By Ashleigh Hollowell

Painted on the door of Matt Smith’s office at his Pueblo West Snap Fitness gym, is the quote: “An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down.” That is and has always been how he has lived as a business owner, he said.

Smith is a Pueblo native who graduated from East High School. He attended Colorado State University-Pueblo briefly before deciding college was not for him and diving headfirst into owning multiple local businesses. Smith is now raising his own two children in the same southern Colorado town in which he grew up.

In addition to owning and operating a handful of businesses, Smith also has a full-time job at the Denver Mattress Company as a store manager.

In 2017, one of the major businesses Smith owns, Snap Fitness, will undergo a $3 million expansion, but his business goals for 2017 don’t stop there.

How many businesses do you currently own and operate locally?

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Five: Snap Fitness; Pure Spa and Wellness; Mister Penguin Tuxedo Sales and Rentals; Pueblo’s Best Carpet Cleaning; and now we’re just expanding that to Pueblo’s Best Total Services. And then I do … real estate, and then I have a full-time job at Denver Mattress Company. I’m a store manager, I’ve been doing that for 18 years. I’ve been there since I was about 19. Then I started doing other things on the side and those have grown.

I’ve got two kids now, so the goal is to make everything work for me to retire and enjoy my life. I think that’s important.

How did you become interested in owning a business?

At 20 years old I bought a house and then, at 22, I bought my second house and got into the real estate market pretty heavily. I started fixing and flipping houses and learned a lot more about that. I bought a house in Arizona, fixed it up and sold the house eight months later and saw significant profit. So it started with real estate, but I’ve always been selling stuff. Even in middle school I was selling bubblegum out of my locker.

In 2008, when the market crashed, is when I had made some money and obviously there was not a lot in real estate, so that’s when I bought Snap Fitness. I had shopped hundreds of businesses and it came down to a gym, so I bought this one and it became my adrenaline rush.

What made you decide to purchase businesses in this area?

I’m the biggest Pueblo fan you’ll ever meet. I love Pueblo. I wanted to raise my kids in Pueblo. …  I want to see Pueblo grow and expand and watch this town become what it should and could become. … I want to help give back to this economy as much as I can.

How do you define entrepreneur and would you consider yourself one?

Yes, and I define them as somebody willing to take risks. … Everything I’ve done I’ve jumped full-fledged into, and I try to figure it out on the way down. Every business I’ve ever opened, my wife thinks I’m crazy. Like when I opened the spa, I just had some extra space and I said, ‘I want to open a spa.’ She said, ‘You don’t know anything about spas.’ And I said, ‘I know. I’ll figure it out.’ And I did.

I bought the tuxedo business two years ago and it was crazy; now it’s a great tuxedo business.

And now, we’re tripling the size of this building [Snap Fitness], and I don’t know how we’re going to figure it out, but we’re going to do some cool things with it and I’m excited to grow.

What have been the biggest challenges for you as a business owner in southern Colorado?

I don’t believe in the stigma that surrounds Pueblo [see Page 15]. I think it’s shenanigans. I’m such a Pueblo fan. I love this town, this is my town. Yeah, we have our issues, but everybody has their issues.

As far as local problems, I think the biggest problem for my businesses has been development. I built this building [Snap Fitness] three years ago and I’m expanding it right now and adding 17,000 square feet to this facility. … We’ll do ground breaking on May 1.

That took a year, and you would hope that [developers] would cater more to the business community, so that was a challenge, but Pueblo has been amazing. They support all our businesses, they’ve been great.

There’s nothing that I don’t like about Pueblo. The stigma that surrounds it has not affected my businesses.

Why do you think it is more difficult for entrepreneurs to get their footing in Pueblo as opposed to more northern cities?

I would say probably income. Those are already built communities, so there’s a lot more in those areas.

Pueblo is working on [improving], but we’re not there yet. There’s a lot more to attract [entrepreneurs to the north]. I just had a meeting with the chamber of commerce president and we talked about that.

What are your main business goals for 2017?

The biggest one is the $3 million expansion for Snap Fitness, but it’s not just that — we have a coffee shop coming in; a physical therapist is coming in; we’re getting cryotherapy; we’re expanding our spa and extending our salon. We’re doing a lot. It’s going to be one big health center … so right now the $3 million expansion is my No. 1 goal.

Ultimately, the goal in the next couple years is to do some nationwide business. I want businesses that start in Pueblo and then everybody in the nation has seen or heard of them, but that home base is Pueblo. I do have some ideas, but they’re in the works.

What would you say to business owners facing challenges?

There is always a challenge. If you own a business, you get it. It’s not as easy as people think from the outside looking in, but it is the [most fun] thing you’ll ever do if you do it. … My advice would be to be willing to learn from your mistakes and to take advice from anybody. If they can do it better than you can do it, change the way you do it.