Erica Webster of Dub FitnessPeter Gravinese

When Erica Webster tells you to drop and give her twenty, you don’t think twice.

The Army veteran and fitness professional formerly worked at the only Department of Defense maximum security prison as a member of the U.S. Military Police.

Can your personal trainer say that?

Erica Webster, military veteran and CEO of Dub Fitness.Peter Gravinese

Erica is the Founder and CEO of Dub Fitness, LLC. Business owners with military experience like Erica approach entrepreneurship differently. Like many tough-as-nails “vetrepreneurs” I work with and fund through StreetShares, Erica has drawn inspiration (both good and bad) from her military experiences.

“I had to settle down a bit,” Erica shares. “I exited the military and was used to dealing with prisoners. I’d yell, ‘Why are you not sprinting?’ I was still in Staff Sergeant mode.” That didn’t work with her clients at her all-women gym in Philadelphia.

But Erica didn’t lose touch with what made her tough. Erica’s greatest strengths as a business owner are rooted in her time in the military.

She applies her grit, training, discipline, and military experience at Dub Fitness to help shape the lives of her clients, and she successfully incorporates the military culture of teamwork with a shared mission.

“After leaving the Army I felt a void that was small, but present,” she describes. “After eight years of dedicating myself to serving the country, I was a civilian again, and it felt like something was missing.”

That missing element was a sense of service.

Erica shifted her focus to the community and found her calling. “What I had to offer was a knowledge of how the body works and how to make our bodies work for us. I had a unique perspective to offer in terms of my training, steadfastness, and determination that are drilled into you as a service woman.”

Erica’s new mission: To empower women to live a healthy and full life.

Dub Fitness (named for the first initial of her last name), launched in 2014 and now employs four certified trainers and a physical therapist. It offers four different classes of group training per day, six days a week. 80% of the classes are made up of contracted members while 20% are comprised of drop-ins.

Erica focuses on group fitness, race training, run clinics and yoga with a twist. “One of my classes was military-themed. I called cadence and my members loved it.”

Erica believes that her unique client-centric focus has elevated Dub Fitness from a business to a family.

Her gym is the three-time winner of the Best Group Fitness in Philadelphia and Montgomery County. Leading up to the award ceremonies, Erica led a 30-day “Little Black Dress” challenge. She shares, “We worked hard on our arms and backs to prove why we’re the best gym.” And yes, her members walked the red carpet with her.

It doesn’t stop there. Erica and her members give back to the community as a team. “If I tell them that I’m going to do an 18-mile ruck march for a nonprofit, they ask ‘Can we do it too and can we make t-shirts?’”

Erica’s daily mantra is “Rise and Dominate.” Her strength, determination, discipline and authenticity empower her to do just that.

I spoke with Erica who shared these lessons acquired as a veteran in the entrepreneurial space.

Lesson #1: Be A Leader Without Rank

“Being in the military teaches you how to both follow and lead,” Erica said. “But there was a rank system to make it clear.” In civilian life as an entrepreneur, Erica could not rely on rank.

Erica had to adjust her tone and approach. “I have learned after injecting myself back into civilian life, that the directness that brought respect and honor in the military is not what works when dealing with clients,” Erica said.

So, Erica tried a new approach. “I learned and adjusted. It became my philosophy that compassion does not equate to weakness. I had to learn to manage my business and the people that come with it with a strong, but soft touch,” Erica explained.

Erica also learned to lead through results. “It takes a special kind of leadership style where people choose to follow you and want to be like you,” Erica said. “So I focus on results. If you leave Dub Fitness and you’re loving the way you look and feel, and you don’t worry about what anyone else thinks of you, then my job is done.”

Erica Webster of Dub FitnessPeter Gravinese

Lesson #2: Embrace the Risks

While military serviced posed physical risks, it also provided Erica a level of psychological security. “It offered the luxury of having defined goals and expectations set for me,” Erica said. “It is safe to say that military life offers a more even-keeled and defined set of expectations, whereas in the business world, expectations can change with each endeavor.”

When Erica willingly gave up the even-keeled life when she became an entrepreneur. To survive, she had to embrace the risks. And she did so alone.

“The business world offers a palpable fear of failure as there is no safety net in place, no superior to tell you ‘great job,’ no quick-response forces, squads or wingmen,” Erica added. “It’s just me out there hoping to be accepted and valued for what I bring to the table.”

Despite the loneliness, Erica found the extremes of entrepreneurship thrilling. “The rewards of entrepreneurship are more euphoric, but the failures are more crushing.”

Lesson #3: Be Vulnerable and Leverage Uniqueness

“When my members walk into Dub Fitness, they see a sign that reads, ‘You just did the hard part, we’ll take it from here,'” Erica said. 

Erica’s intention is to build a family atmosphere wherein the successes, pain, and sometimes the failures and shortcomings of both clients and her are on full display. With that exposure, she humanizes each participate, client and coach alike, as they hold each other up when necessary and cheer each other on.

“If a woman is struggling to do her last v-up, I get down beside her for encouragement,” Erica adds. “What’s even more incredible is that five other women will get down beside her too, and I don’t even have to ask.”

Dub Fitness is building so much more than muscle. It’s not just physical fitness, it’s mental fitness. “I provide an outlet for women who feel disconnected from their life. We’ll stay after class for hours talking about personal things,” Erica said. “This is why I keep a bottle of wine in the fridge at the gym.” 

Erica’s women-only approach is unique and risky. “I know that some people say that by making my gym open to just women, it’s like leaving money on the table,” Erica adds. “But as I tell my husband, I also get paid in emotions. We’re taking care of each other, because if we don’t, then who will?”

This sense of vulnerability and community makes Dub Fitness unique, a fact Erica has leveraged to meet her business goals as well. 

Strengthening the Mind and Body

What’s next for Erica and Dub Fitness? In addition to classes, clinics and challenges, she is making public speaking appearances and offering seminars at her gym.

She shares, “We recently hosted a seminar called ‘Making You a Priority’ and I’m offering a ‘Body Image’ seminar to members’ kids and teens.” Erica hopes to reduce bullying and eating disorders by delivering body-positive messages.

Have you applied the military principles of discipline, teamwork and a shared mission to your business? Tell us how in the comments. 

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