When I first met Daniel Gracia, I was definitely impressed. He looked like working out was his lifestyle, as though this was his expertise. Once I got to know him, I came to the realization that my first impressions were right. Eventually, our friendship developed and I got to know Daniel more; he was hardworking, extremely dedicated, and very driven.
When I first found out he was launching The Force Academy, his personal training program, I immediately signed up to learn more and get involved in it. Today, it's been around a year that we've been working together and I can say that I am thoroughly impressed. At just 24, Daniel is well on his way to becoming one of Ottawa's most humble and hard-working entrepreneurs in the fitness world. For that reason, I decided to sit down with him and get to know more about this man with a force.
Fatima Alvarenga: Daniel, you’ve been growing your business “The Force Academy” for quite some time now, why did you decide to start your own business instead of becoming a personal trainer at a local gym?
Daniel Gracia: Freedom. Working for somebody else is not something I’m interested in doing long term. I want to have the ultimate freedom of doing whatever I want with being a personal trainer. It comes with great responsibilities as the fruits of my labor have a direct correlation with the hours I dedicate to my business. Yes, working at a gym could be beneficial and help me acquire experience and clientele, however, in the age of social media, it’s not something I believe is absolutely necessary to be successful. You need strong interpersonal skills, knowledge, good systems in place and a rock hard vision. Personal training at a “gym” is not something I’m completely opposed to. Working with sports teams and eventually pro athletes as a strength and conditioning coach is something I am looking to accomplish down the road.
FA: You’ve posted old photos of yourself and it’s safe to say you didn’t exactly look the way you do now. In comparison to photos now, it’s evident you’re very serious about what you do, what led you to start weight training and working out seriously?
DG: Quite honestly, I’ve been working out since the age of 16 and I’ve never looked back. At the time back in 2014 (by then I was 22 years old), I had decided to take a year off from college to accumulate some money and really figure out what I wanted to do with myself. I’ve always been one to look for a challenge and I saw a transformation picture of LeBron going through a Ketogenic diet for 67 days and he looked absolutely amazing. Being the person that I am, I shrugged and told myself “I can do this” and took the challenge head on. I posted regular updates on social media and by the time the 67 days were done, I had gone through a drastic transformation. During those 67 days, I started receiving a plethora of questions from friends, family and even strangers seeking help with training, what to eat, etc. That’s when it all clicked for me.
FA: Do you find it difficult to attract clients since you’re online based?
DG: At the very moment, it’s definitely harder than working at a big box gym like a Goodlife where hundreds of members walk in everyday. You don’t have to worry about marketing and the clientele is already there for you to approach, you just need to be able to sell yourself and close in on workout packages. Online? You have to be active all around social media and constantly put yourself out there. It’s harder at first but once you develop a solid online marketing strategy with the right tools and show your value, customers will be lining up to work with you.
FA: What’s the story behind the “The Force Academy” name?
DG: The key word you see in the name here is the word “Force”. Dating back to high school all the way to up today, it’s been a word my friends and I used to describe every situation we’ve been in. Whether it’s getting out of trouble, getting through an exam you didn’t study for, any situation you can think of where the odds are against you, the “force” has always been with me and many others as well. It’s not common to hear the people of Ottawa use this term, so I’ve simply taken it and ran with it. It defines the way I grew up.
FA: What do you hope to achieve with your business? Opening a gym, going worldwide, catering to professional athletes, making some money on the side, etc.?
DG: I want The Force to be recognized as a worldwide movement, helping change the lives of thousands of people across the world. Like I mentioned earlier, I’d also want to start catering to professional athletes down the road. I also know personal training is not the only thing I want to do with myself; there’s a lot more I seek to accomplish. Being recognized as “the force academy guy” is only a small fraction of what I want to do with myself.
FA: It seems that motivation and commitment are two of the biggest things that making going to the gym difficult for some, what do you offer that eases these worries for clients?
DG: It’s a tricky game because people come to you for your knowledge and expertise, but some are really looking for that extra push of motivation by hiring an actual trainer. It’s my job to make my clients understand that just like life, progress in the gym will not be linear. Bumps and bruises will happen along the road, nobody is perfect and dieting is a game that needs to be played the right way if you want to see long term success. I take the time to discuss with my clients about their goals, and we put strategies in place together, along with a program timeline to give my clients the best chance of being successful.
FA: What factors go into determining the cost and length of someone’s membership with you?
DG: 3 months is the bare minimum I ask If we decide to work together on a 1-on-1 basis. Anything shorter than that really limits my ability to show the value of my service and allow you to see considerable results, according to your goal. The cost is fixed for now.
FA: Do you accept any type of clients or do you have conditions and restrictions?
DG: I know where my expertise lies and the direction I want to head towards. It’s important for a trainer to diversify his skill set and work with various types of clients from different age groups, from the youth to the elderly simply to gain experience. This is how you can gain experience when starting out and figuring out who you really want to work with. Powerlifting is one area where I believe my skillset is not deepened enough to take on powerlifting clients and prepare them for powerlifting meets. The general population looking for muscle gain or fat loss, along with athletes are the 3 groups that could benefit from me the most. A PAR-Q along with subjective and objective assessments will usually give me all the answers I need before I begin an exercise program with any client.
FA: You’re currently working a full time job, working towards your NASM certification, going to the gym almost everyday and running this business all at the same time, where do you find the time?
DG: You find time, period. Priorities is the only thing that comes to mind. When you come home from work, do you sit on the couch and binge watch Netflix all night or do you work on your business? When your friends or co-workers are out on weekends and invite you, are you able to separate yourself and work on your business? When everybody is having fun, you’re putting in work. Entrepreneurship can be lonely but the rewards down the road are 100 times sweeter than the temporary satisfaction you can get from spending a night out with your friends. Don’t get me wrong though, I do find time to relax and enjoy myself but it’s all about balance. I have a rock hard belief that I will be ultra successful one day; as long as I can keep my eyes on the prize, I’ll be good.
FA: Obviously CityinThree aims to shed light on the artists and influencers of Ottawa, so what role would you say being based in Ottawa plays on your business? (Are you looking to grow here or move elsewhere? Do you see the potential to run a successful gym business here?)
DG: You see, this is the beauty of running an online business compared to owning a gym. I am not tied to a physical location, free to go where ever I want to go at anytime and continue to grow my business. I’d like to think that I’ll move out of Ottawa one day but who knows, I might establish myself in the city and make a decent living for myself. I dream of opening a performance training facility one day and Ottawa might be the place where this happens.
FA: Ottawa is known for having limited access to certain things (such as courses, warehouses, space, clientele, etc.) that places like Toronto and Montreal have, would you say that has impeded your ability to warrant success in any way?
DG: No, not at all, these geographical factors do not apply to me. Because my business is based on the internet, I can reach anybody in the world. Platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook ads and email marketing are powerful tools to grow your business if you learn to use them the right way. Being based in Ottawa is not directly affecting my business.
FA: Five years from now, where will you and The Force Academy be?
DG: In 5 years? Who knows? I hope The Force Academy can take me places I’ve never imagined. My long term plan is to have an automated business model providing training and nutrition solutions to thousands across the world, seeking to transform their bodies, mind and ultimately become better versions of themselves. Hopefully I will still be healthy, form strong bonds & friendships along the way and be genuinely happy,
CityinThree would like to thank Daniel for getting this amazing opportunity to sit down with him. Daniel is well on his way to success so we are grateful to know that we were his first ever interview before many to come!
If you'd like to get in touch with Daniel, his information is the following:
September 10, 2018
August 17, 2018