June 6, 2023

When people weren’t going to gyms during the pandemic, Luis Mendonca brought the gym to them — or at least the gym instructors. 
As other businesses suffered during the pandemic, Mendonca’s Elite Home Fitness actually flourished over the past two years, signing up new health-conscious customers who wanted more than just a Peloton bike and a video instructor barking encouragement at them. They have sought the real deal as they work to shed pounds and tone up in their own homes: an in-person, mask-wearing, social-distancing instructor barking encouragement at them. 
“It’s sort of counterintuitive that Covid would increase our business, but it has,” says Mendonca, a native of Cape Verde and himself a former instructor at LA Fitness. “For safety reasons, many people just don’t want to go to crowded gyms, but they still want to work out with someone who’s right there and motivating them. They want that human element of a trainer.” 
The increased demand for at-home workouts has fueled Elite Home Fitness’s growth of late, with the six-year-old business now employing 50 fitness trainers working with more than 250 clients across Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Revenue has recently doubled, to $500,000, and Mendonca sees even bigger growth ahead, he said.
As of three weeks ago, the company is set up as a franchise business, Mendonca told the Business Journal.
“In the next five years, I see the company being in every single state in the country,” Mendonca said, who grew up in Rhode Island but who now calls Boston home.
“We believe it’s a business model that works,” he added, noting that his firm’s overhead is low due to not having to buy expensive fitness equipment and not having to lease real estate space for gyms. “Our service makes sense anywhere — wherever people want to work out.”
To date, Elite Home Fitness has partnered with upscale residential communities in Greater Boston (such as The Benjamin in the Seaport and The Kendrick in Needham) to provide at-home fitness trainers and services to tenants, who pay anywhere from $75 to $99 per session. The tenants provide the stationary bikes, treadmills, dumbbells, exercise mats and other equipment — and the trainers provide the fitness expertise, guidance and encouragement to go along with a client’s equipment.
Jean Yang, a Cambridge resident and an Elite Home customer, says Elite Home Fitness differentiates itself from other companies via its professionalism, passion and the quality of its training.
“I’ve had many trainers before this, and Elite Home Fitness is definitely at the top of the industry,” says Yang, founder and CEO of LuxMea Studio LLC, a digital design firm. “I really don’t like workouts, but I know I need it. Luis knows me — and he makes it work.”
Raised by his mother in Rhode Island, Mendonca, who came to America when he was only 5, says he always loved sports, especially football and basketball. “Fitness was my life,” he says. “It was truly a passion.”
But he said he was also “very entrepreneurial,” dreaming of one day starting and owning his own business. In his early 20s, he even founded his own promotions, sales and marketing firm, before returning to his true passion: fitness. He eventually became an instructor at LA Fitness in Rhode Island.
“I love motivating people, getting people excited about their health,” he says.
 In 2016, he decided to pursue both of his passions, fitness and business, by forming Elite Home Fitness, starting with just one customer and slowly expanding via word of mouth. “I was working crazy hours,” he recalls. “I was sleeping in my car and waking up at 4 a.m. for work.”
Eventually, he had enough customers to hire a part-time trainer to help with the workload — and he’s been expanding ever since.
As for pandemic-era safety precautions, Mendonca says his business is “very, very focused” on making sure customers feel comfortable with trainers in their homes. Instructors wear masks and booties — and maintain required social distances, he says. 
A Black-owned business, Elite Home Fitness is up against some tough competition in the at-home fitness field, such as GymGuyz and Club High-Rise, but Mendonca says he’s confident his firm will thrive.
“We plan to grow one customer at a time,” he says.
Meera Raman contributed to this report.
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