The elitefts Timeline

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elitefts was officially founded in 1998, marking the beginning of multiple decades of educating and outfitting the strongest athletes around the world. Years before the first Q&A was posted or the first product was sold, however, the vision and values of elitefts were already in place for cofounders Dave and Traci Tate. The elitefts Company Story shared our core values and explained why we at elitefts endeavor to do the things we do for the strength community. The timeline in this article, starting at the very beginning for Dave and Traci, now shows where it all began. From 1970 to present day, this is the progression of elitefts.

The elitefts Timeline

The 1970s — Developing Values

The family, friends, community, and personal experiences cofounders Traci and Dave Tate had when growing up helped shape the values of elitefts today. For Dave, honesty and integrity were paramount in every action: “I was taught at a young age the importance of quality over quantity, and it was driven into me that if you start something, you finish it, and you do it with honesty and integrity.”

It was during these formative years, and as a direct result of several key events early in life, that both Traci and Dave unknowingly were molding their own morals, ethics, and principles. Today, it is the values of Focus, Trust, and Strength that serve as guideposts in every action and aspect of daily business.

The 1980s — Discovering a Passion for Strength

For Dave, his passion for strength is about breaking personal records and finding peace: "Growing up, training was my biggest passion. It was my way to deal with all the adversity the world tossed my way. It was my haven. When I was a kid, the gym was the one place I could go to be in charge and decide whether I succeeded. It was my place to build and grow — mentally and physically. It also meant standing out from the crowd and being great.”

For Traci, her strength was much more internal. Getting pregnant at a young age was the scarlet letter she had to endure: “As I think back to that time, it still brings tears to my eyes, but through that experience, I have grown to be a strong, independent woman that will do whatever it takes to grow everything and everyone around me.” Traci also used the gym as a way to escape and deal with day-to-day frustrations. “This is where Dave and I met.”

For this power couple, when it comes to business, this passion for strength fuels everything they do. It’s in their DNA. It’s who they are. It’s what they do.

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1985 to 1996 — Feeding a Never-Ending Desire for Knowledge

Education is how elitefts achieves competitive differentiation and drives market opportunities. For nearly an entire decade prior to our beginning, cofounder Dave Tate did his own self-study of strength and conditioning. This included reading all the Russian training manuals he could find, consuming nearly everything available on strength and conditioning, attending countless seminars, and networking with as many coaches and trainers as possible. Today, elitefts owns the greatest inventory of free strength training-related information in the industry and remains fully committed to leveraging the spirit of teaching, customer feedback, and educational resources into new product categories to drive future growth.

This was a decision made by Dave long ago and it has gone unchanged: “When it comes to educating and helping others reach their goals, premium training information is mostly marketed toward those who can afford to pay for it. From the beginning, elitefts has taken a different road. We decided to side with the masses. And that means responding to the needs and desires of people around the world: people who place training as a top priority in their life; people with different needs, dreams, and aspirations; people who want to increase their strength and improve their everyday lives. Our business is based on a partnership with the customer. elitefts is an education company that just happens to sell top-of-the-line strength equipment and accessories — not a strength equipment company that happens to provide education.”

1998 — elitefts Is Born

The story of how elitefts got started depends on if you’re talking to Dave or Traci. They both, however, agree that it would not have been possible without each other. For Dave, realizing there were thousands of coaches and athletes looking for quality training advice, he set up a simple question-and-answer forum through a powerlifting website and began writing articles to help these athletes and coaches. It was at this moment elitefts was born. Dave saw a need and set out to meet it: “I could not believe the incredible amount of misinformation in regards to strength training.” For Traci, she set up the business entity for a consulting business for fitness and personal training. While venting her frustrations at the gym one day, Louie Simmons chimed in, “Why don’t you sell my products?” They started with several products and a $1000 loan, and the rest is history.

However you look at it, Dave and Traci were able to tie education and product together, leading to the birth of elitefts. elitefts was founded with one simple goal: to make average athletes elite and elite athletes great. In 1998, the first of more than 250 educational seminars takes place and the first product is sold.

1999 — Branding Our Name

During the first year of business, it was immediately realized that for the company to grow, it needed to be branded "elitefts.” Our name comes from readers online who didn’t want to type out “Elite Fitness Systems,” so they shortened it. Dave remembers the readers' input as an important part of the name: “I like that readers created it, so I trademarked it. They are just as much the company as anyone.”

2000 — Educating and Outfitting

To us, “educating and outfitting the strongest athletes around the world" means providing the education, motivation and empowerment to help athletes—those who place training as a top priority in their lives—get better. The business of elitefts is built on education, product innovation, a highly efficient global supply chain, and strong strategic execution. What sets elitefts apart, in Dave's own words, is that "we are in the PR business." At this time, the Q&A section first appears on elitefts.com and the online store is launched.

