Million dollar ideas can be born anywhere, and prison cells are no exception. Such is the story of Coss Marte, a former drug dealer who was convicted to seven years in prison at the age of 23, but managed to completely reinvent himself since and create a thriving, socially-conscious business that is now changing the way New Yorkers exercise.
Marte [pictured below] started dealing drugs when he was 13. Shortly after, he was raking in $2 million a year until, pushing everything from weed to heroin and coke until eventually getting caught and being sent to prison. Despite his young age, Marte was dangerously overweight. So much so, doctors told him to lose weight or he'll die behind bars.
Confined by the walls of his 9'x6' prison cell, Marte started developing an equipment-free workout that helped him lose 70lbs in only six months. Now, he wants to help others achieve the same without necessarily having to "do the time."
After having successfully implemented his workout technique in prison – according to The Independent, Marte helped more than 20 inmates lose a total of 1,000lbs – the convict-turned-entrepreneur started looking for ways to open a legit gym in New York City and offer locals a new training experience.
Thus, in 2016, the first ConBody studio opened its doors and boy did it strike a chord with everyone. Not only is it founded by an ex-con, the gym prides itself on hiring formerly incarcerated people to run fitness classes – a decision that stems from Marte's personal experience of struggling to find a job. He told The New York Times:
"The stigma was so strong it was like serving double time. No one even bothered to call me back."
Currently operating out of two locations in New York City – its original home on Bowery and the upscale version located inside the Saks Fifth Avenue's flagship store – ConBody employs six former convicts, but Marte continues his outreach program by collaborating with prisons and training inmates there. He told Allure:
"I get fan jail mail from across the country because I go into prisons a lot to train inmates. I now have a whole folder of résumés, and that's the idea — we want to bridge the gap from inside out and create a better pipeline, create a better movement."
The classes are popular among all sorts of individuals, especially New Yorkers looking for vanity-free workouts where you're actually encouraged to sweat like a pig rather than prance around in expensive 'performance outfits' without even stretching your muscles.
After having successfully established the physical fitness studios, Marte is now looking to take his business online with the "world's first prison style virtual gym." By donating as little as $1 for its Kickstarter campaign, you can become a member of ConBody's virtual gym and help Marte build a brighter future for many more inmates.
Visit ConBody's website to learn more and be sure to check out the video below to hear more about Marte's inspiring story.