Local entrepreneur shares her experience as a black woman in the fitness industry

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HAMPTON, Virginia – As a Division I track athlete with a sports medicine degree from Boston University, Susan Ottey knew she had a calling to share her knowledge.

“You know, seeing my friends on Facebook and seeing the health issues they were facing… we missed so much,” said the Norfolk native. “There was so much misinformation or just misinformation out there.”

Ottey decided to open his own gym in downtown Hampton in 2017. Better bodies 757 has only grown since, moving already once.

According to a to study released earlier this year, Ottey is part of a larger movement of black female entrepreneurs. A survey of 12,000 people found that 17% of black women run their own businesses, more than any other gender, black or white.

Ottey tells News 3 that his trip has not been easy.

“I really feel like my voice is not being heard. I think I had to do more to get the attention of the city,” she said.

But with persistence came success, with a lot of help from social media.

“I took a marketing class (online), a marketing class in a gym and it just taught me how to run ads on Facebook and Instagram, then, and even now, that’s how I get the majority of my leads. I did a really good job of figuring out who my target audience is, ”Ottey said.

It turns out that this audience is largely made up of other black women, who Ottey says don’t feel comfortable working out in typical gyms. That’s why, aside from men’s personal training sessions, Better Bodies 757 is a ladies-only facility.

“We actually show black women in our ads. We show a safe space. They see each other and that’s why they come here,” she said. “We want to see another woman who looks like us, who is still healthy and fit.”

Next on Ottey’s list of goals is the opening of a second location on Little Creek Road in his native Norfolk.

A crowdfunding campaign is already in place to help raise capital and expand its efforts to help women find health and happiness.


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