For our first feature in the entrepreneurship series, we interviewed Tommie Knight, Founder & Owner of Knight’s Gym in Philadelphia. CQ's founder met Tommie back in 2014 after winning a free personal training session to his gym at a fitness retreat, and kicked off the love-hate relationship from there. Tommie had been running his training sessions out of a warehouse studio on Jasper Street- two blocks up from the Erie-Torresdale El stop. Since then, he’s left the studio and expanded to a full service gym with a crap ton of clients & machines. It still has that at-home feel though; it’s where the same people dap you up every time, the guys are competing (aka arguing) about some ridiculous PR, the women are sweating out their edges, and a likely celebrity is cussing Tommie out from the torture tower (aka Jacob’s Ladder. Google it. We hate that shit).
Here’s what Tommie had to say:
What does being a person of color mean to you?
Hmm.. That’s a good question. No one’s ever asked me that! Honestly being a person of color, to me, it shows strength. I definitely feel like being a young black man and entrepreneur, there are a lot of challenges that come with that that I don’t let bother me- I just feel strong.
The way I talk, the way I walk, the way I look- everything that comes with being a young black man to me shows strength.
How has being a black male prepared you for entrepreneurship?
Well, I think that coming from black parents that struggled a lot more than I did growing up- the preparation comes from being their child. My mom, raising her first son on her own, going to school, becoming an entrepreneur herself- she went through hell to be honest. Well, until she met my father. Then again, watching them struggle to become successful, taking us out of the inner city to the suburbs, just seeing the challenges they went through really imprinted something in me- and like I said earlier that’s that strength, that no-fear mentality.
You gotta understand it’s gonna be tough for you being a young black man, understand that the rules don’t apply to others as they would to you; meaning that as a young kid, a young teenager, you can’t make the same mistakes other races may make because the penalty is a lot harsher. So to always have to stay on point with certain things, I feel really really helped me to become even stronger at this point. So I would definitely accredit a lot of that to what my parents went through being a young black couple & also to growing up in this society.
Why is the work you do important for the Black community?
Awe man, I believe it’s extremely important for them, for myself, for everyone at this point because it’s helping people. I believe that if you can make a living helping people, you’re blessed. Obviously I see that a lot of young black kids (and their parents) but mostly the kids in the inner city are not aware of how important fitness is. They don’t have the grocery stores, the Trader Joes, and those types of places close to them. They have the Papi stores, so they don’t eat good at all. They’re not even aware of why they should eat healthy. So for them to see me, a young black gym owner- it definitely gives them a different perspective on fitness, and hopefully it opens the doors for them to come in, and take care of their bodies and their health.
"So for them to see me, a young black gym owner- it definitely gives them a different perspective on fitness, and hopefully it opens the doors for them to come in, and take care of their bodies and their health."
I think what we’re doing here is gonna help a lot of people live a lot longer than they would live without fitness. And it’s also creating jobs for young black people in the inner-city to be able to work in our gym as well.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years?
In 5 years hopefully- well not "hopefully." In 5 years I will be the owner of multiple gyms in different cities, in the process of opening my 5th or 6th gym at that time. But really, what I want is to take this culture I created in Philadelphia to every major city in the country and eventually the world. I don’t think I’ll be doing anything but this for the rest of my life- so if it takes the rest of my life for me to have one of these all over the world- then that’s exactly what I’ll be doing.
We wrapped the interview and Tommie dropped a few off-record gems about being unafraid to go after whatever it is you really want. He encouraged breaking the 9-5 mentality via reading , financial planning/saving, and some self-examination exercises.
If you’re thinking to stop by- they’re located down at 3510 Scotts Lane in East Falls. There are free guest nights each week, Open Lift Events (see our Port for some still images), a free kids camp each summer, & partnership opportunities with outside personal trainers if you're looking for a gym home. All that on top of their affordable group and on-one-one training sessions. You can find Tommie & Knight’s Gym on FB and IG: @knights.gym @mr.knights.gym