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Lions Gym - African Development Center

Former Olympic Hopeful Opens Fitness Center with Support from Minneapolis CDFI

Financial and Social Impact

  • 17 jobs created  
  • Building purchased by business owner 

Born and raised in Kenya, Dr. Stephen Menya immigrated to the United States in 1993 with aspirations to train for and represent his home country in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. His dreams nearly came true just a few years later after qualifying to compete in the 400 and 800 metersbut a torn leg muscle would ultimately shorten his running career. 

Nevertheless, his injury did not quell his passions for fitness and personal development. With a level of dedication to rival any Olympic medalist, Stephen decided to venture out on his own and start Lions Gym in 2007, despite having no prior experience owning a business–let alone managing a fitness facility. 

Unintimidated by the process of launching his own enterprise, Stephen believed he would succeed if he worked hard to pursue the opportunity his adopted country provided him. Despite rejection from many banks and traditional lenders, Stephen flexed his entrepreneurial muscle and never gave up. 

After years looking for resources to expand his facility and for technical assistance to help meet growing demand, Stephen finally found African Development Center (ADC), a CDFI based in his local Minneapolis community. Stephen received a small business loan of $50,000 from ADC in June 2011, coupled with ongoing counseling. 

Since the initial loan, Lions Gym has continued to grow in size, reputation, and financial success. In 2014, Stephen received an additional loan of $20,000 from ADC after earning his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, MN, and becoming a licensed chiropractor. 

Today, Lions Gym & Wellness Center, as it’s now known, is a full-feature exercise and training facility co-owned by Stephen’s wife, Leah. Located on West Broadway in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, the gym boasts a personal touch that other large franchise gyms can’t touch.  

With affordable, customized personal training packages based on a philosophy Stephen created called SIMBA (Strength Increases Muscle and Builds Alignment), Lions Gym & Wellness Center operates on the belief that proper training, discipline, and attitude can unleash self-esteem and help clients delve into their inner passions. 

From the gym’s spin classes to Boot Camp workout sessions, as well as pre- and post-natal fitness classes for young mothers, it’s no wonder the gym attracts a wide variety of clientele, from professional athletes to highly successful business men and women! 

ADC is proud to have such a driven and successful client like Stephen and is flattered to provide what Stephen calls an “African Support System,” consisting of ongoing assistance, knowledge, and the network required to maintain a successful business.