Jul 21, 2017
Brace yourself for the most inspiring episode of Renegade Thinkers Unite thus far. In fact, our guest Coss Marte, had us choking back tears. His story begins a little over a decade ago, when he kick started his own enterprise as a teenager in front of a New York City bodega. By age 19, Marte’s business was raking in over $2 million dollars a year. He ran into trouble shortly thereafter, and in less than ten years he was scrubbing toilets at a reconstructed hotel to pay his rent.
The reason for Marte’s struggles is simple: his business was the business of selling drugs. He was incarcerated at 23 on charges related to peddling drugs, and spent seven years in prison.
Marte, now 31, is a free man and an up-and-coming marketing phenom. Upon his release from prison, he founded ConBody—a prison style fitness program where students work out with minimal equipment. Thanks to Marte’s marketing guts, ConBody is now one of the fastest growing fitness programs in NYC. To be frank, the young entrepreneur probably knows more about advertising than most CMOs.
You can learn more about ConBody here: https://conbody.com/
As you might expect, the seedlings of ConBody—which is short for “convict body”—came while Marte was incarcerated. “I got my first medical examination and was told that I could die in prison because of my health issues,” he says. “As soon as they told me this, I went back to my cell and I started doing lunges, and any type of exercise I probably knew.” Marte lost 70 pounds in six months after customizing his own exercise routine. Not long afterwards, he helped over 20 inmates lose over a thousand pounds combined.
Having inspired others to make positive lifestyle changes, Marte started thinking about his past—and his future. “I started realizing that I was creating a web of destruction,” he says, “and for the first time I started praying and asking God, ‘How can I give back?’ And that’s when ConBody was born.” Marte mapped out a plan for an exercise center while he was in solitary confinement, and then turned those blueprints into action when he was released a year later.
Marte’s bold marketing tactics helped put ConBody on the exercise studio map. He began marketing his business by speaking to women who were doing yoga in public spaces. Simply talking to them about ConBody, Marte managed to steadily build a customer base. “There [have] been times,” he states, “where I stood on the train and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, pay attention.’… I tell my story and I’ll tell about ConBody.” Marte says he continues to share his story about 20 times a day, never underestimating word-of-mouth.
ConBody has boomed since its inception. Upon speaking at a conference, Marte was approached by a woman who offered him the opportunity to open a ConBody location in one of New York City’s most famous luxury department stores, Saks Fifth Avenue. This change in fortune still gives Marte goose bumps. He says, “Every time I go up to the second floor [of Saks], I start smiling because the first thing [I] see on the floor is a mannequin with a ConBody t-shirt on.”
ConBody’s studio atmosphere is no doubt responsible for part of its success. With the intention of motivating participants, Marte designed the studio like a prison. Brick walls and prison bars line the fitness center. Signs that read “five minute showers” and “do the time” line the interior. At ConBody, you’ll find all the same body weight equipment as you would in a prison. This gritty appearance is one of the business’s most popular features, giving members a hardcore workout experience.
Following Marte’s lead, marketers should strive to provide consumers with a similarly exceptional experience. This is the driving force behind ConBody. “If I keep going and I keep delivering a great product,” Marte says, “no matter what I’m going to wake up, I’m going to be okay, and I’m going to live life.” (These show notes were prepared by Jay Tellini.)
What You’ll Learn
Quotes from Coss Marte