Ex-con turned fitness guru - the business built behind bars

ConBody founder, Coss Marte, thought he had nothing but time until his life was on the line when he was serving a seven-year sentence at upstate New York’s Greene Correctional Facility for drug dealing charges.

Dangerously overweight, a prison doctor told Marte, if he didn’t start working out and eating correctly, his high cholesterol and blood pressure would kill him within the next few years.

“I wasn’t going to die,” Marte told FOX Business. “That's what motivated me to start moving. I began running laps around the prison yard and working out in my cell.”

Determined to get in shape but confined to his small cell, Marte created a prison-style workout using just his body weight, losing 70-pounds in just 6 months. Years later, Coss Marte turned his intense “prison-style-workouts” into one of New York City’s in-demand fitness classes, in what is a crowded field competing against the likes of SoulCycle and Barry's Bootcamp.

Marte said that growing his business was no easy task, and like his motto for his workouts you need to “do the time” he stressed.

“There was a lot of guerilla marketing. It was non-stop pitching. I first started training my mom and subsidized a little bit of my rental cost on her couch -- she was my first paying customer. Then I started bringing in more friends, bringing in crowds from the park and charging a workout fee.”

With the help of Defy Ventures, a nonprofit that helps ex-inmates become entrepreneurs, Marte was able to launch his company in 2014 after winning the program’s "Shark Tank"- style pitch competition awarding him $100,000 to jumpstart his business.

“We started renting space in ballet studios and eventually this location in Manhattan’s Lower East Side,” Marte said.

"It was just me in the beginning I was running the business with an iPhone 4, business cards and flyers,” he said. Now the brand is ready to go national. ConBody is working on opening 9 studios in the city and tristate area over the next 5 years followed by franchising across the country.

Marte is also committed to giving back to society and paying it forward. ConBody’s entire staff of trainers were formerly incarcerated.

“I saw the pain of coming home from jail and people judging me on my past,” Marte said. “It was hard for me to escape that path. Nobody wanted to hire me. I went from store to store just trying to find a minimum wage job. They were facing the same obstacles as I did. I didn't want them to feel so frustrated that they had to go back into the system, back into that world, where they once lived.”

And thanks to Marte, every ex-con that has worked for ConBody has not been put back behind bars.

“We have a zero recidivism rate which is unheard of in any non-profit or for-profit business,” he said.

While the uphill battle was a struggle, Marte said, it’s all worth the climb. “While I was incarcerated, I already knew what I wanted to do. I knew it would take a lot of work, it still is a lot of work,” notes Marte.

“All it takes is just showing up every single day and delivering a great product. Consistency is key. I can't emphasize that enough.”

Coss’ book “ConBody: The Revolutionary Bodyweight Prison Boot Camp, Born from an Extraordinary Story of Hope” is available now on Amazon.