Entrepreneur Spotlight: John Ostos

Written by: Grant Ayers

Metroflex Fargo is a 24-hour gym facility on a mission. Placing determination and dedication in training at the forefront, Metroflex’s mission statement “is to provide a platform for all genres of fitness and athletic training; from the business professional to the high school athlete.. or the hardcore enthusiast to the pro athlete. Metroflex has the atmosphere for it all.” Metroflex Fargo owner John Ostos has ambitious plans for the future of Metroflex that rival his past accomplishments. It’s an understatement to say that Ostos has come a long way since his youth, with a journey like no other.

Ostos grew up in a challenging neighborhood in California, stating, “I come from a gang-related family. My dad, my mom and all of my father figures were from street gangs. I grew up in the ghetto and in some real deal poverty. Low income, Section Eight housing, where they wouldn’t deliver pizza to the place I live and stuff like that. When you live like that, you feel like that’s just life and you never step outside of that zone. When you live in that kind of a situation, you barely go to other neighborhoods, let alone out of the state or anything like that.

” Not seeing a clear path ahead if he stayed in his neighborhood, Ostos decided to make a change and move forward from his troublesome environment. “I left California and got a new perspective on the reality of what exists outside of the small hole that I lived in. And it changed my whole perspective. And that’s when I started to aspire to do bigger things,” Ostos said.

After graduating high school, Ostos made the decision to move north, as he had a few connections to the Fargo-Moorhead area prior to living here. Not long after, he realized that there was a goldmine of opportunity for him in the area.

“When I first came here, there were no real gangs or violence or real serious crime,” Ostos said. “You know, just crazy stuff. It was boring to me. I was confused why there wasn’t graffiti on the walls. I thought that everywhere in America, there was a ghetto and poverty. When I realized that I could ease up and didn’t have to watch my back and all that stuff, it allowed me to take more in than I normally would, and consume more of the society that I was living in.”

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Once Ostos came to Fargo, he began working at a call center through a temp agency. Ostos’ position consisted of training people on airline reservation systems and customer service across the globe. Through a mixture of determination and proving himself to those above him, he worked his way up the corporate ladder to become a supervisor and then a training manager of the company. Climbing the ranks to higher positions allowed Ostos the opportunity to travel to places in the world that he never would have imagined before, including Mauritius, Africa.

Along Ostos’ journey, he also got into music while traveling the world. Ostos used to be a battle rapper, doing freestyle competitions to improve his craft. He said that as he was getting into music while in Africa and, coincidentally, his younger brother was also developing a love for the craft back in the United States. From there, Ostos developed a vision for his next project.

“I remember telling [my younger brother], ‘When I come back from Africa, I’m gonna fly you to Fargo. I’m going to buy all kinds of studio equipment and you’re gonna learn how to use it and we’re gonna make music. We’re gonna start a group and we’re gonna get a record deal within five years.’ I just knew right away that I was going to take that to the next level. I wasn’t trying to be just some local rapper. I was a battle rapper and I had a skill set that I believed in.”

Ostos and his brother formed a rap group known as “The Lost Angel Crew,” as well as the their own record label. The label, known as ILL-EGO Entertainment, was an entirely independent record label that Ostos started and licensed out of North Dakota. Similar to Ostos’ other passion projects, his pursuit of music through ILL-EGO was filled with determination and effort.

In 2007, three short years after the birth of the idea, Ostos and his brother caught the attention of rapper B-Real, a member of famed hip-hop group Cypress Hill, at a rap competition. B-Real offered to sign them and promote the release of “Hello My Name Is,” the new album from The Lost Angel Crew. As they quickly climbed the ranks, the group signed to him and promoted their new album soon after. “Hello My Name Is” was released digitally worldwide and the crew went on to perform across the country.

However, after touring for years and being on the road often, Ostos was slowly becoming disconnected and wasn’t as close with some of his family members as he once was. Ostos made the decision to step away from touring, and the music industry as a whole, when he received unforeseen, devastating news from back home. Sadly, Ostos received word that his father had unexpectedly passed away in 2011.

Ostos said, “That kind of just sent me on a spiral and I just kind of lost it. So, I quit music intentionally. I guess that I just needed to find myself and get my life together and reboot.” After making the decision to step away from the music industry, he went back to working in the travel industry, focusing on being there for those in his life around him and training in bodybuilding. Ostos has long been interested in exercise and general health, as he was in football and ROTC in high school, and has been lifting weights and training since his 20s. While there are varying forms of bodybuilding training and intensity levels with different goals, Ostos’ training has focused on full-body improvements with a focus on diet, exercise and an overall increase in strength.

