CADIZ - At 33, area native Cory Gregory tends to pinch himself. A lot.
He's the president and co-founder of the Denver-based MusclePharm, regarded as one of the top sports nutritional supplement companies in the industry with a physique and performance product line generating millions in annual sales.
It's an official sponsor of the wildly popular Ultimate Fighting Championship, and it has endorsement deals with NFL quarterback Michael Vick, New England Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and Patrick Willis of the San Francisco 49ers to name a few.
Cory Gregory, a native of the Amsterdam-East Springfield area, poses with his mother, Michelle Boone, who lives in Cadiz. Gregory is the co-founder and president of MusclePharm, one of the top nutritional supplements companies in the industry.
He's an international fitness enthusiast, a sought-after public speaker, a power lifter, a competitive body builder, a fitness model who's been in major muscle magazines, a gym owner, personal trainer and the founder of the Ohio Natural Bodybuilding Foundation not to mention the author of the newly released "Habits of Success & Concentration."
But despite his achievements and impressive resume at such a young age, the 1997 graduate of Edison High School "muscled" his way to success the old-fashioned way - with hard work, discipline and desire.
Gregory contemplated all that during a recent visit to the Cadiz home of his mother, Michelle Thompson, and stepfather Randy Thompson, as he reviewed the events of his life that have led him to where he is today.
The son of the late David Gregory grew up in the Amsterdam-East Springfield area, discovering early on that he liked working out at the home of his grandparents, Frank and Patricia Boone of Amsterdam.
"He started me lifting weights when I was 12 or 13. We lived with them for a brief time, and so he started me lifting weights, and I basically fell in love with it right out of the gate," Gregory said of his grandfather's influence that impacted his life dramatically.
It was a discipline Gregory embraced with gusto and continued through his high school years, working out with a friend, Dustin Myers, and his father, Kim, learning all the while from whomever he could. "I started seeing some pretty good results from staying diligent about it and started reading (about it), and he (Kim Myers) knew a lot about working out, but I learned a lot on my own, too," said Gregory, who resides in Granville on the east side of Columbus with his wife, Rachael, and their three children: Alex, 6; Madelyn, 4; and Anden, 1.
Gregory said he also learned from Jim Hoover, a former strength coach at Edison, and he spent hours every day at the home of a fellow classmate, Nick Detchon, whose parents had set up a gym in their basement.
A self-described "C" student at best who had no idea what to do after graduating, Gregory said it was Detchon's suggestion that he move to the city and become a personal trainer, an idea he researched.
His passion for weightlifting and workouts cemented, Gregory said he couldn't afford to go away to school so he took classes at the then Jefferson Community College, worked at DeNoon Lumber ("They are awesome," he said) and lifted in between.
"I completely hated pre-requisites and was not in to it at all. Half the time, I skipped class and worked out," he said.
When a group of his friends moved to Columbus, Gregory shifted a plan into high gear - save money to head there, too, and study at Columbus State to be a personal trainer.
Gregory worked the next six months underground as a coal miner, laboring long hours, but was no stranger to a strong work ethic as a fourth-generation coal miner. He saved $25,000 and headed to Columbus in early 1999.
"That's when it all kind of started," he said.
"I wanted to do a one-year exercise specialist degree to learn to be a personal trainer," he said of his education plan. Six months into his studies, Gregory started working with a mentor doing personal training and ended up with 20 clients of his own at a $20-an-hour rate.
All the while open to opportunities, Gregory was approached by a modeling agency representative while attending the Arnold (Schwarzenegger) Classic in Columbus.
At the biggest fitness event in the world right there in Columbus, Gregory said he was recruited to do fitness modeling for the first time, initially heading to New York to do shoots for Cosmopolitan, Abercrombie & Fitch and Tommy Hilfiger.
By year's end, at age 20, Gregory pulled together $5,000 to start his own personal training studio/gym. It was located on Brice Road in Reynoldsburg, its name T3 Personal Training.
"I really didn't have anything to loose," Gregory said of his move to start his own business. "I was doing pretty good. I was there a couple years. I would go back to New York from time to time, I did bodybuilding shows. I'd do a modeling shoot or two," he said of photos and magazine covers that "kind of separated me from other trainers."