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2002 — Branded Equipment

The first elitefts branded equipment line originates this year and is available for sale.

2004 — Team Members and Under the Bar

Important advancements to both education and equipment are made this year. The first elitefts team member appears on the Q&A, the elitefts brand mono-style squat stand joins the market, and Under the Bar is published, highlighting the values behind our company. To date, over 50,000 copies have been printed.

2005 — Internal Enterprise Investment

elitefts invests heavily in internal enterprise software and systems to better serve customers. In 2005, sponsored athletes’ and coaches’ training logs make their first appearances on elitefts.com, providing direct access to the practices of industry-leading coaches and strength athletes.

2006 — Apparel Line

For the first time, elitefts apparel is available and sold on the site.

2007 — Strong(er) and Strong(her)™

The elitefts collegiate line of equipment is introduced and the Strong(er) and Strong(her) brands first appear.

2008 to 2013 — From Brand to Culture: Growth Through Media Investment

Our transition from a brand to a culture begins in 2008 when a handful of sponsors converge at an old tractor dealership in the middle of Ohio farmland that doubles as our second company gym and customer showroom. Three different generations of powerlifters train, help one another, learn, share experience, tell stories, laugh, and become one. This is living, learning, and passing on. This year elitefts also adds accessories to the site and reaches an important milestone of two million visitors per month. Investment into the elitefts media department surges and site readership grows.

In 2009, two major milestones are reached: the exercise index is introduced to the site, detailing dozens of training movements, and elitefts serves 100,000 customers.

In 2010, the Learn to Train Seminars are first conceived to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation. elitefts has always been about helping others, but in addition to strengthening athletes, our commitment has also grown to help strengthen our community. The Make-A-Wish Foundation has today become one of our flagship charitable endeavors. To date, we have had the honor of giving nearly $300,000 to this organization.

In 2013, the E-Vault, providing free access to all content, goes live. There are more than 200,000 downloads in the first month. elitefts also reaches half a million orders.

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2014 — Team elitefts Growth: eCommerce Platform Expansion 

The team expands to an all-time high of 160 members. elitefts is rich in talent, comprising of a team of more than 160 strength athletes, coaches, staff members, columnists, advisors, and other contributors. Members have held strength and conditioning coaching positions at major universities, positions within the NFL, launched their own product lines, authored books on training, owned training centers or gyms, squatted more than 1100 pounds, bench pressed more than 800 pounds, deadlifted more than 800 pounds, have set multiple all-time world records, been ranked in the top 10 for their weight classes, and been published in major magazines, such as Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Flex, Muscle and Fitness, Maxim, Powerlifting USA, Penthouse, Muscle and Fitness, Women’s Health, Shape, Muscular Development, Planet Muscle, MMA publications, boxing journals, and many others. This year, elitefts also migrates to an eCommerce enterprise platform.

2015 — Social Media Outreach

The Tour De Force and Passion-for-Profit seminars are released online for free, the elitefts Facebook page reaches nearly half a million likes, and elitefts celebrates the 20th year in business (2018).

2017 to Present Day — Investing in the Future

elitefts develops the new “Professional Rated” designation to communicate best-in-class equipment. "Professional Rated" indicates that an elitefts branded power rack with the “PR” designation has passed specialized testing that assesses the item for load capacity, stabilization, repeated use, and fit and finish.

In an effort to improve distribution capabilities and become an even better place to host the many interactive seminars and events elitefts offers each year, the company completes construction of its new 30,000 square-foot headquarters (offices, warehouse, and gym) built on three acres of land.

elitefts launches the Sports Performance Summit. This specialized event is intended to help strength and sports coaches learn training methods and fundamentals that will allow them to facilitate growth and success among their athletes. Additionally, the Strong(er) Business Summit is launched. This unique event is geared toward the business end of the fitness industry, providing helpful resources and insights for gym owners, trainers, and other fitness professionals looking to make their businesses stronger.

The one-millionth customer is served during this time period with the new and improved customer service platform, including a new phone system. elitefts reaches well over 22,000 new product units made available for sale on the site, with close to one million customers completing purchases over the years. elitefts sells equipment to at least one team in each of the four major sports (baseball, football, basketball, and hockey). Customers include the Washington Redskins, Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Maple Leafs, and New York Mets, among others. Readership also grows, reaching more than two million views and nearly 500,000 unique users. The one-millionth page of free content also becomes available, including 8,175 articles, 882,000 Q&As, 2,228 YouTube videos, over 30 professional training and coaching blogs, and over 22,000 products.

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