When Talent Meets Enthusiasm at the Intersection of Opportunity, Anything Is Possible
Matt Piva is the definition of low-key. He met me for a tour of his bustling warehouse in Vista wearing a black T-shirt, board shorts and black baseball cap. He introduced me to his wife and newborn son and made sure to introduce every member of his team by name (many of whom were brand new since the entire company was still less than a year old). He definitely looked more like a guy meeting up for lunch at Board and Brew and less like the owner of one of the most successful first-year companies in history. I quickly found out that rapidly beating underneath the surface of that surf tee was the heart of an industry-defining game changer who grew his business from concept to $100 million in the last 12 months. Best Workout Equipment
Jealousy’s favorite device is to find fault in someone else’s success. You hear things like “they were in the right place at the right time,” “it’s probably family money” or “I could have done that too, but…” In many cases, these critiques are fair. Many people achieve success on the backs of others. Piva, his partners and the talented group of directors he’s assembled at Tru Grit Fitness, however, are achieving success like it was a movie written for the big screen called The American Dream.
In 2020, when many of us were huddled in our homes literally and figuratively waiting for the sky to fall, Piva and long-time friend (and now CEO) Brandon Hearn were talking about a call Hearn had received.
The pandemic that forced us inside had also renewed interest in everything home fitness. Weights for the home were one of those items and were selling like a commodity at higher and higher prices almost daily as supplies ran low and interest spiked.
Best Buy wanted to sell weights on their website and, looking for a contract to source weights, had reached out to Hearn. He tried and failed to find a connection for them but in the process, realized that he did have connections in manufacturing. He reached out to those contacts and found a manufacturer that could make weights and fulfill orders.
Hearn (former president and senior director) and Piva (former marketing agency director) decided to go full force into the weight business. But how? They didn’t have any product, and they weren’t sure they had a customer to sell to. They also didn’t have a warehouse, an office or even a business name.
Wait—they did have a business name. Piva has always been a dreamer. He made a habit of “parking Ferraris in the garage” on his desktop. The Ferraris refer to business ideas not completely ready for prime time but complete with web addresses, trademarks, etc. that he would keep tucked away on his computer should an opportunity present itself. Piva told Hearn that he had a “parked” idea for a company he had used to make workout shirts for friends called Tru Grit. Piva said Hearn was shocked, but I want to picture more of a “the stars are aligning” look of opportunity on Hearn’s face.
Piva and Hearn engineered a one-page PDF with a list of nine products that they could source, and they then set up a call with Best Buy. On the call, they reviewed the products and BOOM—that’s when the miracle happened. Best Workout Equipment
Before hanging up the phone, Tru Grit had secured a purchase order from Best Buy for $1 million. Now, we didn’t personally witness the look they gave each other when they hung up the phone after securing $1 million on their first sales call, but we can easily imagine it.
They now had a million-dollar company.
*Phone rings again*
Not literally just then, but within a few weeks. This time, it was Target. I imagine the call went something like this:
Target: “Hey guys, we hear you can get us some weights?”
Piva and Hearn: “Ummmm is this like Target, Target?”
Target: “Who were you thinking? Yes, Target.”
Piva and Hearn: “Okay……”
Target: “Can you get us some weights or not?”
Piva and Hearn: “Yes how many do you need, we can get you what you need.”
Target: “How many can you make?”
Piva and Hearn: “We can make 500,000 in 45 days.”
Target: “We’ll take it.”
Piva and Hearn: “Take what?”
Target: “It all!” Best Workout Equipment
Two calls, two million-dollar sales. This one for $5 million. “We will send the PO (purchase order) right over,” they said.
I am sure the next time the phone rang, they both ran to pick it up.
While scrambling for capital partners Piva tracked down a mutual friend Jeff Bemis (former capital firm director); Jeff spent his entire career investing in distressed brands and flipping them into profitable ventures. Piva and Hearn convinced Bemis to join their team as an owner to help navigate the sea of capital partners and avoid typical financing pitfalls.
Locked and loaded with the dream team the trifecta set their sights on, they began expanding into other retail partners.
Soon after Bemis joined, guess who was on the line the next time? Walmart wanted in on the action and (not to be outdone) also gave them a PO for $30 million. Walmart loved that Tru Grit cared about the equipment they were producing––dumbbells with welded handles (not glued like everyone else), barbells with needle bearings and knurling in the right places and racks made out of 3”x3”x0.125” steel. Walmart realized that Piva and Hearn knew what quality equipment represented and placed a bet on some guys in Vista, CA.EXP 3/9
The story doesn’t end there.
Tru Grit placed the orders with their manufacturer, and once they had confirmed that the shipment was on its way, all of their contacts called to double their orders. They were well on their way to selling $100 million in their first 12 months.
*Mic drop* Best Workout Equipment
…or so many of you might imagine. But this company wasn’t satisfied. They wanted to dominate not just weights but fitness machines and free weights, runners and fan bikes as well. They were in the right place at the right time and were obviously the right people, but now they had an even greater opportunity. They could innovate and then dominate an entire market segment. One warehouse became two (and eventually five), two people became 25 and then 60. They are now not only building a company but a culture, adding industry stars to their marketing, operations and finance teams.
At one point in late 2019, Piva was ready to walk away from his marketing job. He had plans on selling his camera equipment and was looking for solid lifetime employment with a government agency. It’s safe to say, he won’t be needing that job. His story demonstrates the power of possibility for anyone at a crossroads in their life.
Be ready for change and always show Tru Grit.
Best Workout Equipment
Photography Provided By: Tru Grit Fitness
Erik Hale is the visionary and publisher behind LOCALE Magazine. He launched the magazine in 2010, wanting to give the community of OC a premiere lifestyle magazine that knew all the native knowledge behind OC. “Six years ago Ashley and I sat at a table scratching the name LOCALE (among some other names) onto a sheet of paper,” says Erik, “coming up with story ideas and basically dreaming. Everything we imagined has happened and we have been blessed with so much more. I am so grateful as we start another year for my family, my two wonderful children, my health, our amazing writers, designers and photographers, our advertising partners and you.”