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Mark Fleming brings strength to his community
Running a business

Mark Fleming brings strength to his community

In honor of Disability Employment Awareness Month, QuickBooks is spotlighting entrepreneurs who play a vital role in creating inclusive and meaningful work for all.

Name: Mark Fleming

Location: Tampa, FL

Business: Equally Fit

Tell us about your business:

I own and operate a fitness studio that helps individuals with disabilities with their fitness goals.

Why did you decide to start your own business? Where did the idea come from and how did you put it into action?

I started my own business because I thought it would provide me with the best chance to make the most impact. I graduated with my master’s degree in Human Performance from the University of Alabama. I had trouble finding a job in my field of study, so I took a job as a Behavior Assistant working with autistic children.

I also decided around this time to volunteer for Special Olympics. I noticed those getting involved with Special Olympics showed similar muscular deficiencies as the kids I worked with who were going through physical and occupational therapy. This told me there was an obvious gap in the lack of physical activity these individuals were obtaining.

My knowledge and credentials to train people in exercise, and my understanding and ability to relate to these populations, made the decision to work in this field, with them, an easy one. From there, I literally packed my trunk with some exercise equipment and started doing in-home exercise sessions all around the Tampa Bay area.

What makes your business unique in its field? 

I am probably the only one with the level of education, proper credentials, and Autism diagnosis working in this field—and working primarily with the disability population.

How does your business support people with disabilities? 

We support people with disabilities by teaching them proper ways to exercise and providing programming for them to achieve their specific goals.

What has been most rewarding about starting your business?

Seeing how much the individuals I work with change their lives for the better.

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner?

How little information there is about actually owning a business. There are tons of books, but nothing covers the magnitude of what it takes to own a business. 

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started? How did you learn about it?

Everything! I knew exercise, but that was about it. I researched literally every aspect that I would need to learn. If there was something I needed to learn, I usually found out later than I needed—and thus learned the hard way.

How does running your own business make you feel?

Proud, independent, and crazy at times—but mostly proud that I have created something when most never thought I could.

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome as a business owner?

Every day comes with a new challenge. Some of the biggest challenges I had to overcome involved me having to prove myself and convince someone else to give me a shot to advance the business.

What are your proudest moments?

In business, helping my clients achieve their goals. 

Personally, realizing my potential.

What are the next big plans you have for your business?

Hoping one day to have a bigger more typical-style gym that can implement some of the things I do in my studio. I want to open it up to membership so the community can see individuals with disabilities thriving in a gym setting as well.

What are three things you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner?

Flexibility, desire to help others, and work ethic.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone starting their own business?

Prepare to persevere!

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going?

I think what keeps me going is the drive I have had since I was little—to prove people wrong. Every time I did something earlier in my life there was always this notion that it was not going to work out for me or I would not be able to stick it out because it would be too difficult for me. 

What’s your “power song” and why?

I am not sure you call it a power song but “Bink’s Sake.” It’s a song from the manga/anime “One Piece.”


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