Small Biz Success Story - JVB Fitness & Nutrition

By Stefanie Neyland, Small Business Content Developer at

In honour of national Small Business Week (October 20-26, 2013), we’re sharing the startup stories of five Canadian small business owners. In our fourth instalment we speak to Jennifer Van Barneveld, founder of JVB Fitness and Nutrition, and find out how she turned her passion for fitness into healthy profits.


We all know how important it is to practice what you preach, but few people actually apply this maxim to all of their endeavours. That’s where Jennifer Van Barneveld (a.k.a. ‘Coach JVB’) breaks the mould. She understands the importance of living by the principles she teaches more than most, and it’s her genuine passion and zeal for living a healthy, nutritious and wholesome lifestyle that makes her stand out from others in her field.

Since launching her business—JVB Fitness and Nutrition—Jennifer has quickly established herself as somewhat of a powerhouse in the health and fitness industry; and as her client base grows, so too does her notoriety. So how did she do it? And to what does she credit her success? Today, we sit down with her to find out.


So Jennifer, tell us about your business...

Jennifer: I'm known as ‘Coach JVB’, and my company is called JVB Fitness and Nutrition. I work as a diet coach and online trainer, helping female clients get into the best shape of their lives by providing customized training and nutrition programs.


How did you come up with your business idea?  What inspired you?

Jennifer: I have to give credit for the initial business idea to my husband, who also happens to be my business partner. A few years back I was working as a diet coach and trainer consultant for several major diet companies, and I quickly found that when you’re working with clients so closely, helping them reach their goals and fulfill their dreams, a special bond is formed. My husband was the one who convinced me that I can provide help to more people by running my own business, and the rest is history!


How did you capitalize on the opportunity?

Jennifer: I capitalized on the opportunity by chatting with an industry leader in the field of diet coaching, and then I just went for it. I knew it was the direction I wanted to take my life in, and I just needed some advice from someone that who had already travelled down the road I wanted to go. Without my mentor, I wouldn't have been able to flourish or grow my business in the way I have. So much of what I have accomplished within my business is really because of some of the groundwork my mentor provided. Even a coach needs a coach!


How long have you been in business?

Jennifer: I’ve been in business for two wonderful and unforgettable years, working with some of the most remarkable people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting—my clients.


Who is your ideal customer?

Jennifer: My ideal customer is a woman who’s committed to her goals and open minded to change and adopting new habits; someone that’s ready to fully embrace health and fitness into their lifestyle. The most rewarding thing for me is when a client tells me how much their life has changed by making simple—and fun—adjustments to their lives that they will continue with in future, and even pass on to their family.


What makes your business different? What benefits do you offer your customers?

Jennifer: That's a great question, and one I’m not exactly sure how to answer. There are so many great coaches out there so I'm not sure how I differ from them, but the one thing I really do pride myself on is the passion I have for my work. I love what I do and the people I get to work with, and I would hate to be away from all of the energy and positivity I get from working with them. Every day I look forward to hearing about their progress, their personal growth, and everything else they have to say.


How did you raise money to start your business?

Jennifer: I took the plunge by quitting my job, and then poured all of my money and resources into the business to get it off the ground. I went 24/7 with the company right off the bat. It was a risky move and I don't recommend it for everyone, but if you're passionate (and I mean really passionate) about something, then the leap of faith is worth the risk.


What do you love about being a small business owner?

Jennifer: I'm certainly thankful for my business, but what I love the most about it is the journey I took to build it, and the path I continue to take as I grow it. Appreciation comes from knowing how much blood, sweat, and tears you poured into something and seeing it cultivate into your dream. That is definitely what I love the most about owning a small business.


What do you dislike about being a small business owner?

Jennifer: So far I wouldn’t say there’s anything I dislike about being a small business owner. From the "big picture" planning to the legal paperwork and all the way down to the bookkeeping—I love learning all of the little (and big) details. What can be scary is the thought of expanding the business and covering unchartered territory, but I think I'm ready for the challenge.


How does Staples make running your business easy?

Jennifer: I’m lucky to work with many clients on a daily basis, so my days are really spend following-up, planning and tracking. My home office is furnished with Staples products from top to bottom, and all the products and tools I have help me stay organized and on top of my work. I live by the motto ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’, and Staples definitely helps me with the planning aspect of my business.


Name your Staples 'staple'...

Jennifer: My Staples staples are my two whiteboards that hang side by side beside my computer. They allow me to analyze my business, track metrics and peak weeks, and keep me organized and on top of my daily work schedule. There’s nothing more beneficial to me than having the ability to write out everything I do, in a multitude of colours, and have it visually displayed right out in front of me. In fact, I think I'm going to be needing a third whiteboard soon!


What has made your business a success?

Jennifer: Without a doubt, my business is only a success because of my wonderful clients—each and every one of them. Without them I don’t learn, and without them I can't get better. Without them there really is no growth or future. I view my clients as part of my business team.


What lessons have you learned being a small business owner?

Jennifer: The most important thing I’ve learned as a small business owner is learning to value the brand that I’ve built. A few years ago, my goal was to partner up with other successful businesses or look for a sponsorship deal so I could represent a company. Over time, I came to realize that the most important thing is having your own brand. Once you've really accomplished something, opportunities will always come up, and you become very selective about how you extend your business venture.


If there was one thing you could do differently, what would it be?  

Jennifer: I would have believed in myself sooner, and started my business earlier. Other than that, there isn't anything I would have done differently. Every obstacle or setback I've encountered has proved to be a learning curve for me, so I really don't regret anything in my business. In fact, one of the things I always preach to my clients is to ‘correct and continue’— when they fall off track with their plan, I encourage them to every misstep as a learning opportunity. Don't dwell on a setback, just move on and do better next time.


What are your business goals for the future?

Jennifer: I hope to continue growing my business and reaching (and helping) more and more people, as well as tapping into different markets. At some point I plan to expand and offer other fitness and nutrition products and services that are aligned with my vision.


What advice would you give to somebody that wants to start their own business?

Jennifer: Be patient! That’s the best advice I could give to someone that’s looking to start their own business. Building a recognizable brand takes time and a whole lot of persistence.

By Andrew Patricio

October 24, 2013