The business started to grow. "I added a couple new trainers under me and then I think I was there two years and I started drug-free bodybuilding and contests so I got really lean, and I was starting to get my name out there," said Gregory, who expanded the gym and had six trainers working for him.
"It was cruising pretty good in that four-to-five-year span where all I did was strictly personal training, grew the business, sold supplements, worked and competed," he said.
He and his school days friend Dustin Myers decided to go into business together, purchasing a gym in Pataskala near Columbus called "The Old School Gym," a facility featured in Powerlifting USA for the past 10 years.
"Dustin came in the business which I was pumped about since we had been friends since we were 15, lifting weights together," Gregory said, explaining running the two gyms was his routine until closing the Reynoldsburg facility and moving to Pataskala.
By 2004, Gregory started doing online personal training for a clientele made up largely of middle aged men and women trying to lose weight. He also started doing speaking engagements for certain organizations, all the while still dabbling in modeling and competing.
As a competitor, incidentally, Gregory has competed successfully in 11 drug-free bodybuilding competitions and 20 powerlifting meets, been on the cover of Fitness and Physique as recently as June 2011 and has been mentored by some of top names in the industry. With an extensive background in training, nutrition and competition prep, Gregory has received coaching, according to his website, from legendary bodybuilder Frank Zane and Westside Barbell powerlifting icon Louie Simmons.
Around 2006, Gregory met Brad Pyatt, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts, who at the time was associated with a different supplement company. "He was a really good athlete. He started giving me products from this other company he was with so we met each other there," Gregory said.
Between then and 2008 when Gregory and Pyatt founded MusclePharm, Gregory said life was good. He had built many contacts, was making decent money and "doing better than the average guy."
But life got better and continues to.
Gregory helped raise several thousand dollars through friends, family and business associates to start MusclePharm, which develops and manufactures a line of supplements 100 percent free of banned substances.
"We started the business in April 2008 and our first product for sale was September 2008. The first year we had $80,000 in sales," Gregory said.
In 2009, "we do about a million. It's moving, and the UFC is getting more popular," Gregory said, explaining, "What I do is sponsor athletes. I put my logo on their butt, their banners, their shorts, and my logo is lime green so you can't miss it on TV. It sticks out like a sore thumb."
The partners approached retail outlets, too, connecting with, for example, GNC, Vitamin Shoppe and bodybuilding.com, the latter being the biggest online retailer.
"They put in our first order, and we started rolling with them," Gregory said of the online store.
"In 2010 I did $4 million in sales," Gregory said with 2011 finishing out at around $20 million in sales.
"So we went from $80,000 to a million to $4 million to $20 million in basically three years, so we're picking up some crazy steam now," Gregory said.
"People are starting to know who we are because I am spending a ridiculous amount in advertising, and I also went public at the end of year in penny stocks to raise money."
"We are cruising. People are starting to know who we are," Gregory said. The MusclePharm logo is a highly visible lime green on black, a clothing line an offshoot of it doing well in sales, too.
The product sells in more than 40 countries, is the No. 2 brand on bodybuilding.com and its single best product sells any where from 200,000 to 300,000 bottles a month, according to Gregory.
The company has many big-time endorsements, from NFL and UFC representatives to Major League Baseball teams.
"The athletes are where we basically made our name but then, yeah, the general public, people who understand supplements read into what I have, they get it," Gregory said.
As for the company's communication approach, "You can't call MusclePharm and talk to us. It's all through Facebook, Twitter, social media and you get answers from the top down," Gregory said. "I have almost 50,000 that follow me on Twitter. "I answer questions every day and have 75- to 80,000 on Facebook," he said.
MusclePharm has 25 employees, all of whom live in Denver where the company is, including Pyatt.
But Gregory stays true to his Ohio roots, happy in Granville, appreciative of Ohio, and grateful he and his wife can be near their extended families.
"I am the only one who lives here (in Ohio)," Gregory said.
"I will go back and forth to Denver as needed or New York for business, but my thing is I wanted to stay in Ohio. I have a house at Atwood Lake, and my family here, and my wife's family is here," he said.
The business' growth is at a sort of "tipping point," according to Gregory.
So where from here?
"Up real fast," he predicts. "We're hoping for a very big 2012."
Gregory's book is available at CoryGregory.com. For information, visit MusclePharm.com or follow him at Musclepharmepres on Twitter.
(Kiaski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)