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When most people wake up for work, Jenna Strzelecki has already opened her gym, Anthracite Fitness Factory, taught a class and picked up coffee for the other coaches. Then, she is off to her day job as the Associate Dean of Students at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa. Later, when her colleagues are calling it a day after eight hours at the office, she’s back coaching and encouraging gym members.
“Schedules are crazy but every small business, new or old, has crazy work schedules,” Jenna said modestly. “Having a good team is important to ensure division of labor and schedules work to benefit the business, while also helping our coaches and instructors achieve their personal and fitness goals.” At the gym, Jenna is also the head coach. She earned her Level 1 CrossFit certification in 2012 as well as her Level 2 and Kids CrossFit certifications, allowing her to lead members. She employs nine CrossFit coaches and nine cycling instructors. Jenna also has three front desk managers to greet members and make sure everyone is checked-in for their class.
“If you want something badly enough you make time for it, no matter how hectic your days become and how late your nights go,” she said. “I am fortunate to work with two great teams that allow me to easily navigate both jobs.” Jenna is an active force in higher education and has been for over 10 years. She worked for Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in Scranton as the director of curriculum development and assessment where she was responsible for managing and providing oversight for all aspects of the medical school curriculum. She then transitioned to Lackawanna College to serve as the Associate Dean.
“I like to lead a very full and busy lifestyle. Owning a business allows me to fill my free time with things I’m passionate about,” she said. “Vacations, self-care time, and free time might be affected by owning a business but knowing that you’re bringing value to others and helping them to live a better life makes all the long days and late nights worth it!”
Fitness became a part of her work life in 2013 when she became co-owner of what was then DK CrossFit. In February 2018, she bought out her partner and reopened the gym under the name CrossFit Anthracite as the sole owner. She then moved her business to a bigger facility and renamed it Anthracite Fitness Factory. The gym became just one fitness choice under her website as she added another brand, The Cycle Yard, which is a boutique cycle studio that she co-owns. She rents out multiple spaces in her gym to other fitness and health instructors. “I never intended for the gym to be run solely by females, but I think it’s amazing that it worked out that way,” Jenna said. “I hope that we can empower and inspire females to follow their dreams and realize that they’re capable of anything they set their mind to. Everyone here has such diverse backgrounds that it helps to make the business well rounded.”
During the pandemic, the business received a few grants but that wasn’t what kept the gym running, “The business is self-sufficient which was always my goal,” she said. “There is always hesitation when opening a business — in a pandemic or not. There is never a perfect time, so I think it’s important to personally feel confident in what you’re doing and when you feel ready, just DO IT! If you believe in yourself and your product, everything else follows, as long as you work hard and stay focused.”
Jenna offered remote coaching when state mandates closed fitness facilities. She held daily Zoom workouts with clients to uphold the community aspect of her gym. She also followed every pandemic rule to a tee to make sure her clients and staff continued to stay healthy. “All members and staff were required to wear masks while inside the facility, including during workout sessions. Equipment, floors, and high traffic areas were sanitized multiple times each day. Workout areas were set and taped off at minimum six feet apart, class sizes were limited and the cycling studio had sneeze screens around each bike. My biggest concern was someone getting sick or contracting COVID while working out at the gym and I can proudly say that all of our safety measures and precautions were successful. No one got sick at our facility.”
As an avid member of the Anthracite Fitness Factory, the gym is a place of solace for me. This was especially so during the pandemic. I work remotely and the four white walls and children’s playroom of my home can drive me to insanity. I am not alone in this sentiment, Anthracite Fitness Factory became a “home away from home” to a lot of members, especially during the pandemic. In-person activities were scarce during lockdown, but members always knew that there was a Zoom workout waiting for them.
Jenna earned her bachelor’s degree in business with a marketing concentration in 2007 from Wilkes University, and in 2009, she obtained her MBA. She used her business knowledge to make sure she offered something the community not only wanted but needed. “Do your research,” she explained. “Market research, financial planning, feasibility analyses, and a well laid out plan are all important to getting a great start in business and taking the plunge. But believing in yourself, your vision and your product might be the most important.” Jenna knows she already has the business experience to continue to push her gym in any direction she wants, but her education solidified that for her. “My MBA at Wilkes taught me to understand what it takes to make a mark in the ever-changing world of owning and operating a business,” she explained. “Owning a business was always a dream of mine. Being your own boss is something I think a lot of people dream of but they’re afraid the risk will outweigh the reward. Opening the gym with a business partner eased some of those risks, which was a great start to jumping into the world of ownership. I loved being able to impact people’s lives in a healthy and positive way,” Jenna said. “The gym itself is not necessarily my passion, but helping people realize their potential is my passion. I share my love for fitness with people to help them better themselves.”
Jenna’s facility allows people of all fitness backgrounds to find something they love. It’s an environment that’s warm and welcoming. “Everything about the business and how far it has come has exceeded my dreams and expectations,” Jenna said. “Opening Anthracite started as a hobby, something to do on the side to keep me busy. It allowed all my friends to see each other daily and work out together. After moving to Pittston, the possibilities for the gym and what could be offered exploded. Everything fell into place so quickly and easily that it seemed like it was meant to be. I dreamed of creating a one-stop fitness hub and to see it come to life is incredible.”
Jenna wants to continue to grow her facilities and membership. She also wants to seek out more fitness and health related businesses to add to her ever growing team. Her hard work and dedication override any sense of exhaustion she might have from her busy schedule. “Believe in yourself. Take the plunge. Work hard,” she stated. “Hard work and drive will help you to sustain what you build and building a great team will ensure a great customer base.”
Conversations with Samantha Stanich. Written by Samantha Stanich.
Cover Art by Sarah Emory. Brand Design by Meghan Hricak.