Tommy Saunders is serious about fitness — one glance at his eight-pack and pythons for arms makes that clear.
But the Kansas City entrepreneur is also serious about business, a fact he plans to prove as part of a reality-competition series debuting Tuesday on Spike TV.
A former University of Missouri football standout, Saunders recently returned from Los Angeles where he was filmed as part of Spike’s “Sweat Inc.,” which is hosted by celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels. The show pits 27 fitness entrepreneurs against one another to determine the best exercise program with the chance to win $100,000 and other prizes.
“It was like a business boot camp where not only did they critique you on your businesses but also on its fitness aspects,” Saunders said, adding that he spent about two months in Los Angeles as part of filming for the show. “It was a great experience. … There was good competition. One of the big things that they wanted to find with the show was something that could appeal to the masses.”
As part of the show, Saunders competed with two of his fitness systems: OmniBalls and the Rock 360. Starting at $70, OmniBalls are two handheld, weighted balls that can be attached to a user’s hands or feet to increase traditional strength training. The Rock 360 is an omni-directional abdominal roller, allowing a user to move with a 360-degree range of motion. The $60 device also allows users to clip on their phone to use the Rock 360 app during workouts.
Saunders, who offers fitness classes at One Life Fitness in downtown Kansas City, said Jillian Michaels lived up to her hardcore TV persona.
“Jillian was great — she was hard,” he said. “She definitely challenged you and gave some great criticism for me personally as far as changes she’d like to see in the program. It was great to work with her, ask her questions and pick her brain to get her raw opinion of my program.”
A Kearney, Mo., native, Saunders launched his first fitness product, the Rock 360, in 2013. He developed the prototype via funds from his grandmother and personal savings. Now two years and 40 trade shows later, Saunders has sold more than 2,500 units and is hoping Sweat Inc. will further boost sales.
“Just like in football, you’ve got to be coachable.” – Tommy Saunders
Saunders’ entrepreneurial journey has taught him many valuable lessons, including one that he also learned while playing with the Missouri Tigers and briefly with the Detroit Lions.
“Just like in football, you’ve got to be coachable,” Saunders said. “I think that in the beginning you don’t really know anything about business or a startup, so you have to network and meet as many people as you can that have done it before and that are willing to help you along the way and point you in the right direction. I felt like I was coachable while playing sports, but I’ve been really coachable and been a listener while trying to grow the business.”
Sweat Inc. premieres Oct. 20, 9 p.m. on Spike TV. Watch Jillian Michaels critique Saunders fitness systems here: