Joy Ferguson overcomes challenges to build business

April 26, 2024

When asked what she does for a living, fitness trainer and owner of BUILT Joy Ferguson says she’s an accountability manager. She knows that people won’t stay with an exercise program unless they feel they are making progress. So besides helping people be accountable for their personal fitness, she recognizes it is her job to make training fun and tolerable. One of the most rewarding things for Joy is to hear her clients say, “Remember when I couldn’t do that?”

Joy grew up on a farm in southeastern Pennsylvania. Her parents felt Joy was the perfect name for their daughter as they tell her she always looked on the bright side of life, no matter what challenges came her way. Growing up, Joy was always reasonably fit. She remained that way, even after the birth of her first child. But after the birth of her second child, she noticed the weight she gained during pregnancy didn’t come off so easily. As a result, she started taking classes at a local Gold’s Gym and got hooked on lifting weights. She not only enjoyed the feeling of strength it gave her, but she could also set goals for herself and monitor her progress. “I was good at it, and we tend to gravitate towards those things we like,” she said.

After getting married, she moved from Newark to Lewes. She enrolled in a Curves program for about 30 days and then switched to Quest Fitness, which was operating in the Beacon Motel at that time. Not long after joining, a second Quest Fitness opened and she was recruited by some of the fitness trainers to work there, which she did from 2003-13. She also started her personal fitness training business on the side, calling it “Fit Happens.” Then on April Fool’s Day in 2013, she opened her own fitness facility, named BUILT. She started with about 100 members and 25 personal training clients. Her business continued to grow and within two years. She outgrew her space and moved to a space at Five Points, which had more room and better parking. At her peak, Joy had seven part-time trainers, 150 people enrolled in classes and about 30 personal training clients. Then COVID hit.

BUILT shut down due to COVID in March 2020 and didn’t reopen for classes until June 2020. She was able to maintain her training clients on a limited basis. Through no fault of her own, Joy was devastated that this very successful business she had built was essentially taken away from her. She didn’t qualify for PPP loans but did get some help from the government in the form of a HELP loan that had to be paid back. The financial impact of losing her business forced Joy to sell her house and move to another location. The new location not only had a house, but an out-building that she remodeled to accommodate her classes. She eventually reopened BUILT in the new location and resumed classes and training, but her class membership had dropped from 150 members to six. 

In 2023, Joy had to move again because of some personal challenges. She now rents space in a small building behind the Antiques Mall on Route 1. She refers to the space as a fitness she-shed, but she has been able to resume classes and maintain her fitness clients. Her client’s ages range from 17 to 77 and some date back to her original business in 2013. 

Being a fitness trainer impacts all aspects of her life. Joy says, “It affects when I go to bed, how I eat and my self care.” But it’s essential to her business to maintain her best health as she starts classes at 5 to 5:30 in the mornings and goes until 6 p.m. on most days. Having been in the fitness business for as many years as she has, she has seen people in all shapes, sizes and degrees of health. Unfortunately, she observes that many people don’t think about their health until they have a medical issue or a health scare. Rather than being proactive, people tend to be reactive when it comes to committing to a healthier lifestyle. “And people feel so much better about themselves, both physically and mentally, they regret they hadn’t started earlier in life.” 

Despite the many challenges, and multiple moves to maintain her business, Joy has always remained upbeat. She feels fortunate to have clients who are so grateful for being part of the BUILT family. Through the years, Joy has not only helped people become more fit, but she has also built many friendships with her clients. As Joy says, “What could be better than having clients and people with whom I work out, who are also my dear friends.”

For more information on personal training and classes, email


  • This column provides an opportunity for readers to connect with the personal side of business leaders in area communities. Many of our local business owners and CEOs are thought leaders in their community, and they can provide valuable insights and ideas on issues of common interest to all of us. Successful businesses are essential for a healthy and growing society, especially as people continue to move to this area looking for employment opportunities. This column will highlight leaders who are not only successful, but also making a difference in our communities.

    Jeffrey Fried has been an executive in the healthcare industry for over 40 years, including serving as the president/CEO of Beebe Medical Center for 24 years. After leaving Beebe Healthcare, Jeff started his own consulting and executive coaching company, and has coached executives in a variety of industries. In addition, Jeff has partnered with a company called Vistage, the oldest executive coaching company in the country, where he serves as a local chair on the Delmarva Peninsula and leads/supports a group of medium-sized business owners and CEOs. Jeff and his wife Sherry reside outside Lewes and between the two of them have three children and five grandchildren. Last but not least, they are the parents of two rescue dogs.

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