For Derith Cass, owner of FIERCE by Choice, movement has always been something she’s loved. Her mother owned a community theater so she grew up in performing arts which gave her the opportunity to explore her passion. Derith danced from the time she was a young child until the age of about 11 and then did cheer leading, track, and other sports. Biomechanics had always fascinated her from the very beginning.
Derith’s love for movement brought her to Texas A&M to study kinesiology in college.
“Being a trainer and a coach was kind of like this perfect hybrid of a little bit of performing, a little bit of sharing and presenting with the benefit of the exercise and being able to help people.”
After receiving her first trainer certification in 1996, Derith began teaching aerobics. She describes the experience as “Like a fish to water; it was just something that felt so natural to me.”
Over the years, Derith went from group fitness to personal training, customizing workouts for clients based on their particular needs and wants. Then she went on to do leadership training where she trained fitness trainers and instructors, and that’s when it all clicked—Derith was finding new ways to exercise her passion and increase her impact.
“Instead of me just having my team, my tribe, my business, when you coach instructors or coaches, then they’re going back to all their businesses and coaching. I got to do all of these things: train coaches, train instructors, train clients, teach group fitness but on my own terms and I was like okay I’m done. This is where I want to stay and that slowly evolved into me creating my own business.”
Derith moved to Houston and decided to become an independent contractor, allowing her to offer all the services she had previously offered but individually to her clients and on her own terms. That’s when FIERCE by Choice was born.
Supporting Women through Big Changes
FIERCE serves a community of women who have focused on raising their children and are ready to prioritize themselves and their health now that those children are leaving the nest. It’s their time opportunity to find their confidence again and do what they want and need.
Derith’s clients are going through big life changes, they are looking to restore the connections that may have been lost or missed out on while they were raising their children. So FIERCE by Choice offers an opportunity for building friendships and that motivates them to come to class and live a fit, active and healthy lifestyle.
“What I found is that if we started with fitness, if we started with health and the physical piece of taking care of ourselves, then that was a confidence booster. That was an ‘oh I actually feel good in my skin’ now I have the ability mentally and physically to do the things I want to do and need to do to find that fulfillment piece that was missing.”
But “coming to class” is never the only option! Derith started FIERCE by choice as an online business, something that uniquely positioned her business to succeed when Covid-19 hit.
Growing a Brick and Mortar Fitness Business
In 2016 after relocating to Massachusetts, Derith faced the challenge of both transitioning to a physical gym and building her clientele after focusing on her online business for so long. While moving to a new area is exciting, it presents many challenges for someone opening a business with a physical location. She focused on connecting with local women in a genuine way by joining a local women’s running group and hosting a launch event. Before long, word of mouth grew, and so did FIERCE.
As word spread and the business grew, the private personal studio that housed FIERCE by Choice grew as well and Derith realized the space she was utilizing for the business was no longer serving her or the FIERCE community. Derith found a garage space to move the studio to, and although she was initially hesitant because of the drastic difference in look and atmosphere, Derith found the perfect new home. After the move, the FIERCE tribe almost quadrupled and the clientele adored the hip new location.
“It’s like FIERCE you can be feminine, you can feel sexy and all those things, but man you can lift some weight, and you can push yourself and you can challenge yourself. So the contrast of our brand and fierce and our message and the garage gym was like this serendipitous find.”
Making the switch to fitDEGREE
Having tried other studio management softwares in the past, Derith found that the business needed tracking and scheduling features. Initially, tracking was done manually and clients weren’t able to schedule for classes in advance. Managing everything manually wasn’t as easy as Derith anticipated, and it wasn’t the best experience for her members.
In addition to the personalization and customization of fitDEGREE, the quality customer service won Derith over. The fitDEGREE team eagerly answered every question she had regarding the software while she was determining if it was for FIERCE by Choice.
fitDEGREE offered both the tracking and scheduling Derith needed, as well as an easy and accessible app for clients. The one feature Derith had no idea she needed? Announcements. Since announcement notifications are sent directly to the phone, customers are constantly aware of what’s going on and this has caused event participation to increase at FIERCE.