meet the owners
To truly know a business, you must know its owners… those who shape the heart and soul of the company. We’re proud to share these stories from our leaders! Read on to get to know them better…
Doreen Bolhuis, President and Founder
Shannon Austhof, CEO and Partner
As I look back, my real life story started at age 5 when I first began ballroom dancing classes. That’s when I found the incredible joy of movement… and I wanted more! I progressed to jazz and acrobatics classes, and I learned quickly because of my intense passion for movement. Acrobatics led to tumbling classes and ultimately to competitive gymnastics, cheerleading, and track through my high school years. I often tell people that the best gift my parents ever gave me was gymnastics. You see, I come from a non-athletic family with rampant health problems. I became a highly active child in a low-activity family, and today I reap the health benefits of life-long physical activity. At mid-life I am still in excellent physical and emotional health. (Thank you, Mom and Dad!)
My hours in the gym had a profound effect on shaping the person I was to become. When I started gymnastics, it kept me out of trouble in a small town where there wasn’t a lot to do. I learned how to set goals and how to ‘fail forward,’ overcoming the challenges and obstacles I faced in the gym every day. I learned courage – that being afraid of something isn’t a reason to stop. As a result, I was never afraid to try new things. I learned to trust other people – to teach me, to spot me, to catch me when I fell. I developed deep and lasting relationships which I enjoy to this day. The gym was always a safe and happy emotional place for me and I loved it so much that I wanted to live there! My parents were my biggest cheerleaders and enjoyed watching me without ever pushing. I realize now that they took a chance when they got me involved in something that they knew nothing about. I am thankful for that commitment every day.
I began coaching gymnastics at the age of 13. I started with younger children in day camps, and then progressed to teaching classes and to private lessons with a special needs student when I was 14. The parent specifically requested me as a teacher and this began a lifelong interest in working with special needs students. After high school, I continued to coach competitive gymnastics and began judging competitions.
Upon moving to Grand Rapids in 1997, I started working at Gymco. (My first child was just two months old!) When I walked into Gymco, I felt like I was home. The staff was so friendly and welcoming, and the activities in the gym energized me. I began working part-time and before long I was a full-time employee, making Gymco ‘home’ not only for me, but also for my children.
Gymco’s programs and culture created an opportunity for my children to grow up in a place where they were safe and cared for. They participated in classes, camps, Kids’ Night Out, preschool and a variety of other Gymco programs. Both kids were always welcome and we felt cared for as a family. The impact of their Gymco years has been has been profound in shaping the people that Breana and Bryce have become. They are highly active and are successful in every sport they try. Although one prefers team sports and one likes individual sports, both possess the confidence and courage to tackle not only sports, but whatever life brings.
Today, I am proud and overjoyed to be the CEO of Gymco and the successor to our founder and President, Doreen Bolhuis. My professional activities include judging for the National Cheerleading Championships; teaching as an Adjunct Professor for Aquinas College in the department of Kinesiology; and serving on the Board of Directors for Ridge Park Charter School. I speak at conferences and conventions on the topics of Movement Education, Child Development in Sports, Cheerleading Skills and Drills, Preschool Sport Lesson Planning, Marketing and Strategies for Gym Schools. I speak to moms’ groups about the importance of Movement Education and how it affects child development. I hold active memberships in the GR Chamber of Commerce, Forest Hills Business Association, and USA Gymnastics. I serve as a national consultant in the All Star Cheerleading industry and conduct national camps and clinics for cheerleading and tumbling. I am currently completing my Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology at Aquinas College.
The active lifestyle I began at 5 years old still empowers me with strength, confidence and courage today. I enjoy sports such as long boarding, wake boarding, snowboarding, mountain biking, unicycle, running, hot yoga, and this year I intend to try snow shoeing. And best of all, I still flip in the gym whenever I have a chance!
For years, my parents’ friends would say ‘she is just a jock… what can she ever do with that?’ Now, looking back, I’ve created a life doing what I love. I love connecting with Gymco kids, staff, and parents every day. I look forward to coming to work every day. And, when the lights are off at night and everyone has gone home, I stand in the dark gym and think, ‘I’m right where I need to be. I landed in exactly the right place.’ It’s a great feeling!