Midtown Raleigh News

Midtown Muse: Raleigh businessman makes his own way

Matt McLaughlin opened Capital Strength & Conditioning on Atlantic Avenue two years ago.
Matt McLaughlin opened Capital Strength & Conditioning on Atlantic Avenue two years ago. COURTESY OF MATT MCLAUGHLIN

As I write this, and, likely, as you read it, Matt McLaughlin and his wife are in Costa Rica, where the weather makes summer warmth seem tangible.

Since the couple is newlywed, it’s a second honeymoon. But it’s also a vacation from the demands of McLaughlin’s Midtown Raleigh business, Capital Strength & Conditioning, a gym he opened two years ago on Atlantic Avenue.

I realized this 16-day trip is symbolic of what McLaughlin calls his “dream lifestyle,” the ability to own and run a business, and be successful enough to take a vacation every three months.

It’s a self-made lifestyle McLaughlin is anxious to share with others through a web-centered business he will soon launch and call ActivePro Coaching. It’s Proactive Coaching for Active Professionals that combines physical training, lifestyle design and business mentoring.

It’s about creating a dream lifestyle by improving physical strength, endurance and mobility; aligning the right business resources and strategy; and working with mentors who’ve been there, done that.

“Everybody has the potential to be self-made,” McLaughlin said. “There has to be a problem-solving rather than a victim mentality. Everybody has setbacks, so you have to take what you’re given and you have to create the rest. It’s harder, more stressful; it’s riskier. It’s not for everybody.

“People look at me ... but they don’t see that for the last two years, I’ve been waking up at 4 a.m.,” he continued. “You don’t know until you’ve done it.”

McLaughlin is showing us he’s done it, from Costa Rica. But there’s a bit more on that later.

Immediately after he graduated from N.C. State University in 2007, McLaughlin flew to Europe for a backpack excursion. When he returned, McLaughlin started a management training program, had a stint selling Vitamin Water, and another selling business equipment.

He also partnered with a friend to invent, market and distribute all-in-one home remote controls with customized automation.

“There was a lot of failure and getting punched in the nose,” McLaughlin said.

When he discovered personal training, McLaughlin’s self-made process began. He taught himself anatomy and physiology, took classes at Wake Tech and volunteered at physical therapy clinics. He also taught himself web design and development, and in spring 2010 interned for NCSU’s football strength team.

But McLaughlin soon realized personal training could be his career, if he made it so.

To create a safety net, McLaughlin got an advance on his inheritance from his grandfather, bought gym equipment and opened the facility.

Other things worked unwittingly in McLaughlin’s favor. The domain for his business name came available the same day it came to him after a nap – and it already ranked high on Google.

And, a break to his Achilles tendon pushed him to hire trainers, and focus on building his business brand of fitness focused on movement quality and quality of life.

McLaughlin credits his survival as a “starving trainer” to longtime client and mentor Dan Brady, an attorney with Brady, Morton & Cobin, PLLC.

“I was trying to get back in shape and he was trying to get his feet on the ground,” Brady said. “I just wanted to see him through.”

The two trained and talked about plans, setting goals and drafting a financial model. Brady also paid McLaughlin up front for months of training, providing “a little bit of cushion.”

“I know what the challenges are. I know what it takes, mentally,” said Brady, who started his law firm in 1982. “You have to take charge. Nobody is going to bring you your dreams. You have to make your dreams.

“I wanted to pay it forward, and Matt’s doing the same thing,” Brady said of McLaughlin’s ActivePro plans. “That makes me happy.”

In Costa Rica, McLaughlin will shoot in-action pictures and videos for ActivePro to prove it’s true that we can transform our lives, too.

“I’m not selling snake oil,” he quipped.