Small Business Week: Local entrepreneur shares experience as Black woman in fitness industry

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Posted at 8:30 AM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 10:07:54-04

HAMPTON, Va. - As a Division I track athlete with a Sports Medicine degree from Boston University, Susan Ottey knew she had a calling to share her knowledge.

"You know, seeing my friends on Facebook and seeing the health issues that they were dealing with...we were missing so much," the Norfolk native said. "There was so much misinformation or just miseducation out there."

Ottey decided to open her own gym in Downtown Hampton in 2017. Better Bodies 757 has only grown since then, already moving locations once.

According to a study released earlier this year, Ottey is part of a larger movement of Black women entrepreneurs. A survey of 12,000 people found 17 percent of Black women run their own business, higher than any other gender, black or white.

Ottey tells News 3 her journey hasn't been easy.

"It really feels like my voice is not heard. I think I've had to do more to get the attention of the city," she said.

But with perseverance came success, with a lot of help from social media.

"I took one marketing course (online), one gym marketing course and it just taught me how to run Facebook and Instagram ads and then, and even now, that's how I get the majority of my leads. I've done a really good job of figuring out who my target audience is," said Ottey.

That audience, as it turns out, is largely made up of other Black women, who Ottey says in her experience don't feel comfortable working out in typical gyms. It's why, outside of personal training sessions for men, Better Bodies 757 is a women-only facility.

"We actually show Black women in our ads. We show a safe space. They see themselves and that's why they come here," she said. "We want to see another woman who looks like us, who is still out there being healthy and fit."

Next on Ottey's list of goals is opening a second location on Little Creek Road in her native Norfolk.

A crowdfunding campaign is already in place to help raise capital and expand her efforts to help women find health and happiness.