We had the good fortune of connecting with Cleon “CJ” Joseph and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cleon, what do you attribute your success to?
I’ll begin with an original quote, “You know it is time to evolve when you do the thing you are passionate about with ease and comfort. This is the time to add to your platform, If you don’t move and grow, something will you move you or you’ll surely be irrelevant in your ability to influence.” CJ’s Functional Fitness has been in business for almost 14 years. Through my fitness business, I have been featured on local news and radio outlets, teamed up with non-profits like Special Needs Network and American Heart Association on community wellness projects. I’ve hosted my own community fitness program called the Fitness Syndicate vs Obesity. I have been the keynote health ambassador for numerous years for the annual KJLH Women’s Health Expo. I even developed my first fitness television pilot called Battle of the Bulge L.A. This show focuses on battling obesity in the Black communities of Los Angeles (www.bobla.tv). The key to the success is opening up the brand to more than just wellness and fitness. I truly believe that excellence in whatever you do gives you a credible platform in other issues. Under the umbrella of my fitness business, I’ve established CJFF Publishing (www.cjffpublishing.com) and wrote my first book entitled, “Navigating Through the Valleys of Success – A Perspective in Perseverance.” This book details my personal journey to the meaning of true success. In the final chapter of the book, I made some bold predictions as to where excellence was taking me. This work has made me a featured Author at Turning Pages Book Club, 2019 and 2020 Black Writers On Tour, and the upcoming Fall to Fiction Author’s Showcase in 2021. Recently, while continuing to run my business, I had a public access wellness show in West Hollywood called “Mentorship Moments: Each one Teach One.” The show has now joined forces with Morris Media Studios in Los Angeles (www.morrismedialive.com). The show not only deals with physical wellness, but it also social wellness. My show focuses on issues such as human trafficking, domestic violence, mental health, and law enforcement/ community relations. I was a featured panelist at the 2020 Black Business Expo, for a discussion on African-American financial empowerment. I have also been invited to speak at the Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit 2020 conference to discuss De-Escalation training for police officers. I have been called on as a subject matter expert in fitness in workers’ fraud cases. The running theme in building success is being open-minded to increasing your territory. The more a person masters their craft the more credibility a person has. If your brand can be trusted with one thing it will be trusted with many things. This is what my father Milton and mother Margie instilled in me. I cannot express enough how important my wife Eva and my daughters Cheyanne and Zaire have helped me keep my brand strong. There is one more factor that keeps my business successful. It is my relationship with other successful people in their perspective fields. I never compete with successful people I attached to them. No matter what field the formula for success is the same. You need to find someone with just as strong or stronger tenacity than you. You need to attach to a associates who are smarter than you. You can learn from anyone successful. Simply put, if you have no ambition, you will never be in my circle of influence. I think of the community fitness team I assembled in 2010 called the Fitness Syndicate vs. Obesity. Some of the best fitness coaches in Los Angeles came together to help battle obesity by educating our communities. This developed a bond and a professional network that holds strong to this day. Closed mouths don’t get fed, and closed doors don’t make allies. Do not be a one-stop-shop, be an enterprise…
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
CJ’s Functional Fitness & Self Defense LLC (CJFF) is a private fitness and wellness studio. We specialize in Functional Fitness. We offer services from performance enhancement training to corrective exercise, and health makeovers. Unlike large corporate gyms, training is provided on an appointment-only basis, so crowding is never an issue. Social distancing and mask-wearing are mandatory. The studio has always had a reputation for clean and family-friendly environment. The studio is sanitized before and after each client. Temperature checks are mandated, and health screenings are done prior to a client’s arrival. I am most excited about how our creativity has grown with the challenges that COVID season presented. The pandemic forced me to discover new ways to bring in revenue. We are now using Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams to train online clients. It also challenged us to train clients outdoors or hybrid style. I have partnered with major corporations for their online wellness and self-defense programs, and have trained people from all over the world via online training. The biggest challenge during this pandemic was learning how to adjust to a “new