December 16, 2020 • By Sydney Charles
Zach Golden MBA ’12 knew he loved sports and fitness—but he didn’t know that this passion would drive his future as an entrepreneur and business owner.
When he received his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Sam Houston University, he was the first in his family to graduate from college.
“I didn’t grow up in a corporate-minded atmosphere,” he said. “I never grew up in an environment that pushed me to start a business. It was more of a traditional environment that you get a degree, get a stable job and start your family.”
Nevertheless, Golden left Texas to pursue new career opportunities and earn his MBA at the Paul Merage School of Business.
“I liked the smaller, more intimate class sizes and easy access to the professors,” explained Golden. “The faculty’s main focus was actually on the students and helping us gain knowledge.”
Golden also relished the opportunity to build connections and form close friendships at the Merage School.
He said: “I wasn’t from here. I didn’t have friends, family here or anybody. Because of that smaller campus feel, it was actually a very inviting campus. It was an easy way to hang out and interact with others, and I was able to develop a support group. It was very fulfilling.”
After a lay-off from a health and fitness company—Golden knew it was time to reevaluate what he wanted to do with his degree, career and future.
Growing up, he had always been interested in sports and fitness. Golden was in a constant rotation of team-building sports such as baseball, football, basketball and track and field. While he was unemployed, he continued his high-impact workout routine, but struggled to find the perfect workout.
“I had to ask myself: ‘what do I really want to do? Do I want to continue to do supply and demand, do I want to work in operations, should I try marketing?’” he said. “While I was unemployed, I realized that I liked the group atmosphere at the different gyms I went to, but I couldn’t find the workout or vibe I was looking for.”
Thus, Sanctuary Fitness was born. A combination of Golden’s passion for fitness and the business acumen and knowledge gained at the Merage School.
Sanctuary Fitness in Pasadena, CA.
“I am about people not putting limitations on themselves. I also love team-atmospheres, probably because of my background as an athlete, and I love people wanting to be healthy and live a better lifestyle,” he said. “While I was brainstorming for the business, that’s where all my MBA knowledge came into play. Things like forecasting, accounting, strategy, marketing and finance were all things I needed to create a successful business model.”
The company’s two guiding principles are the aspect of Kaizen –– a Japanese philosophy centered around small continuous improvement over time –– and balance.
“You don’t always have to have huge changes in jumps, it can be little incremental changes over time. That applies to fitness and health,” he explained. “With balance, you don’t have to starve yourself. You need balance in cardio, recovery and strength. Our class offerings and what we do in our programming reflect these aspects.”
Golden was able to launch the first Sanctuary Fitness Studio in Downtown Los Angeles in January 2017 and has since successfully opened a second studio in Pasadena in January 2019.
Navigating a small business during a global pandemic is innately challenging, but Golden has been able to remain afloat by staying flexible.
He explained, “We shifted to online and outdoor fitness classes and found that the outdoor fitness classes are in much higher demand than online options. This confirmed what we already knew - the core of our product offering isn't fitness. People crave human connection and experience. Our product is equal parts fitness, human connection and experience. That is why Sanctuary will survive this pandemic and continue to grow.”
Sanctuary Fitness will continue their expansion with a third studio opening in West Hollywood in January 2021.
To the future business owners and entrepreneurs at the Merage School, Golden stated the following:
“I would encourage people to form committees and create social functions. There’s little things that if you put in a little bit of effort to get to get to know people outside of the classroom, it’ll pay off in networking, connections and friendships.”