Founder of ConBody, Coss Marte, who is also a three-time felon, thought he had nothing but time until his life was on the line when he was serving a seven-year sentence in prison.
Marte was dangerously overweight. A prison doctor told Marte if he didn’t start working out and eating correctly, his high cholesterol and blood pressure would kill him within the next few years.
“I wasn’t going to die,” Marte told FOX Business. “That’s what motivated me to start moving. I began running laps around the prison yard and working out in my cell.”
Marte created a prison-style workout using just his body weight. He was committed for months right off the bat. And in 6 months, he lost 70-pounds. Years later, Coss Marte turned his intense “prison-style-workouts” into one of New York City’s in-demand fitness classes.
Marte said that growing his business was no easy task. “There was a lot of guerilla marketing. It was non-stop pitching. I first started training my mom and subsidized a little bit of my rental cost on her couch — she was my first paying customer. Then I started bringing in more friends, bringing in crowds from the park and charging a workout fee.”
With the help of Defy Ventures, a nonprofit that helps ex-inmates become entrepreneurs, Marte was able to launch his company in 2014 after winning the program’s “Shark Tank”- style pitch competition awarding him $100,000 to jumpstart his business.
“We started renting space in ballet studios and eventually this location in Manhattan’s Lower East Side,” Marte said.
“It was just me in the beginning. I was running the business with an iPhone 4, business cards and flyers,” he said. Now the brand is ready to go national. ConBody is working on opening 9 studios in the city and tristate area over the next 5 years followed by franchising across the country.
Marte is also committed to giving back to society and paying it forward. ConBody’s entire staff of trainers were formerly incarcerated. “I saw the pain of coming home from jail and people judging me on my past,” Marte said. “It was hard for me to escape that path. Nobody wanted to hire me. I went from store to store just trying to find a minimum wage job. They were facing the same obstacles as I did. I didn’t want them to feel so frustrated that they had to go back into the system, back into that world, where they once lived.”
And thanks to Marte, every ex-con that has worked for ConBody has not been put back behind bars. “We have a zero recidivism rate which is unheard of in any non-profit or for-profit business,” he said.