Dallas Weekly had the chance to sit down with Victoria Thomas, owner and founder of JOURNEYFIT. Although a lawyer by trade, Thomas followed God’s plan and has now amassed much success with her two locations, one in the design district & another in Richardson, making her the first Black-female gym owner in the county. Maintaining success as a gym owner during a global pandemic is no easy feat. DW talks with Thomas on the heels of her Dallas location’s one year anniversary, learns more about her journey to get to where she is today and her plans for the future.
DW: Alright, Victoria, tell me, who is Victoria Thomas?
VT: Victoria Thomas is a bad b*tch. Can I cuss? I don’t know. Okay, well, that’s what she is. I am a lawyer, a daughter, a game changer, a life changer. I am a Walker of Christ. So many different things to so many different people. But I think that the one thing that has always been important for me is to have a purpose.
DW: Awesome. And tell us a little bit about your history. As far as JOURNEYFIT is concerned. How did we get here?
VT: JOURNEYFIT? It was a long journey and it started actually, when I was studying for my bar exam. I got this idea while I’m studying and I’m literally writing in the back of my bar exam books. That was our test prep course. And I’m filling up the course with all of my ideas about the layout, about what classes we’re going to have, about the nutrition guidance, about things that we haven’t even done yet. But basically, my business plan was in the back of my test prep books for the bar. And after a while of feeling so convicted and empty, I put the plan into fruition.
And that is how we came to JOURNEYFIT.
DW: What would you say is your goal with this journey?
VT: I really want to be the game changer for my community. I don’t feel like we have enough community leaders that are specific about targeting our community and wanting to change it for the better and not just in the sense of working out, but holistically in total wellness. When you think about what changes a person, everybody automatically thinks of the physical, but the mental, the spiritual and especially nutrition [are all important].
DW: You mentioned a little bit about when you were studying for your bar, that’s how you came up with the idea for JOURNEYFIT. But you got to admit, going from law school to nutrition is a huge swing. So, was there a day that you just woke up and said “this isn’t it…. I have to follow my passion?” What was that trigger moment? Was there a “light bulb” moment? What happened that made you do a switch?
VT: The “light bulb” moment had always been there. I just ignored that light if I could be honest with myself. And it came as early as me studying for my entry exam into law school. I didn’t really know if I was supposed to be doing this, but I just knew that I never give up on anything that I start. And, I had already started that journey with that intention. I was talking about wanting to be a lawyer ever since I was a little girl. So I felt like I had to be true to myself and what I had told people.
I’m always big about integrity and thinking that I can’t go into anything else other than what I said. So, when just thinking about the switch or the light bulb moment, for me, it definitely was always there. It was just a matter of me admitting it to myself and being able to be courageous enough to stop the path that I was on.
DW: I noticed you have some really high tech things going on in the front. You have a special app. Can you elaborate on that and what makes JOURNEYFIT different from the others?
VT: Yeah. So [some] big differences of JOURNEYFIT in comparison to other gyms are we are a training studio, so this is not your regular 24 Hour Fitness or Lifetime. You are going to be led by a trainer. If you have a membership, we do a little entry assessment where we take your body assessment, and we just try to find out where your body fat percentage is. Where are you with your metabolic caloric rate? We want to know.
Extracellular mass. We want to know all of these things that make up your body, so we can be intentional about your weight loss or whatever your goal is, whether it be to lose body fat or gain more muscle tissue. So your body scan is something that just comes with your membership. You do it every 30 days so that we can kind of hold ourselves accountable and hold you accountable to what your goals are. We do have some specialty equipment that is very functional. So you won’t see a ton of machines in here because some machines kind of put you in situations that might not be mindful of your range of motion. And that’s how people get hurt.
While there are some machines that are good for strength training, we just keep it really functional here. So all of the equipment that we have is really dedicated towards keeping your body functional, whether we are doing open or closed chain exercises. And so I would say if I could kind of bullet point it, it would definitely be the equipment. It would definitely be the intake process and the accountability, the nutrition, for sure, because not a lot of gyms are able to guide you through some type of nutritional accountability and meal plans, and then just overall the vibe for sure.
DW: I want to talk about the vibe. So I do notice that when you come into this gym, it is not like any other gym, right? So I want to mention the music that you like to play, how it helps the trainers and their encouragement. How did you come up with that concept? Because I have not heard of any other gym that does it like this.
VT: I was able to just survey other gyms and group classes specifically. I feel like sometimes in group classes, the trainer is trying to follow this playlist that they don’t [really] want to play. They want to get a little bit more ratchet and they won’t go there. And that’s because they’re in this big company like Orange Theory and F 45. And it’s this huge company where they have to follow very rigid rules about how the music is structured.
One thing that we are about is the individuality of the trainers. So we allow the trainers to select their playlist. So you’ll see that our trainer, LD, he’s from Florida and just being from the south anyway, we still consider Florida to be south, right? You’re hearing a lot of boots actually on his playlist, but he does have some Florida rappers on it. And then I get to the other trainers and they love mixes, and they like to play R and B at the end and do like a little stretch flow.
But everybody has individuality. And I want people to be able to see that from the trainers. And so we allow the music to be curated by the trainers. And I think that that’s a very important piece of creating a vibe. People come to work out and they want to be able to work out to the music that they want to. I also think that being around people who also have positive energy, that’s going to be a huge thing. And being able to hire employees that are able to differentiate that when you come to work, you’ve got to leave all of your outside baggage because the people that are coming in here are hungry to be able to have good energy.
