Debra Bassin: Courage and Grit Personified
At 48 years old, Debby Bassin, a one-time stay-at-home mom, has created quite a positive and impactful presence in her community. Now, over five years after Flipper’s Gymnastics became an LLC, Debby graciously reflected on a few more questions about her journey thus far.
Some final thoughts…
What are things that you saw in other business owners that you have decided to avoid?
The short answer: Rudeness. At the gym where she brought her kids when they were younger (which I shall not name here), she felt the staff was rude. For example, parents were expected to come with a check at the beginning of every month. If they forgot, the staff would stop their child from entering the class until the parent came with a check. Such an embarrassment to a child was something that Debby simply could not abide by. She resolved that her staff would always be pleasant.
I don’t believe in the theory that the customer is always right because I don’t think it is true. But if I need to approach a customer and say ‘here’s how things actually are,’ I’m going to say it in the most tactful and sensitive way possible. I’m not going to be up all in their face and be rude to them, like so many other places that I’ve been to. I just don’t see the need for that.
She believes in being a human being – speaking with kindness, even when you need to maintain your position. Some of the strongest features of Debby’s personality are that she is friendly and she knows what she is talking about. She adeptly straddles being strong and kind, experienced and open-minded; these are part of the balance that all business owners should strive to achieve. She alone knows how her business needs to run, and she invites anyone to come along for the ride. No matter the situation, she presents herself to the world with integrity, great strength of character, and confidence in what she has to offer.
Unlike many gym owners, many of whom the parents never see, everyone who comes to Flipper’s knows who I am and they know that I am approachable.
What are some of the successes that you have enjoyed (even if it is not financial)?
The biggest one that makes her most proud:
When I look around the gym and I see four different classes going on with their own coaches, and I think ‘oh my god, look at all the kids I brought in! Look at all these people, the skills they are working on and the joy on their faces!’ That is what gives me the most joy and makes me feel like ‘look what I have accomplished’.
That accomplishment is a testament to her vision, and the effort she has made to bring it to life. On her current roster, she has about 350 students and 25 staff members, including her new group of IIT’s. She has created jobs in her own community, and has provided a place for gymnasts young and old to pursue our passion for that feeling like we can fly, like we are all-powerful and capable of doing what should otherwise be impossible.
Does the magnitude or danger of this business every give you pause?
Oh yes! I have been getting anxious every now and then just going in. The amount of teaching that I’m doing, somedays I’m just anxious that I don’t have the energy to be a safe teacher. So I’ll have to take a nap or drink a Red Bull which I had never done before. I have to figure out how I can get through the day without anybody else’s safety being at risk and that is frightening.
For context, Debby’s work schedule looks something like this: Monday through Friday, she teaches from about 3-7 p.m. On Thursday and Friday she also teaches a morning adult class and a preschool class as well. Saturdays, she goes from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To be clear, it’s a brutal schedule, considering how physically demanding it is to coach all of those classes. She reserves one non-class morning to doing admin work, so there’s precious little time left to actually focus on re-filling her bucket.
Don’t forget – she’s also a mom.
What are some of your self-care strategies?
Knowing how stressful the whole ordeal of realizing her dreams has been, I asked her about what she does for self-care, since she often runs like the Energizer bunny, unflaggingly beating her drum and rolling forward each day. At first, Debby had to think about this. She paused, looked up, shrugged and said, Not good. Then a light bulb went off, Oh! I’m in therapy once a week! Yay! That’s something, for sure.
Digging in a little more, she did start to recall a few mindful activities she has employed; these non-negotiables help her maintain her sanity. One morning a week, she laces up her tap shoes and actually takes a class for fun. She schedules a monthly massage to try to relax and work out some of the kinks that her physically demanding schedule creates. One of her favorite chill activities is cross-stitching, Every morning before I go to the gym, I sit and I do my cross stitch and that just gets me calm, focused for the day and when I get home after dinner, I’ll try to get back to it before I go to bed.
While it never feels like it’s enough, at least she has a few things that refill her bucket. When you’re the boss, those self-care strategies are completely necessary to keep your heart and soul focused.
Despite the roller coaster experience she’s endured as a small-business owner, Debby has actually lived up to her five-year-plan, finally turning a profit. Right before COVID broke out, she was actually able to write herself a paycheck. Of course, the pandemic created some significant financial strain (see how in Part 4: Weathering COVID). Now, since this school year began, she has enjoyed a few cashflow positive months. Striking a financial balance is quite a tall order for someone who has carried so much weight on her tiny shoulders. Hopefully, her long-term vision of finding a “mini-me” version of herself will materialize sooner than later so that she can alleviate some of her physical stressors.
What long way Debby has come since her first musings about opening her own gym. It has been such a joy to highlight such an incredible person in my blog. I am grateful for her effort and her dogged determination to succeed. Most importantly, I am proud to call Debby Bassin my dear friend.
If you’re just tuning in now, you can start reading from the beginning of the profile series Debra Bassin: Courage and Grit Personified, Part 1: Who is Debby?. If you’d like to read from the beginning of my Geriatric Gymnastics blog series, click on I am a Gymnastics Addict. You’ll get an inside glimpse of the middle-age mind of an adult gymnast.
If you are in the Ramsey area and would like to learn more about Debby’s gym, visit the Flipper’s Gymnastics website.