Dynamic duos: Vinnie and Jennifer Lopez
Strength is the key to their business and relationship
(Editor's note: This is one of ColoradoBiz's “dynamic duos” of Colorado business, who reflect on their working relationships, what brought them together and where they’re going.)
Vinnie and Jennifer Lopez
Don’t be thrown by his beefy size, bountiful body art or steady reticence. Colorado’s own middleweight champion, Vinnie “The Assault” Lopez is a big softy, at least when it comes to his wife and business partner.
Enticed by the raw contest, Vinnie began training in 2008 at Grudge Training Center, a hub for local fighters, and by 2009 was headed into an undefeated amateur mixed martial arts career.
“It was a full-time investment,” Vinnie says. “What was appealing to me was the humbling aspect.”
Meanwhile, Vinnie built his own personal training business, which he dove into completely after retiring from fighting at the end of 2013.
“I was never somebody who dreamt of dating an athlete,” says Jennifer Lopez, Vinnie’s now-wife.
Jennifer thought she wanted to be a doctor, and enrolled at University of Colorado Denver in 2009. To make ends meet she also worked at a gym. For financial reasons, she left school in 2010 and pursued a full-time career in fitness.
When they met, “We were friends first,” Jennifer recalls, saying it took three years before a romantic interest developed.
“I used to go to his fights,” she adds, giggling as the conversation turns to their budding romance.
Jennifer says specific qualities she later associated with MMA – Passion. Commitment. Dedication. Discipline – attracted her to Vinnie. The two married in May 2013.
The next year, Vinnie had double knee surgeries and Jennifer lost her job. But the timing presented an opportunity for Jennifer to fill in, training Vinnie’s clients. Then the owner of the gym where they both trained gave notice of its closure. The couple acted fast, joining forces with Todd Zalinski and opening Vital Strength & Fitness at 800 Lincoln St. in Denver in May of 2014.
Offering personal training, group classes, kickboxing and a full fitness facility, the 7,000-square-foot space quickly filled, with little marketing necessary.
“This was a great piggy-back to his fighting career,” Jennifer says.
Indeed, Vinnie’s professional background set the pace for the new business. In a saturated market, strength is the differentiator at Vital. “Though there are lots of trends in the industry, a lot of it is really flawed, from the programming to the functionality,” Vinnie says. “People often don’t see results or end up getting hurt. I’m all for trying new things. But until your foundation is proven, stick to the basics.”
Vinnie manages the staff, operations and has one-on-one sessions. Jennifer maintains a lengthy list of clients. She says she and Vinnie “work well together,” and attributes that to their foundation as friends.
Jennifer says, “This is our family. It’s part of our marriage. It’s our hobby. It all melds together.”
Vinnie is also a striking coach for Team Elevation, an MMA team in Denver, and they intend to open a second Vital location by 2018.
He says the biggest challenge with the business is “needing to pull back. I don’t want my wife working herself to the bone,” he says. “I’d much rather that be me.”
She adds that the personal nature of the business can also be demanding. “You get invested in people, in their stories.”
“She babies them,” Vinnie says, while he explains he stays away from “the drama.” But it’s that dynamic that may just be the power behind their partnership.