normal” with challenging restrictions. Many fitness studios shut down during the first COVID closures in April and never returned. Like me, I don’t think they saw anything like this coming. We just refused to let this beat us, so we got creative. This was not easy after 13 years of a successful business. We had to evolve because quitting was never an option. During the first shut down, I decided to offer free exercise classes using Facebook Live and Instagram Live. I called it the “Saturday Morning Safe Shelter Cabin Fever Workout”. It was my way of giving back to my clients and the community who have supported us while giving new viewers a chance to sample the CJFF brand while at home. It eventually yielded more clients, and it did not cost us anything. I used a similar formula to build the business during the recession in 08′. I advertised in a down market, so people knew where to turn for fitness when the economy turned around. I learned that by chatting with a business tycoon on a flight from Boston in the early 2000s. I do believe reading the atmosphere has been pivotal in sustaining longevity in business. The first series of gym closures forced me to reach people in new ways. I cultivated other talents, so my comeback would be stronger. It also forced me to reach out to other successful people in the same boat to see what they were doing that worked for them. It is a slow and tedious process developing a circle of influencers. Trust is obtained over time. I’ve learned that connecting with clients via apps and social media is the way of the future, and it is here to stay. You cannot stay stuck in the same way of doing business. You have to be flexible in the way you provide service and receive payment. If you don’t, prepare to close down. You also need to expand your company to incorporate multiple streams of income. CJ’s Functional Fitness has expanded to help people in more ways. We continue to provide the best fitness coaching in the industry, but also under the CJFF umbrella, we have so much more to offer. We now offer online women’s self-defense classes, corporate online fitness classes for business, and a weekly wellness show. Success makes you evolve; evolving makes you successful. It goes hand in hand. When I teach a client boxing, I always tell them that a punch has little to do with the fist. The fist is the torque expression that the feet, hips, torso, and shoulders generate. Making money is not the end game, but it is the expression of the work you are doing from the ground up. We are here to meet our customers where they are, whether at home or at their place of business. Technology has made that possible. “You don’t have to be a fighter to feel like one… So Let’s train!”
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Even as a “health nut,” I do my best to find healthy food that tastes great. I’m still a foodie. As far as dining, I’d have to take my visiting friends to Post and Beam Restaraunt in Los Angeles. They make the tastiest cast iron chicken and Brussel sprouts I’ve ever tasted. Havana Mania in Manhattan Beach is a great Cuban restaurant to take the family to. If my friends want to eat light before walking around the Manhattan Beach Pier, I will take them to Lemonade Restaraunt. This is great for weekend dining. During the week, Urban Plates in Manhattan Beach and Mashawi Grill in Redondo Beach have the best lunch items. I also like to laugh, so my friends who are visiting will have to check out the Pico-Union Comedy Club in Los Angeles, The Laugh Factory in Long Beach, or The Comedy and Magic Store in Hermosa Beach.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give a shout out to the Jenesse Center. Particularly, the CEO Karen Earl. She is a patron and someone I highly respect. Their work with domestic violence victims is unparalleled. It has been a pleasure quietly learning the power of delegation from Karen. She has an incredible staff that represents the company vision vision well. You don’t have to be the face of everything if you have a high functioning team with you. The Jenesse Center’s incredible work with victims especially during this pandemic is top notch. I had one of the representatives from the Jenesse Center, Dr. Angela Parker, on my show “Mentorship Moments: Each One Teach One,” and it was eye-opening what I learned about their resources. They definitely deserve a shout out! www.jenesse.org.
Website: www.cjffla.com & www.cjffpublishing.com
Yelp: CJ’s Functional Fitness
Youtube: Cleon Joseph
Other: Facebook: (Public Speaking/Author Page). @Cleonjoseph2
Personal Photo: Cleon “CJ” Joseph brining the battle ropes in the outdoors 1. CJs Family: Daughter Cheyanne, Wife Eva, CJ, and Daughter Zaire 2. CJ’s book Navigating Through the Valley’s of Success 3. CJ kicking off the KJLH Women’s Health Expo 4. CJ Hosting Mentorship Moments with guest Dr. Angela Parker from the Jenesse Center 5. Host Adai Lamar with CJ at his book signing 6. CJ with the winners and coaches of the AHA Power Fitness Challenge 7. Fitness Syndicate/ BOBLA Coaches: Henry Chuchwurah, Chai Merril, CJ, Cassandra Britt-Nickerson, Jon Crosby, Dawn Strozier, and Akuete Kpodar 8. Coach CJ holding mitts for daughter Cheyanne at “Taste of Soul”