Business Interview Series – July 2022 – Chris Cucchiara – Regenesis360

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Chris Cucchiara – Owner of ReGenesis360 Health Center in Pismo Beach, CA

Tell us a bit about your principal two or three services you offer your clients

Chris: Our overall mission is to extend our clients health span. It is increasingly recognized that strength training offers benefits beyond a nice-looking physique and muscular strength. Acting through myokines the muscular system strengthens every system in the body, from your brain to your immune system to your other organ functions. We offer the ARX fitness system which is a sophisticated computer controlled strengthening system that only takes minimal time, a 20-minute session once or twice a week is enough. Just the same, it delivers the same or better results than programs where you need to work out for several hours a week. Many of our clients see even better results when ARX is combined with ozone or hyperoxic therapy. We offer both, the HOCATT system, which some people also call the ozone sauna, and the LIVE02, which delivers concentrated oxygen while exercising. An integrating factor is “Healthy Eating for Life” where we focus on body recomposition, that is increasing your lean muscle mass and decreasing fat. This not only increases your lifespan but also makes you enjoy life better.

What is the secret of your success? How did you get started? Who influenced you the most? What was your greatest challenge?

Chris: I think, if you want to condense the secret of my success into two words, it would be #1 vision and #2 reason. What I mean by vision is that you must have an overarching goal, it is not the path, but the end result you have in mind. Reason is what you personally believe in, not what your parents, your teachers or peers try to tell you is important. It helps a lot of if somebody else believes in you, and in that regard, I remember my mom as my biggest cheerleader. I was very frustrated when I started work at age 17 as an apprentice auto mechanic after graduation from high school. I was tall but very skinny, in fact, underweight. People would tease me and push me around. Watching the 1976 movie Rocky with Sylvester Stallone had a monumental impact on me.

I have seen the Rocky I movie poster  in the ARX studio. What’s the story behind it?

Chris: Yes, that is true. It was a birthday present. The movie was such a substantial influence on me, and my family knows it. The day after I saw it, I went to a Big 5 sporting goods store and bought a plastic-coated cement weight set, three hundred pounds. I was too embarrassed to go to a gym. At that time, I promised myself “one day I’m going to open a gym and compete in a bodybuilding contest.”  I worked out at home in the garage so nobody could see me. Over the next two years I gained twenty pounds of muscle and I joined my first gym at age 19. I knew I could outwork anybody. I was still working as an auto mechanic and I went to the gym at 5:00 AM, started work at 6:00 AM, and at 4:00 PM I would go back to the gym. People started to notice me, saying “you should compete in bodybuilding.”

When did you open your first gym?

Chris: I opened my first gym when I was twenty-one. I knew a lot about exercise, but nothing about business. I had the good instinct to continue working as an auto mechanic as a safety net. One piece of advice I can give younger folks is, talk about your plans, do not keep them secret. Two things will happen, you will get a lot of well-meant unsolicited advice about why your project can only fail. Ignore it. Eventually there will be one person who believes in you, gives you constructive advice, and may even help you financially. This is what happened to me. I was then living in Santa Clara, CA. The gym I was working out at was not treating people so well. I knew I could do better, deliver better services, put customers first, and charge just a little bit more. I had my eye on a lease for a space which was twice as big as my gym where I used to work out. I met Steve Dorsich. He was one of the first Silicon Valley billionaires. I needed $30,000 to open my gym, two friends chipped in, and Steve said “I give you $10,000 for renovations but you need to be the CEO and you need to get incorporated. I met the attorney he recommended who to my great surprise, said “you don’t have to pay me anything, I’ll do it for free.” He also gave me invaluable advice how to get started. Sadly, he passed away three weeks after we met. Shortly after opening we had two hundred members. I tell you this story because it is so important to go out and talk about your plans, how else would any of this happened? Two people were taking a risk on me, they believed my story, the reason why, and my vision. 

Tell us about your bodybuilding career

Chris: I became a top-level amateur, but I realized two things. First, I did not have the genetic potential to become a professional bodybuilder. Second, I did not like the lifestyle, which is very time consuming. It is hard to run your own business while you are competing professionally. 

You had a number of other businesses, tell us about them

Chris: By 1984 I had left the automotive business. My gym was branded as California Gym and Fitness Center which was a deliberate attempt of going away from the male dominated bodybuilding focused gyms towards a more family friendly health and fitness-oriented facility. I was one of the first people to introduce childcare into the gym environment.

Eventually, I had a facility with 20,000 square feet with aerobics, and a basketball court. We were popular with the Silicon Valley firms and were able to sign up a lot of corporate memberships that were fully paid by the respective companies for their employees.

I remember you telling me about a big crisis on your life

Chris: That happened in 1995. I think you lawyers call it a contested divorce; I call it downright ugly. I had to sell the gym and affiliated businesses. This was such a gut-wrenching time; I can only imagine it being close to when you lose your own child. I picked myself up, I had to, because I had custody of my son. The new business had to be able to accommodate my new circumstances so I could spend more time with my kid.

I ended up building home gyms for executives bundled with personal training services, either delivered by me personally or with contract employees.  We called it Professional Fitness Systems. During this time, I got more and more connected to the medical field, establishing gyms for hospitals that were used for physical rehabilitation but were open to members of the community. I saw firsthand that most diseases could be prevented by a healthy life and my interest in complementary medicine developed.  My services increasingly emphasized the mind-body-lifestyle connection.  I was becoming more of a life coach with physical fitness being a foundation.  

When did you come to the Central Coast?

Chris: Julie and I moved to the Central Coast in 2008. Being completely new to the community, it was at first difficult to get a footing. I started with several workshops, initially free, then fee-based, often in conjunction with other related professionals. That got my name out there. We opened Regenesis360 in 2017. Regenesis is a good name because it encapsulates what we can offer our clients; it stands for the program, mind-body regeneration. The 360, suggested by my Julie, is a nice differentiator because Regenesis alone is not a brand name. 360 stands for the holistic multi-pronged approach we are taking in making people’s lives better and extending their health span.

Do you have any expansion plans?

Chris: Expansion is probably not the right word. I would rather say that we are closing a gap in our service offerings. A lot of people, especially women, have a challenging time losing weight despite doing everything correctly. Often hormone imbalances at the root of the problem. There may be other connected issues that are only seemingly unrelated, like PMS, trouble sleeping, etc. Based on the strength of our current programs we have been selected as an exclusive Central Coast franchisee for the “BeBalanced” natural hormone rebalancing approach. If you watch our website, you will learn more about it shortly. 

How do you see business succession?

Chris: At present my name as “Coach Chris” is a big part of our Regenesis360 brand equity. In seven to 10 years, we want to have a business that is no longer dependent on me as founder. I want it to be an asset that could be sold at a considerable profit or kept in the family. Our daughter Sophie will continue to be interested in this type of work. She has certainly shown a lot of drive and energy in carrying this business forward over the last few years. She is such a quick study, loves people, and is accumulating health and fitness credentials. She already is an excellent counselor, trainer, and business partner.

What about your own personal succession planning, how do you intend to pass on your values and your property?

Chris: We have a will up but nothing beyond that. 

In closing, what is your best advice for younger person who is just starting out in your line of business?

Chris: I can only repeat it, have a vision, a reason for what you want to do, and talk about it!

Thank you, Coach Chris!

ReGenesis360 Health Center in Pismo Beach, CA

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