(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another article in a periodic series spotlighting entrepreneurs who are participating in the inaugural cohort of the Bunker Labs Knoxville Chapter’s “Veterans in Residence” program. On June 1, the Knoxville participants will join those from 22 other cities for a nationwide “Bunker Labs’ Veterans in Residence Showcase.” The local event will be held at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center beginning at 5:30 p.m. To register, click here.)
Unlike several of the participants in the inaugural cohort of the Knoxville edition of Bunker Labs’ “Veterans in Residence” (VIR) program, Stephen Manners did not recently relocate to the region. He grew-up in the Knoxville area where he had a very active childhood, competing about 50 weekends a year in motocross racing from a young age through high school.
That competitive spirit served him well during his six years in the U.S. Army where he was a Special Forces Engineer Sergeant assigned to 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell. Much of his work centered around being “a teacher by training.” When Manners separated from the military in 2018, he had earned the prestigious distinction of being a Green Beret and left with a personal goal to “serve others and be my own boss.”
Now, almost four years after leaving the service and following several years of preparing himself with online education and in person experience, Manners and Bridget Reymond, his fiancée, have launched their own business focused on nutrition coaching and helping people create a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable.
“We call it Forever Fit Coaching, because it’s a lifestyle change,” he says.
The two business partners met when they worked at nearby retail stores in Downtown Knoxville. Reymond was the owner at Eddie’s Health Shoppe on Union Avenue, a family-owned business, and Manners was managing The Tree & Vine retail store, also on Union Avenue. Immediately after earning his Associate of Science degree in Exercise Science and Personal Training from Lionel University, he left the retail business and began working as a Coach and Personal Trainer at South Landing Fitness before starting Forever Fit Coaching in January.
“Someone’s personal fitness is a great preventative medicine,” Manners says. “We help people establish a healthy baseline. We help men and women improve their quality of life through more confidence and strength,” adding that sometimes the smallest change can have the greatest impact.
“Our workouts are tailored strength training to build muscle, because more muscle burns more calories,” Manners explains.
Forever Fit utilizes two apps – one that tracks nutrition and another that provides the custom workouts and are viewed on a mobile device. Clients can submit videos of themselves performing exercises and receive direct feedback from their coaches.
“Our workouts are tailored to the individual,” he says. “We help runners become durable, busy moms regain their energy, and laser focused professionals take their body back.”
The Forever Fit package includes:
- An initial Bod Pod test and consultation (or phone consult if the individual is not located in Knoxville).
- Custom nutrition info including macros, sample days of eating, and education, all included in a more than 40 page PDF delivered to the client.
- A training plan customized to the individual’s goals in the Forever Fit app where the client can track weights and view video demos for all exercises.
- Access to a Google Classroom where clients can receive education on nutrition and training from Manners and Reymond.
- Weekly online check-ins and direct access to your coaches.
- A private telegram group with Forever Fit clients and coaches allowing clients to check in with others, join the conversation, share and receive recipes, and be encouraged because they’re not alone.
- A Facebook group community with posts on nutrition, training, motivation, life hacks, and other items.
Manners says the start-up’s growth since launching at the beginning of 2022 has been good, and the response locally has been huge. His initial goal is to serve 100 in the next few months, and he’s seen great value in being part of the Bunker Labs VIR program.
“A big draw was to a network of like-minded individuals . . . veterans,” he said, specifically mentioning their “support and as a sounding board.” The timing was also great since the cohort started as Manners and Reymond were launching the business. He’s particularly hoping to benefit from the VIR in areas like marketing, sales, storyboarding, and social media.
At this stage, his message is pretty concise as you might expect of a veteran. Citing a deployment to Syria while in the Army, Manners says, “I was teaching locals how to take care of themselves,” adding, “That’s what I’m doing now with Forever Fit.”