Rays Athletics is a unisex clothing brand that was founded by myself, Raytomar Stewart in early 2021. This online store features an abundance of fitness attire, including but not limited to tops, bottoms and sneakers. As an athlete, my inspiration to begin my own fitness store stemmed from my athletic history as well as my own fitness journey. Growing up, I was a competitive sprinter on my uncle’s track and field team, but my true passion was for football. Football has been my passion since an early age; it has been a major part of my life. I played football in middle school, high school, college and even joined a semi-professional football league for 3 years following my college playing time. The end goal for me was to make it to the pros, but as well all know how life goes, there were quite a few setbacks I encountered along the way. One of these setbacks included tearing my Achilles tendon, ending my football dreams forever. Being that I played football for multiple years back to back, I am grateful that my athlete mentality has stuck with me as I’ve said goodbye to football. Aside from football, I have always been into fitness, whether that be working out in the gym, picking up some outdoor activities or participating in recreational sports. These experiences lead me to want more in the sport and fitness industry, sitting back and watching wasn’t enough. I decided to dabble in some potential career options that pertained to the sports and fitness industry. I started off as a part time physical therapy assistant, and when I felt that I was ready for more, I obtained a job as an assistant football coach. Being able to apply these jobs to my resume has definitely been an accomplishment of mine, but I still wasn’t satisfied. I decided to further my education, and a few years down the line, I graduated from Lehman College with my Bachelors in Exercise Science. Through this degree, I studied hard and a few months later was able to obtain my Strength and Conditioning Coach certification. This brings us to current day today, where I am now employed at Equinox as a Tier III personal trainer. I feel that it is hard for me to explain why I began Rays Athletics without explaining my background afore. After the Covid-19 outbreak, my idea sparked to begin my clothing company. Employment as a personal trainer was hard for me, most gyms were shut down and everyone was being forced to exercise at home, sparking my fitness clothing idea. Around this time, I also started my own private personal training business, where I offered 1:1 online coaching for high school athletes and athletes looking to increase their skills for the upcoming sport season.
Getting a business up and running is one thing; keeping it up and running is another. What people fail to realize is the time, research and education that it takes to build your own business and brand. Because the fitness industry is so popular and has such a high demand for products, business can either soar, or it can crash and plummet. In order to combat such a fluctuating market, I had to ask myself, what does my company offer that separates it from the competition? In order to answer this question appropriately, I had to first figure out what my niche was going to be that would allow my company as a whole to stand out. This was probably my most challenging task. This was a trial and error process, week by week I would implement an idea try to find a way to draw attention to it. After multiple long weeks of this trial and error process, I was finally able to figure out which products were of high sale volume and value to the public. When I felt that I had it all figured out, I increased the quantity of those products in order to prevent items of high demand selling out. This however, only allowed me to understand that the sustainability and consistency of a product is only temporary, and although I increased the volume on a certain product to increase the sales, that product was not going to be in high demand forever. This then lead me to another challenge that included finding a way to market my products to the right customers.
Finding the right customers and understanding that running a business involves a lot of unforeseen expenses was my next challenge faced. Fitness is so imperative to our health that it makes it hard to market to a specific group of customers because fitness can apply to any and every one. When I was finally able to figure out my target audience, it was slightly easier for me to put together products that I knew would draw their attention. This involved a lot of research, including researching my competitors’ products and their targeted customers, following the algorithm of social media and finding the new and upcoming trendy products to offer. Thankfully, I came to the realization that social media was going to have to be my best friend. The pandemic was a lot of small creator’s time to put themselves out there and show what they have to offer. Everyone was quarantined, forced to stay home, and always on social media. I saw this as a perfect way for myself to gain exposure. I paid an immense amount of attention to what people were doing, what kind of clothing they were ordering, and what kind of equipment they enjoyed using. After many weeks of researching and digging, I finally felt I had what it took to build my store and market it to the appropriate audience. I began with something simple, wearing the clothing that I planned on offering, and posting myself in it on social media. Like the domino effect, this worked out to my benefit because people on social media began liking and commenting on my posts in which I was wearing products from my store.
Aside from challenges, there were many opportunities for myself and my company as well. A major opportunity that allowed me to take off with my company was understanding promotions on social media. I saw this as an excellent opportunity to market my products and further my reach on social media. I would post training videos of me training my clients while I was wearing my attire, the key here was that I would tag my products. I promoted the saying “look good, feel good” often, which also allowed my posts to gain attention. This encouraged my clients to even begin purchasing products from my company, and you know how word of mouth travels. A perk of this that I realized a little later down the line was that having my clients purchase my products and point others in my directions also allowed my personal training business to expand.
Advice that I can offer to all the new business owners out there is to not let your foot off the throttle. Just like driving a car, when you’re driving in the slow lane, you still have the opportunity to switch lanes and drive a little faster, a different route but leading to the same destination. Running a business takes a lot of hard work, dedication, sacrifice and patience. There are always going to be a multitude of setbacks sent your way, but it’s the perseverance and drive you must possess that allows you to prosper. Another large piece of advice I want to offer is to be content, but to never be satisfied. Learn how to be humble, practice and implement humility, the journey is always going to be a learning experience. Don’t see the setbacks so much as a loss, but more as a lesson learned and a new path opening. Take what you learned, rationalize it and move on, there is always more to offer and always more to learn, growth is never ending. Former New England Patriots and current Quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tom Brady, is considered the greatest quarterback of all time. He has 7 super bowl rings, and he will retire with the record of the most super bowl rings. To everyone, he has nothing else to prove because he has accomplished everything he needed in his NFL career. When he is asked, “which super bowl ring is his favorite?” His responds with, “The next one.”
Tom Brady has proven that he can always perform and achieve more, the sky is the limit. This is the same mindset that business owners should obtain.
Rays Athletics is still up and running, it is still facing challenges, still welcoming new opportunities, and as a whole, it is still slowly growing. Each and every day I am brainstorming what more can I offer to expand my reach. If interested, my store can be reached by searching the URL www.raysathletics.com. Products can also be found and purchase through my Instagram account, official_raystewart9.