#PeopleOfWilmDE: Johnny Gillespie

Johnny Gillespie is the founder of Empowered Wellness Studio in Wilmington, Delaware and this week’s #PeopleOfWilmDE. Read his story below.

“I was raised in Aston, Pennsylvania which embodies middle class America. I didn’t come from much. I had two very hard-working parents who impressed upon me the importance of hard work. Their impression came through their example not their mouths. 

Johnny Gillespie, founder of Empowered Yoga

In the summer of 1994, I did an internship at Gold’s Gym on Governor Prince BLVD. After I graduated from West Virginia University in 1995, I worked at the same Gold’s Gym that summer/fall. My plan was to make some money before moving out west.

During the fall, I met my first professional mentor Mike Ashely who was Ernie Delle Donne’s personal trainer. Mike hired me and the rest was history. Mike Ashley and the Delle Donne family were incredibly gracious to me.

It was 1995 and the personal training industry was just getting going. I was in the right place at the right time. I have met some incredible people within the Wilmington community and feel very blessed to be a part of Wilmington for the last 30 years.

On January 2, 2002, I opened Wilmington Yoga. It was Wilmington’s first dedicated yoga studio. We were on the second floor above Michael Christopher’s Salon on Pennsylvania Ave.

To get the word out I hung flyers in Brew HaHa! and local hair salons. The internet was just getting going so I couldn’t do too much online.

I rolled all the money I had and then some into the renovations of the studio. If it didn’t work, I would have been bankrupt and beyond.

The night we opened my Mom was working the front desk and my Dad was there for support. Our first class was 6pm. I was nervous. I had no idea whether anyone would show up. Around 5:45pm one person walked in and then another person followed. The next thing you know it, there was a line out the door. I will never forget the look on my dad’s face, we’ve got something here. A year later my dad retired from a long a successful civil engineering career to help me build our business throughout the greater Wilmington area. He retired a second time during the pandemic. My dad was the brains behind our business and working with him and my mom for nearly twenty years was one of the greatest blessings of my life.

My favorite Wilmington event is Winterthur’s Point to Point—It’s May and spring is in the air. There is a beautiful energy around the Wilmington community. It is a fantastic day! I also enjoy El Diablo Burritos, and walking along the Brandywine River. Buckley’s Tavern with friends.

A few interesting facts about me are:

  • I have chickens and love taking care of them.
  • Because my career requires so much energy, I am introverted when not teaching. I like being at home and minimizing stimulus.
  • I was an accounting major the first two years of college and thank God I changed my major and didn’t go in that direction. I couldn’t imagine sitting behind a computer screen for a living.
  • I stayed in the Vatican for a week in the summer of 1995 and had an audience with Pope John Paul II. It was a life-changing experience.
  • I brought in the new millennium Dec 31, 1999 in Amsterdam Square with people from all around the world. What a story and what a night that was!

The community of Wilmington is small and close-knit. I have met so many people through my years who genuinely care and stick together. We help each other in good times and bad. If you’re good to Wilmington, Wilmington is good to you!

I am excited about Wilmington’s ability to continually reinvent itself. I have witnessed so many companies rise and fall. There are hundreds if not thousands of tireless entrepreneurs and leaders within the Wilmington community. It is a place where opportunities are constantly available for those that willing to hustle and work. Reinventing yourself is the mark of existence and a required ingredient for long-term business and life success. The Wilmington community supports this evolutionary truth.  

I think the Buccini Pollin Group (BPG) has done an incredible job helping revitalize the city. They have truly changed the landscape of Wilmington.

(I’d like to see our city) creating more opportunities for new businesses to get started and existing businesses to thrive. Small business is the backbone of America. I believe our government should be focused on protecting that backbone. Our public officials need to continue to strive to make Wilmington a safe, healthy, and adventurous place to live and work. I think the city is committed to this!  

Advice I’d give to Wilmingtonians? Wilmington will be good to you if you are good to Wilmington. Goodness comes to those who express goodness. Wilmington has always been good to me. I always remind myself that I need to be good to her. This is why each day our staff at Empowered Wellness is dedicated to helping every person that enters our space. Our tagline is, ‘Discover the Connection’. When we feel connected, we are happier, and healthier, and feel a pull to extend this to other people.”

Follow Empowered Wellness Studio on Facebook and Instagram. Follow Johnny on Facebook.

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