They are tired. They’re exhausted from their day. They’re fighting through kids, homework, marriage problems, business problems to come here and get a good experience. So you have to kind of put that off to the side until you are done. And then at that moment, I feel like there’s a pay off from it. The trainers are also able to get what they need from the members. So it’s almost like even if the trainers might feel tired or the same way, we’re feeding off of each other’s energy, so curating the vibe is always going to be about setting the intention with the music and then making sure that the leader of that class also has the positive energy that you wanted to give out.
DW: Absolutely. One of the things that I had noticed about JOURNEYFIT was that it is very member centric or as some people are saying in the sales world, customer centric. But I like to say member centric here because from the minute that you download the app and you become a member, it’s like it is up to you to fulfill that membership, right? So like you said, before, there’s education services here, you can come in and get a good vibe. So we get notifications on the app and stuff like that, and then it encourages you to do more, and then you’re told that you can get it. So can you elaborate on making sure that when you become a member here, that you’re part of a family, like, how did you come up with that concept?
VT: In the beginning, it was harder because I used to do this thing where I would make people feel like they were JOURNEYFIT ambassadors. I had one location. I knew everybody’s name because we only had about 50 members. And it was funny.. I would literally pick certain people to say, hey, we got a new person today, and that’s all I would have to say is like, hey, Maria, we have a new person today. She’s like, oh, I got it. And she would literally be able to be that person’s partner through the workout, making that person feel comfortable.
And this is no lie. There were about five or seven people that I would ask, and people were able to see that the members of this gym take pride in their gym. They are able to make that person feel comfortable or also be able to make a friend in the gym. And I never knew that when I was doing that, that I was creating a culture that would be long lasting. Now people do that all the time and they feel like it is almost their responsibility to walk new people through [the process].
This is the way that our family works. Welcome to our family. And ever since then, not even thinking that it would come to this, it is now intentional. And so I can’t even take credit 100% for making sure that all of the new members feel like they’re part of this integrated family. It’s the members that make them feel that, wow.
DW: Alright. And so you mentioned that what makes JOURNEYFIT different is also the community interaction. What are some of your goals with that community interaction, like being JOURNEYFIT outside of the gym? How does that look?
VT: So there are some community events that I definitely want to get into a little bit more. I know that we’ve been hosting burner brunches. That’s our staple event. We brunch, and then we burn. Or actually it’s the reverse. We burn, then we brunch.
DW: So what would you say would be some of the challenges for being an entrepreneur, specifically a female entrepreneur in this business?
VT: There are so many challenges… and I don’t even like to give my challenges power, so it’s even harder to just talk about them. But if I can be real, I used to think that the hardest thing about owning a gym was having enough money to pay the bills, right? Not at all. It’s managing the people. It’s keeping everybody happy. It’s people wanting innovation. They always want something new.
What is hard is being able to constantly operate in a place of peace. That’s hard for an entrepreneur because you can’t be creative, not in peace. It’s all of these intangible things that are hard about being a female entrepreneur.
It’s not about the money because once you get the money, you realize, oh wow, there are things that are way harder about obtaining money to build more gyms or obtaining money to have enough rolling revenue to be current and keep the books on point with [your] budget. And there are things that are way harder being a female. It’s a lot too. I often get pulled into situations where, you know, people are just not happy with my success. You know, you get into that place, but people operate from a very small mindset of “we’re in the crab bucket” mentality, like we’re all trying to fight to get out of here.
I have always been about inclusion, even for people who have the exact same profession as me. I can’t tell you how many times there are other trainers and gym owners that I have collabed with or done things together with because I operate in just a very different space. What God has for me is for me, so I can’t fight you for what you have, because if I take what you have, it’s not even going to benefit me at a point in time.
And I have seen that my success has come more from me, not getting more and wanting more. All of the desires of my heart. I just say, God, I want this. It’s really operating out of peace, because then I don’t have to work. The things just come to me. So that’s the way that I navigate that.
DW: What would you say is the most positive thing about JOURNEYFIT?
VT: It’s the members. I ran a series called JOURNEYFIT TV maybe a year ago when I shot the first couple of episodes and people were able to see the members that fight to come to the gym every day. Like all of my members have some amazing backstory and some of it is deeply embedded in trauma. And so the most positive thing is being able to take everything that is negative about somebody’s experience and have them leave it outside and have them walk into these doors and have them get to this place where their endorphins are going crazy. Good hormones are released and they can forget about that for just a moment to focus on themselves.
So the most positive thing about this gym is literally the members. I’m so blessed to be able to be in this position, just to be honest. When God tasked me to do this, I was honored to be able to do this because this is something that I live, breathe and think about every single second of every single day. And when I think about what is the most positive experience, it’s literally the members and I can’t talk about them enough.
They impress me. They inspire me because when I just sit back and just think about the one on one conversations that I’ve had with some of them and what they go through on a daily basis, I’m honored that they chose this as their home. And so the most positive experience about Journey, it is being able to change the members lives.
DW: And so you have a celebration coming up pretty soon on October 2. Do you want to briefly talk about that celebration?
VT: Definitely. This is the one year celebration of Journey in Dallas. I was so excited, we opened right after we were allowed to open because of covid. So this is a different type of celebration. So if you see people working on boxes, just ignore that. If you see people doing cartwheels and flips into a stripper split, it’s because we are excited and we can’t contain that excitement because we could have not been here. I can’t tell you how many gyms closed during covid, and we literally opened up, like one month after the state opened up.
And so everything was just, like, happening on purpose, because if we were in any other state, we’d still have been closed. Everything happened so beautifully. And we’ve rocked it. This year, it has been a roller coaster. And I’m so excited to celebrate. So we have classes starting at 7 am, going all the way to noon, and then we have a tailgate from 12 pm to 1:30 pm. There is a homecoming theme. So there will be some great things happening at the tailgate, some surprises. We are definitely excited to see you!