Rejean Lepage was doing 3D computer graphics for a Saskatoon-based manufacturer of steel-frame buildings when he started to worry that he was turning into a couch potato. So he got out of his chair, quit his job and is now living his dream as the owner-operator of Wrench Fitness in nearby Martensville.
Lepage, who has several diplomas in computer animation, spent four years as a computer programmer and general factotum with now-defunct Coverall Building Systems before quitting in August 2008 to return to school.
“I got bored sitting at a desk all day and I was tired of working hard for someone else and only getting a paycheque in return,” says Lepage, 27. “At the same time I got serious about fitness, competed in two bodybuilding competitions, and started thinking about opening a gym.”
He took a stab at writing a business plan but ran into trouble with it. That’s when he decided to enroll in the Entrepreneurship and Small Business certificate program at SIAST (Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology).
The 32-week program prepares students to start and operate new business ventures or work as small business managers. In addition to developing their own business plans, students learn bookkeeping, communications, marketing and human resources.
Lepage moved to Prince Albert, where he studied full-time at SIAST’s Woodland campus while tending bar on weekends. Because the program is partially available online, he was able to catch up on anything he missed via computer.
“It was exactly what I wanted,” he says. “The classes were very focused so no time was wasted. And because they were small, we had plenty of access to our instructors.”
The fact that several instructors ran their own businesses made their advice particularly valuable, he adds. “They were quite demanding–one teacher told me to re-write part of my business plan several times. They expected a lot and they pushed me to do my best.”
Just how good Lepage’s best turned out to be became apparent when his business plan for Wrench Fitness won the platinum award in the 2009 Venture Forward Business Plan Competition. The province-wide entrepreneurship competition is hosted by Global Infobrokers Inc. and RSVP Event Design.
In addition to the $25,000 grand prize from Cameco, Lepage won a wide range of professional services, including access to legal, financial, marketing and mentoring support.
“The judges said mine was the best business plan they’d seen in five years,” he recalls.
In September 2009, Lepage opened his 5,000-sq-ft facility, which features free weights, cardio equipment, and services such as personal training and fitness classes.
The timing was right, he says. “We’re the only game in town right now and Martensville is a growing area with a lot of potential.”
His plans for the future include having his own building and a larger facility where he can continue to offer people the opportunity to get into better shape to live longer and happier lives. “Fitness is just a matter of being consistent and having patience,” he says. “Nothing in life comes easy, but with the right mindset and attitude you can accomplish anything.”
Sounds a lot like Lepage’s own formula for success.