Why this personal trainer chose to pursue an MBA

If Franqlin Gatson, MBA’20, had an office, it’d be in the weight room.

A personal trainer and lifelong athlete, Franq is a former collegiate basketball player with an exercise and sports science undergraduate degree and personal trainer certification. He’s also an MBA at the Kelley School of Business.

“I’ve loved being a personal trainer, and I wanted to find a way to take my work to the next level,” he said. “I didn’t see myself leaving the personal training space, but I believed gaining a business background would help me grow and be more successful as a trainer.”

After his undergraduate degree, Franq’s first job out of college was in mortgage loans. If that sounds strange, he says it was. In fact, he says it was miserable. 

“Needless to say, I didn’t stay there long. The job had nothing to do with my degree or interests,” he said.

Franq earned his personal trainer certification and left the desk job. He joined a gym and began to learn the ropes of personal training – how unique it is to train someone else when you’re the experienced athlete. A short time later, Franq had the opportunity to help launch Sparx Athletic Refinery in Fishers, Indiana. It was there that he realized he wanted to add more business acumen to his personal training background.

"As a founding team member of Sparx, I got to see a lot of the business side. I realized I could take a bigger role than simply being a trainer,” he said. “At my previous gym, I didn’t have to worry about finding my clients because they just walked in the door. Sparx was a little different; I had to go out and find my clients, be my own marketing team and sell myself, which I’d never done before. Learning how to brand myself was a unique experience.”

He realized an MBA would help him bridge the gap between personal training and running a successful business. He researched MBA programs and ultimately chose the Kelley Evening MBA Program because it offered him flexibility to have a day job and spend time with his two-year-old son, Franqlin III.

Franqlin works on schoolwork with his two-year-old son, Franqlin III.

"I found a challenging program where I could be on campus to interact with professors and classmates and still didn't have to miss my son’s bedtime. Kelley made it an easy choice for me.”

Franq recognized he was enrolling in a rigorous MBA without any true business experience. He even doubted whether it was the right decision. Fortunately, he was able to work with Kelley career coaches prior to enrolling, who helped him learn what to expect and how to prepare for business school.

“My Kelley coach helped me realize I’d be able to keep up with the curriculum and my classmates. I‘m one of the youngest people in my cohort; I barely made the cutoff for the required amount of work years to apply, so my coach also helped me appreciate that I could do this,” he said. “I never had to sell myself before, so Kelley’s coaching lifted my confidence. I understood that I’m worth it. I belong here just as much as the next person, and I have just as much to offer. I’ll be able to keep up and excel."

Being in the classroom with a diverse group of MBA students—from engineers to finance professionals, from marketers to helicopter builders—has been transformative.