motivation and you actually see ya growth. Iron Eaterz is more than gym work it’s family and life

    Liked by 1 person

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