Stephen Cabral didn't start out with one of the most profitable training studios in the country. Like most highly successful professionals, he worked his way up from the bottom, fueling himself with passion and knowledge, forging unwaveringly toward a goal.
Besides being the PFP 2011 Personal Trainer of the Year, Cabral also heads up Stephen Cabral Studio, a 500-square-foot boutique space that churns out more than 700 client sessions per month and continues to have a waiting list. He writes for a variety of publications, speaks industry-wide and recently founded an online mentoring portal for fitness professionals, PersonalTrainingBusinessSchool.com.
But those are merely the results to date of a lifelong health and fitness ministry that began when Cabral needed to cure himself.
At 17, Cabral was diagnosed with an autoimmune virus that his doctors had no idea how to treat. Frustrated by their ineffectiveness, Cabral began doing his own research and found that he enjoyed being his own guinea pig for nutritional and exercise-related experiments. Not only did he eventually discover a way to cure himself through all-natural restorative methods, he also laid a foundation for this health and fitness philosophy.
By his freshman year in college, he was working part-time in a local health club, wiping down machines, putting weights away and talking with members on the fitness floor, often offering free advice that culminated from his personal research. Eventually, his free advice turned into paid personal training.
"In the beginning, I couldn't believe that people would pay me to share my knowledge with them since I'd be willing to do it for free anyway!" says Cabral.
And typical of high achievers, Cabral over-delivered. He says he was so eager to help people that he would often do 90-minute sessions rather than the 60-minute sessions clients paid for because he wanted them to have enough information to succeed.
"Eventually, I realized that in order to be successful as a fitness professional, I would need to start treating this more like a career," says Cabral. "As a result, I changed how I sold packages, but I never compromised my standards of training and sharing my knowledge."
Cabral trained through college, which helped pay for his degree and books, but after graduation many of his friends and teachers urged him to get a "real job." Watching his buddies march single file into the finance world, he figured he too might as well give the corporate world a shot.
He got a job with an advertising firm, but kept his training gig in the evenings. It wasn't long before training from 5:30 to 9:30 every night, getting in his own workout after that and finally making it to bed around midnight forced a decision. Cabral knew he needed to choose between his fitness passion and the steady career path offered by the corporate world.
"I came to the conclusion," says Cabral, "that I would rather make less money doing something that had meaning and that I loved, than making money and feeling a void doing what others wanted me to do."
Cabral gave his two-week notice at his desk job and the flood gates opened up. Within 60 days he was working full-time as one of the youngest personal trainers at a high-end health club an hour away from his home. He averaged more than 30 sessions per week and ranked at the top of his club's personal training sales charts month after month. He was also elected to represent all 55 personal trainers at the health club. He met quarterly with management to review the numbers and acted as the liaison between fitness professionals and corporate management. Because the trainers did more than $3 million in sales a year, Cabral says these meetings were taken very seriously.
Despite his success, Cabral had an entrepreneurial itch. He decided to go out on his own, training clients privately in their homes or at their health clubs. He knew he could build a clientele from scratch -- he had done it before. So Cabral began again, this time working for himself.
Again he built a clientele very rapidly. So rapidly, in fact, that the health clubs where he was now training his independent clients took notice and hired him as a consultant. Cabral unintentionally began consulting for three years for health clubs, training studios, and private fitness entrepreneurs in five states. However, even through the connections he made within the industry and the travel it required, Cabral continued to train clients. Because that is what he loved to do.
By the age of 29, Cabral figured that he had already sold $1 million in personal training and serviced more than 10,000 one-on-one training sessions. He had a dozen certifications and specialties. But he had yet to even attempt that one goal that was always lingering in the backdrop of his soul. Cabral wanted to open his own personal training studio.
After six months of searching and two more months of negotiations, Cabral renovated an old massage studio in Boston and turned it into his own boutique personal training and weight loss studio. Funded completely on credit cards because banks believed a loan would be too risky, Cabral opened Stephen Cabral Studio in 2007. Within six months, he had paid off those credit cards and was profitable from then on.
"My style and message of transforming your body and life through all natural nutrition and exercise really caught on quickly," says Cabral. "We sold out of all available training sessions within six months."
Four years later, Stephen Cabral Studio has seven trainers and still has a waiting list.
"When you are doing what you love and what you are called to do, people naturally gravitate to you and your services because they sense that it is genuine," he says.
Today, at 32 years old, Cabral still serves more than 30 training sessions per week in addition to his duties as business owner, fitness writer, author, speaker and coach to other personal trainers through his online "business school."
"I want all aspiring personal trainers to achieve their dreams and I want to help them realize that being a fitness professional is a 'real job' that you can make a career out of," says Cabral.
Achieving one's dreams, as Cabral has, doesn't come without missteps, however. But like most successful people, Cabral isn't scared of making mistakes and even has a hard time defining them as flops because each made him into who he is now.
"Don't get me wrong -- I've made a ton of mistakes," he says. "I've lost over $10,000 on software and websites I never used, I've partnered with people on projects that never went anywhere, and I followed misguided advice on more than one occasion.
"All I can say is that after each mistake I make -- and continue to make -- I promise myself that same mistake will never happen again. I don't beat myself up over it and I keep moving forward. Plus, if I wasn't making mistakes I would know that I wasn't pushing the limits of my potential. In business, like life, you're either growing or you're dying."
Even though Cabral focuses on growing rather than dying, he uses that eventual reality to keep things in perspective. "Every day I think to myself how short our time is here," he says. "That fuels me to want to leave a legacy that truly helped and inspired others to become better."
Owner of Stephen Cabral Studio and Founder of Personal Training Business School.
Certifications: CSCS, NSCA, CPT, NASM, ACE, Nutrition Specialist, American Academy of Sports Dietitians and Nutritionists (AASDN), Golf Conditioning Specialist, GMA, Yoga Instructor, Yoga Fit, Kickboxing/Martial Arts Instructor
Education: Providence College, Magna Cum Laude
Website/ email: results@PersonalTrainingBusinessSchool.com, http://PersonalTrainingBusinessSchool.com, http://StephenCabralStudio.com
What is your favorite...
...piece of workout equipment? Keiser Performance Trainer Tower
...healthy snack? Raw Organic Sprouted almonds with a Greens Drinks
...quote or saying? "We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we've established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile." -- Earl Nightingale
"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." -- Wayne Gretzky