News | February 18, 2021

AlumniCollege of Health & Human ServicesNewsSchool of Entrepreneurship

Alum flexing entrepreneurial muscle with fitness business

Gulf Coast Performance thriving despite hurdles created by pandemic

A love of sports fueled FGCU graduate Archnell Souvenir’s journey from a high school athlete unsure of his career path to his current role as co-owner of Gulf Coast Performance in Naples.

Despite opening the doors as COVID-19 caused shutdowns and bans on gatherings, the training center is thriving. The business offers a mix of indoor and outdoor exercise and sports training programs for youth, adult fitness classes, personal training, and nutrition and health coaching provided by Souvenir, (’19, Exercise Science) and his partner and fellow FGCU grad, Laura Morgan, (’19, Exercise Science).

Photo shows FGCU alumnus
“None of this would be possible without the professors at FGCU and the mentorship that we’ve gained through FGCU,” Archnell Souvenir says. Photos submitted.

In fact, things are going so well that GCP will be moving to its own facility in May, he said, leaving behind a leased space in Uptown Plaza on Immokalee Road it has shared with a karate dojo since the business debuted in January 2020.

“In my opinion, this is an incubator building,” said Souvenir of the new space. “We’ll be there for the next two years, just getting our systems and processes in place, and making the business a lot more efficient and scalable.”

He is quick to credit his Florida Gulf Coast University education and the guidance of several professors with being essential elements in the relatively new company’s success in a uniquely challenging business climate.

“We’re definitely happy about it,” said Souvenir of GCP’s success. “And I have to say that none of this would be possible without the professors at FGCU and the mentorship that we’ve gained through FGCU. We’ve had a variety of mentors who’ve been a huge help to us.”

Mark Bole, entrepreneur-in-residence for the Daveler and Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship, and Paul Evans, an instructor there, helped them learn about operating a business, long with Scott Kelly, director of the Runway Program student and alumni business incubator.

Souvenir also credited Barbara Hess Tymczyszyn, an instructor and clinical coordinator of the Marieb College of Health & Human Service’s exercise science program, with playing a key role.

Known as “Arch” or “Archey,” 25-year-old Souvenir is a Naples native and a graduate of Palmetto Ridge High, where he played basketball and football. After graduation, he attended a Miami junior college for a brief period, with an eye on playing football there.

“Unfortunately things didn’t work out there, so I came back to Naples to figure out what I wanted to do and physical therapy caught my eye,” he said.

To prepare himself, he worked as physical therapy technician-aide for two years, while completing prerequisites at Florida SouthWestern State College for majoring in a health-related field. But he was unsure of exactly what career to choose. While researching schools and careers, he discovered FGCU’s exercise science program, which turned out to be just the right fit.

As part of earning his degree, Souvenir served two internships as a sports performance coach and research assistant with Ave Maria University’s Athletic Department and the athletes from its 15 varsity sports programs. After graduation, he stayed on as an unpaid assistant in sports performance while also working as a personal trainer and instructor at Gulf Coast Spine and Sport in Naples.

When Ave Maria’s sports performance director left for another job, Souvenir stepped into his shoes. “It was a huge opportunity for me so I decided to take that, while still working at Gulf Coast Spine and Sport and continuing the try to build that business,” he explained.

However, COVID’s onset threw those plans into disarray last spring.

“My position at Ave Maria was the first to get cut out of the budget,” said Souvenir. “I thought it was a great opportunity. It would look great on the resume: director of sports performance at a university, 15 varsity sports. But in the end, I decided to depend on myself and not anybody else for my livelihood.”

So he decided to devote his energy to Gulf Coast Performance. Since opening the business, he and Morgan had been using the shared-gym space while also working with clients at other facilities. Both had strong, established client bases, which have provided a platform for building the business.

They’re taking pleasure in the ride thus far, learning and growing in multiple ways.

“It’s a matter of understanding the real problem that we’re solving and that is empowering people to feel self-confident about being able to do things,” he said. “That’s what we’ve truly enjoyed the most about Gulf Coast Performance. Also, it’s learning to do new things. Every day we’re learning something new in regards to business.”

Photo shows FGCU alumnus
(Photo taken prior to pandemic) Archnell Souvenir works with athletes of every age to help them improve fitness and performance.