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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 5, 2020 3 months ago

Scoring position: Ex-Rays player sets the stage for career transition

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All-Star outfielder Matt Joyce — a business book aficionado — takes a swing on entrepreneurship.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

With the COVID-19 crisis shutting down professional sports leagues indefinitely, Miami Marlins outfielder Matt Joyce, a 12-year MLB veteran, suddenly has a lot more time to work on his post-baseball business career. 

Joyce — a Brandon native who enjoyed some of the best years of his career with his hometown Tampa Bay Rays, earning a trip to the MLB All-Star Game in 2011 — has embarked on an entrepreneurial venture with his wife, Brittany, and business partner Blair Johnson. The trio have purchased the rights to five F45 Training franchises in the Tampa Bay region, starting with a facility that opened to the public, at reduced operating capacity because of the coronavirus pandemic, on May 23 in New Tampa. 

“F45 stands for functional 45 minutes,” Joyce says. “It’s a 45-minute, low-impact workout. It’s a high-intensity interval training program that's constantly changing.” 

“I didn't want to be another broke athlete. My family didn't come from money, so I wanted to be smart with my money.” Matt Joyce, Miami Marlins outfielder 

HIIT training, as it’s known, is one of the fastest-growing trends in fitness, with rival brands like Orange Theory and Mayweather Boxing + Fitness expanding rapidly as consumers shift away from big-box gyms to smaller, more specialized concepts that feature instructor-led group classes. F45, founded in 2012 in Australia, has grabbed a foothold in the U.S, and been embraced by celebrities including Mark Wahlberg and Mario Lopez.

On advantage for Joyce, who still plans to suit up for Miami whenever baseball resumes, is he's no stranger to business. He’s been a real estate investor for years, working primarily with Tampa-based Sight Real Estate and Development. “Mike is one of my best friends,” he says, referring to Sight President Michael Mincberg. “I talk to him all the time. We have quarterly reviews of the real estate market and what's going on. He's really good about keeping me up to date. Real estate is just one of the best investments you can make.” 

Joyce, who began his career in 2006 in the Detroit Tigers farm system, recalls “12-hour bus rides” during which he would read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and other influential business books. 

“I didn't want to be another broke athlete,” Joyce says. “My family didn't come from money, so I wanted to be smart with my money.”

Matt Joyce spent some of the best seasons of his career with the Tampa Bay Rays, earning selection to the Major League Baseball All-Star team in 2011. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Keith Allison.

The sports shutdown has given Joyce, 35, a golden opportunity to focus on what comes next in his career. “As you get a little bit older, as a player,” he says, “you start to see that light at the end of the tunnel, and you have to plan and strategize for what the next step is going to look like.”

Opening a fitness franchise in the middle of a pandemic isn’t ideal. But Joyce says the timing couldn’t be helped — it’s the culmination of a long, painstaking process. 

“We got locked in” to the opening time frame, he explains. “We signed the franchise agreement in December 2018 then spent all of 2019 trying to find the right space, trying to negotiate a lease, and then you’re looking at three months for buildout. And you're working within a corporate franchise model, and they want things done their way. So that can sometimes push you back a little bit.” 

Despite having to operate at reduced capacity, Joyce is optimistic about his business prospects. Founding memberships start at $129 per month, and he says the New Tampa F45 Training location was “packed out” during the weekend of its soft opening. So much so that he had to add an additional class session on the following Monday. 

There are some 800 locations in F45 network. Each F45 location costs between $350,000 and $360,000, which includes the franchise fee, equipment and construction, so Joyce has big financial expectations to meet. But he says he’s in it for the long haul and has placed his trust in Johnson, the trio’s managing partner, when baseball resumes.

“He works his butt off,” Joyce says of Johnson, “and my wife is heavily involved too. Knowing that I have them in my corner is great.” 

That’s one of the best lessons Joyce has learned in both baseball and business: “You have to have a really good team.” 

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