Sydney Cummings is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. She founded, owns, and operates Royal Change, a digital fitness media company, along with her fiancé, Dustin Houdyshell. With over 800,000 YouTube subscribers, what sets their company apart is that Royal Change offers daily high-quality workouts at no cost and with no ads interrupting the videos. In addition, their paid membership community comprised of thousands of men and women from all over the world, the Sydney Squad, provides daily group coaching on nutrition and fitness combined with motivation, accountability, and support. Finally, Royal Change sells merchandise including branded apparel and small at-home fitness accessories.
The Covid-19 pandemic has proven to be a valuable time for Royal Change. Although Cummings and Houdyshell already had been operating their company for two years before coronavirus began shutting down businesses and gyms across the globe, their business has seen tremendous growth in the past 12 months. Many people have been looking for effective, enjoyable, and reliable at-home workouts available for free. The YouTube subscriber count has quadrupled since this time last year, and thousands of people have signed up for the Sydney Squad.
“Our workouts have helped a lot of students, parents, teachers, employers, and others who suddenly have had to spend all their time at home have a bit of an escape in their day,” Cummings says. “I truly believe that fitness is both mental and physical. With our videos, people say they have been able to stay healthy and strong. Some people have even told us that our videos have saved their lives.”
Yet in spite of the growth in the Royal Change following, Cummings and Houdyshell remain committed to keeping their daily videos free and without ads interrupting them. “The greatest reward of this career is seeing the lives we’re able to help change,” Cummings explains. “Unlike just selling a physical product, our business provides a service that can change your whole life. I can’t adequately describe how much that fills me with a sense of purpose. With almost 100 million of my online workouts completed, it’s hard to convey the gratitude I feel daily. There hasn’t been a day I haven’t wanted to work my hardest.”
Unfortunately, “giving a product away for free can cause an issue with the perception of value and quality of the product,” Cummings says. “As humans, we tend to define the quality of something by how much it costs.” While Royal Change does charge for products, digital downloads, and membership in the Sydney Squad, the cofounders still refuse to make money by placing ads throughout the workout videos
The greatest challenge Cummings and Houdyshell face these days is figuring out how to grow their business “without having anyone to reach out to for advice or any type of manual for how things should be done as this is such a unique business venture,” she says. It can be tough to make fitness accessible to people all over the world at no cost. But because both cofounders come from humble beginnings, they refuse to budge on their commitment to keeping fitness free of charge every single day.
Growing up in a small town in West Virginia, Cummings was always an athlete. In high school, she ranked nationally in the high jump and began getting recruited by various colleges and universities. She chose to attend West Virginia University on a full academic and athletic scholarship.
Life was going smoothly for Cummings until, one year into nursing school, her job at a non-profit was eliminated due to budget cuts. Wondering where to turn next, she decided to follow Houdyshell’s advice and move to Charlotte, VA, where he was working as a CPA, and become a personal trainer at a gym. With her experience in sports, she figured it would be an easy summer job to help make money for her second year of nursing school. What she discovered was her life purpose. She fell in love with personal training and never went back to nursing school. The best part of the job, Cummings felt, was the positive impact she was able to have on people’s lives.
Then, in the summer of 2017, Cummings hit another bump in the road when her younger brother and only sibling Zach died from a tragic ATV accident. However, after taking time to heal, she only felt stronger in her commitment to helping others transform their lives.
Meanwhile, Houdyshell was also following his sense of purpose. He quit his job as an accountant and taught himself photography and videography. He quickly attained success, working for companies like Nike and People magazine. It was the death of Cummings’ brother that inspired him to devote himself full-time to helping her market herself on social media and build their company. He produces all the fitness videos and takes all the photos for Royal Change. “Most importantly, he has pushed me to dig deeper than I ever would have to find the strength within myself to grow my passion into a profession,” Cummings says.
To young people looking to tap into their life purpose, Cummings offers this advice. “Ignore the expectations of others and the traditions of what has been done in the past. Dive into what sets your soul on fire. There is power in understanding that your dreams and ambitions are not going to make sense to most people around you. Relentlessly chase whatever motivates you. It will likely be hard, but it will be worth it. You can’t put a monetary value on happiness and fulfillment.”
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