By Chris Olsen
At 40 years old, Ellen Latham was well established in her career managing health spas. She was good at her job, she’d been with the same company for a long time, and she had no plans to make changes anytime soon. And then life threw her a curveball—Ellen was unexpectedly fired. It was her lowest low. She hadn’t considered that possibility, so she had no idea what she’d do next. But as a single mom with a 9-year-old son, she knew she had to figure it out.
With no time to wallow, Ellen recalled a piece of advice her father—a physical education teacher and football coach—had given her many times before. He taught her “momentum shifting up,” which was to focus on what she had, rather than what she didn’t have. So Ellen turned her misfortune on its ear, focusing on the fact that she was certified to teach Pilates. She began hosting classes in a spare room in her home.
After a few months, Ellen’s Pilates classes had become so popular that she outgrew her makeshift studio. She decided to look for a commercial space. She also listened to clients who were telling her that while they loved how Pilates improved their flexibility, balance and muscle tone, they wanted their workout to include a metabolic component as well. Once again, Ellen focused on what she had, putting her formal education in physical education and physiology to good use to solve a problem. She set out to create a group metabolic workout program that people at all fitness levels could participate in and benefit from.
What she came up with morphed into what’s known today as the Orangetheory Workout. The training focuses on five heart rate zones and combines cardio and weights, which Ellen says provides the best metabolic workout you can get. High-energy instructors lead the workout and monitor participants’ heart rates, to help them acclimate to their conditioning levels. Orangetheory also utilizes equipment to help users achieve the power they’d get in a CrossFit class, but in a nonimpact way.
Today, Orangetheory Fitness is an international franchise with over 900 studios and 700,000 members in 16 countries. Ellen’s now-adult son has gotten in on the action as the owner/operator of two of the company’s most successful franchises. In 2017, Ellen’s company earned the No. 1 spot as the fastest-growing women-owned or -led business from the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and American Express. And this year, Orangetheory is on track to generate close to a billion dollars.
While she never imagined that getting fired from her job would result in one of the fastest-growing businesses in the United States, what motivates Ellen most is seeing firsthand how physical fitness improves overall well-being. She believes she’s found her true purpose in life—using her gifts to empower others to be the best version of themselves. “Knowing that I’ve had a positive effect on so many individuals is beyond anything I could ever desire to do in this world.”
To learn more about Ellen’s business, visit OrangetheoryFitness.com.
Photo: Ian Jacob Photography for Orangetheory Fitness
About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose”. Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support women-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story and Publish Her as platforms for doing so.