A relationship that started in an Oakland University classroom blossoms into a business partnership for two local entrepreneurs.
AFS founder Michael Stack (left) with AFS Rochester Hills managing partner Jared Freeman
In the fall of 2007 Jared Freeman of Rochester was finishing up his undergraduate degree in exercise science at Oakland University when he took a class taught by an energetic and passionate graduate assistant named Michael Stack. At the time, Stack was finishing plans to make a transition from the personal training world (which he’d worked in for years) into owning his own fitness studio in Ann Arbor. “I really didn’t know much about Mike throughout my time in his class, all I knew is that he was always really, really excited to be there talking about exercise,” Freeman said while shuffling papers behind the front desk of his new 17,000 square foot facility in Rochester Hills. Freeman (a self described fitness nerd) was well liked by Stack for his inquisitive nature and willingness to go above and beyond what his assignments required. “I had a lot of students who performed well, but Jared was one of those that you could tell truly wanted to be there. It didn’t seem like he was in it to get an “A” in the class, it seemed like he genuinely wanted to learn it and do something with it,” Stack said.
Six months later, Jared had graduated and was working at a local personal training studio when he saw a job posting that caught his eye. Applied Fitness Solutions (AFS). It turns out Stack’s new venture in Ann Arbor was slowly growing and he was ready to bring on his first employee. “I honestly didn’t put two and two together until he showed up in my office in Ann Arbor for his interview,” Stack said of Freeman with a nostalgic grin. Jared hadn’t initially wanted to move out of the Rochester area, but the economic downturn at the time forced him to consider all opportunities carefully. “As soon as I realized it was Mike’s gym, I said to myself that I at least had to go see what it was all about.”
What Jared didn’t know at the time was that a new concept Mike had rolled out was picking up steam in the Ann Arbor community. “When I was doing personal training I became sort of known for giving my clients a lot of behind the scenes support, I’d grade their food logs, write them workouts they could do at home, call them throughout the week to check in, I’d basically just stay more involved than what was expected,” Stack said. “Opening AFS, I wanted to keep that guidance and accountability going, but I wanted to give it to all my clients, not just the ones who paid extra for personal training, so I created sort of a hybrid between group classes and one on one coaching,” he added. At AFS, Clients would attend a few group exercise classes per week, and they would have their own trainer coaching them on their choices outside of the gym. This was the concept that convinced Jared he wanted to be involved. “I knew how close I was with my personal training clients, so to have the opportunity to have that kind of relationship with every single person that comes through your doors, that’s just something you don’t see anymore.”
9 years later, what started as a small niche concept in Ann Arbor with two employees (Mike and Jared), has since blossomed into a growing 3 facility fitness chain serving thousands of clients in the Ann Arbor, Plymouth, and now Rochester communities. Shortly after acquiring the space for their new Rochester Hills location; Stack, Freeman, and AFS marketing director Nate Langley (also an OU grad) visited the OU campus for a Brooksie Way affiliate event. “The story couldn’t have gone any better for me,” Freeman said while staring upward, admiring Elliott Tower (which hadn’t been built yet when he was last on campus). “I’ve always loved the Rochester area so to be able to come home and bring AFS to this community that I love, I feel really lucky.”
Left to Right: AFS marketing director Nate Langley, managing partner Jared Freeman, and founder Michael Stack pose with “The Grizz”