The Regulatory State and the Suppression of Small Businesses- Military Spouse Style


Military spouses, which, let’s face it, are overwhelmingly women, have a tough time of it. Among many other trials they face, their ability to build a career is hampered by the fact they are uprooted every couple years to move halfway across the country or the world. Not surprisingly, for some, a small entrepreneurial business makes a lot more sense for them than entering the corporate world. Find a need and fill it. That’s how businesses work.

At Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH, or just PH) in Hawaii, the directorate for Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) provides fitness classes for family members. MWR also works with Child Development Centers (CDC) to provide daycare services. Both of these are provided on a fee for service basis. Of course, there is no childcare at the gym for the fitness classes. And often, CDC has no space available when a family member wants to drop off their children so they can attend an MWR fitness class. And even if there is space, the family member has to pay for both the class and the child care. Pretty soon, it adds up to a fair chunk of change. And military families, while not destitute, aren’t made of money, either.

So Navy veteran, and current military spouse Christina Landry had an idea. She founded Dumbell Fitness (DBF) with an eye to providing a boot-camp style fitness course that included childcare. The only facilities it would need were open fields within the PH military housing communities. And to top it off, she could provide the fitness course, and the childcare at a lower price than either MWR or CDC charged singly.

It was a good deal, and soon became wildly popular.

And the regulatory state simply cannot have that.

A boot camp class, founded by a Navy veteran to cater to military spouses, is being kicked off Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam after a fitness contract was offered instead to a higher bidder.

Military families are outraged — saying the base shouldn’t make decisions based on money, but rather on supporting spouses on post.

DumBell Fitness has been operating on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for the past five years, but this week it found out it will no longer be able to offer classes, because it did not receive a contract through Morale, Welfare and Recreation.  MWR, as it’s commonly known, provides support and leisure services on base — from pools to golf courses and fitness centers.

According to the Navy Region Hawai’i bid proposal, MWR requires a minimum commission of 15% total gross sales of service per month or higher to award a contract.

“The statistics show, if you look up an average small business, the gross profit is 20%.  Ours is 15% because our class costs are so low and because we give out in wages to other military spouses,” explained DumBell Fitness’ founder and owner Christina Landry, a Navy veteran.

Based on the numbers DumBell Fitness provided Hawaii News Now, Landry shows if her business was required to pay 15% gross, after expenses, the company would owe more than it makes.

Sure, this case takes place in a military setting. But ask virtually any small business owner the greatest cause of distress in their business, and it will almost certainly be the strangulation by regulation of the municipality, state and federal government.

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