Business by Jake
by Ronald Sklar
“I’m looking for a kick-ass idea,” says Jake Steinfeld, of the “Body by Jake” fitness empire. “I’m looking for someone with a boatload of passion, and a ‘don’t quit’ attitude. It doesn’t need to be a zillion dollar idea – no one comes up with a zillion dollar idea on Monday and by Thursday it’s worth a zillion dollars.”
This isn’t just motivational happy talk. Steinfeld means business. As part of a promotion for his new book, I’ve Seen a Lot Of Famous People Naked, and They’ve Got Nothing On You! (yes, more about that title later, I promise), Steinfeld is offering up an unusual contest – actually a first in the history of publishing. The winner of what Steinfeld deems to be the most “amazing” business idea will win $200,000 in cash to start up that business. Other fabulous prizes, such as an airline credit card worth $50,000 and ten hours of flight time, are included. Not a bad deal.
“I want to reach out to everybody who has an idea,” he says. “I want to reach out to everybody who has a dream, and just doesn’t know how to get started. Because I think that this book will be a firestarter for people. What I want to do with this book is motivate you. I want you to finish this book and say, ‘Jeez, if that guy Jake can do it, I can do it.’”
His new book explains – in “regular guy” language – how to apply practical “street smarts” to the often illogical and intimidating world of entrepreneurial pursuits, with an emphasis on creating an effective business plan. He also tells you how turning your business dream into a reality – and becoming self-made – are largely a matter of psychological fine-tuning. Steinfeld, who chiseled a modest personal training business into a worldwide, multi-million dollar licensing and communications company, should know what to look for.
“Business is basic,” he says. “What happens to people is that they overthink. They overanalyze. What ends up happening is that you paralyze yourself and you never make the move. I was in Toronto doing a radio show, and I said, ‘if you don’t like the job you are currently doing, give me a call.’ And the phones blew up. Blew up! I’m sure you sit around with your friends and someone says, ‘I have an idea for a new business.’ You lie in bed and think about this idea and you get so excited about how you are going to execute this idea. Then you’ll wake up in the morning – still pretty pumped – and you’ll make your coffee and read the paper you start thinking of the 3500 reasons why you can’t do it – jeez, I got a job, I got my kids, I got a wife, I go to school, I never put a business plan together. And then what happens? You say to yourself, screw it, man. I have no time for this. Before you walk out the door, you didn’t even give yourself a shot to succeed.”
Which brings us to the intriguing title. Steinfeld explains, “I have seen a lot of famous people naked – obviously not physically naked. I was able to hang with these people – whether it be Steven Spielberg or Harrison Ford or Priscilla Presley or Bette Midler – and go to their homes. I grew up on Long Island, watching these people in the movies, thinking, ‘wow, these people must be so different than me.’ And then here I was, hanging with them, and I’m thinking, they’re not seven-feet-ten with magical powers. The lesson that I learned is that they’re just like us. The only difference is that they had a dream and they never quit on their dream and they never took no for an answer. That gave me all the incentive in the world to say to myself, ‘I may never direct E.T., but I’m going to have my own successes in life. That’s really the fabric of the book and the basis of the title.”
Some heavy hitters believe in him as much as he believes in himself. Steven Spielberg writes a touching forward to the book (“He’s been my big brother since 1982,” Steinfeld says. “We became fast friends.”). A few other players have some kind words for the work, including fashion designers Tommy Hilfiger and Christina Ferrare, as well as the chairmen of the 24 Hour Fitness chain and Warrior LaCrosse (Steinfeld is an investor in a professional lacrosse league – he has a life-long passion for the sport.).
“Life is all about moments,” Steinfeld says, reflecting on his fairy-tale-like rise to the top. “My dad bought me a set of weights when I was fourteen-years old and it changed my life. Lifting weights not only built my body but it also built my self-esteem and confidence. Eventually, I was in the right place at the right time. I was living in LA. An actress was getting ready to do a Club Med commercial, around 1980-81. She was very well connected in Hollywood. I started going to her house at the time that Jane Fonda was doing those two-and-a-half-hour high-impact aerobic classes. Mine was always a thirty-minute routine, man. I just loved to get in and get out. Combine the cardio with the muscular workout. This actress needed a little motivation and a little confidence to put on that bikini in front of a hundred people.”
This actress, who shall remain nameless – talked up Steinfeld’s personable but no-bullshit approach to getting into shape. The word got around – from Warren Beatty to Spielberg – and he was off and running. By 1993, he launched Fit TV, the first 24-hour fitness lifestyle network (which he later sold to Fox).
He says, “I had gone from my parents house in Baldwin, Long Island to LA and I had never listed my number. And in Hollywood, when people can’t get a hold of you, they seem to want you more! I became famous by association!”
He speaks of his humble beginnings in a powerfully inspirational way. “I specifically remember taking a speech class in college – you had to as a freshman – and I was petrified,” he recalls. “I couldn’t get up in front of 26 kids and give a speech. You gotta put yourself in situations that are uncomfortable to make yourself comfortable. You just gotta keep pushing, whether it’s in the gym, in business, or in a relationship. If it were easy, everybody would do it.”
So are we all ready to get started with our business plans? First, we may need a little motivational push from Jake.
He says, “I just think it’s all about using your gut. I’m a big believer in understanding people. Putting a team together. People that you trust. Before your business has any legs – before your product sees the light of day – you are your own product. You are the brand. You are the guy who is going to raise the dough, who is going to hire people. You have to sell yourself, to be able to bring people into your little group, whether it be an accountant or a finance person or even the person to run the business. One thing I’ve always understood in my life is that I know what I’m good at and I know what I’m not good at. I understand that I’m not a math guy. I’m not a finance major. Sometimes what happens with entrepreneurs is that they tend to think that they can do everything. And that’s where they get into trouble.”
Reading this book is another good step in the right direction – and the deadline for your business idea is January 31, 2006. And Steinfeld urges you to give it a shot, even if you don’t win: “I can only pick one person to win, but if I can inspire you to put your dream down on paper, that will be the impetus for you to say, ‘holy shit, man, I can read this.’ When you put something down on a piece of paper, it is the closest step to reality, because when you’re dreaming about stuff, you’re just dreaming about it. But when it’s down on paper and you can read it and you can put it on your desk, you can say, ‘I got it. It’s in my hands.’”
A boatload of entries is already in Steinfeld’s hands. He says, “We have over a thousand essays already. For instance, a woman from Compton, California has five kids, works two jobs and has this cookie recipe and wants to be the next Mrs. Fields. I think that’s awesome. It’s kind of like the Willy Wonka golden ticket thing. There’s going to be ten tickets instead of five. I don’t take any part of your business. I don’t want any part of your business. The idea of being a street smart entrepreneur is to be able to give back. To be able to give somebody else a shot.”
The American Dream, according to Jake, is to have and to own your own dream. He says, “It’s to be able to do what you want, when you want, and with who you want and how you want to do it.”
So, as the highly motivated people say, just do it.
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Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 20, 2005.