After settling down again in Fargo, Ostos didn’t wait long to find a place where he could practice one of his passions, bodybuilding. Ostos has never competed in bodybuilding but rightfully takes pride in it being a large passion of his. However, the unexpected closure of the gym that he and other members of the bodybuilding community attended left them searching for a new location.

After gym-hopping for a few years trying to find the place that was just right for them, Ostos had the idea to open his own gym to house the athletes with a mindset similar to his. He stated, “I waited a couple of years, and no one did anything. I just got this itch to research and see what it would take to open a gym.” Through this personal passion project, Metroflex Fargo was born.

A New Venture

Ostos took ownership of H&I Nutrition, a nutritional supplement outlet, in 2018 and sells a variety of supplements within Metroflex Fargo including protein, creatine and pre-workout.

He personally worked with the owner and founder of the Metroflex franchise, Brian Dobson, to form his own location. Thankfully, he also felt encouraged by the creative freedom that he was allowed to take. “There weren’t a lot of crazy rules and it was just super laid back as far as a franchise goes. [Brian] didn’t tell me what to do or how to run my business, and doesn’t intrude at all.” Ostos used the shocking level of creative freedom to his advantage, but ensured that he did his homework before launching.

Power in Numbers
At the time of writing, Metroflex has well over 1,000 members!

“When we were building our business plan, we did our market research. I went to every gym in town and scoped out what they had. However, we had a smaller budget. When we first opened, we needed to fill the space with as much equipment as possible. I think it was roughly around $200,000 worth of work to get a lot of equipment at the beginning. I wanted to do it the right way first, but I knew it had to be a little smaller at the beginning. I knew that we had to be unique to stand out.” Not long after launching, word of Metroflex Fargo spread like wildfire around the FMWF area.

However, as the success of Metroflex Fargo grew, so did the entrepreneurial roadblocks that Ostos was forced to deal with to get to the successful position he’s in today. One of the more recent problems that had to be overcome was the forced closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic temporarily restricted them with no way around mandated restrictions and closures. With many clamoring to get back into the gym to continue training, the temporary closure felt like a lifetime. While the closure did come and go in due time, it was one of the business’s most worrisome times to date.

Support the Brand
Support Metroflex Fargo with inhouse merchandise and clothing!

Also due in part to the pandemic, there have been major supply chain issues with many health supplements, which affects Ostos as he owns H&I Nutrition as well. Ostos stated that, “There are so few companies that can manufacture currently. Sometimes you can get protein, and sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you can get creatine, and sometimes you can’t. Sometimes it just depends on the brand, or what the supply chain has to offer.” Furthermore, the size of their current gym and parking lot has brought them occasional capacity limitations as well. Metroflex Fargo was forced to go as far as limiting their New Year’s resolution promotions, as they needed to avoid overcrowding with the size of their current gym.

While overcrowding isn’t the worst problem for a business to have, Ostos is looking forward to the exciting next phase of the Metroflex business plan. “Our next phase is that we’re going to be building a new gym that’s roughly double the size of our current one. Plus, we’re going to have a healthy, fit and in-house restaurant known as Alpha Kitchen. The kitchen will feature all protein-based foods, including bison burgers, steak, chicken bowls, protein shakes, smoothies and espressos and a lot more.”

Originally, aspects of this next phase of Metroflex were supposed to begin in 2020, but the looming COVID-19 pandemic held their plans up. He continued, “Alpha Kitchen will be our first launch of the new space that we build out. It’ll be a 30,000 to 40,000 square-foot gym with a full fast-acting concept restaurant inside and a full H&I Nutrition. It’s a fascinating concept.” Furthermore, the next phase will also include drop-off childcare for customers during their training sessions, which has been one of the most highly requested amenities in the past.

Looking away from future plans for the Metroflex brand, Ostos discussed what core values have mattered to Metroflex Fargo in the past and present. He emphasized that all are welcome at Metroflex, no matter your size, strength or skill set, as the training community is there to help you learn. “People often tend to say that if you’ve never competed in bodybuilding, then you’re not really a bodybuilder. If someone competed, then that would be a competitive bodybuilder in my opinion. You have to become a bodybuilder to be able to get on stage and compete against others. So, I believe you can be a bodybuilder so long as you’re living the proper lifestyle.”

While “the proper lifestyle” may be hard to grasp at the beginning, Metroflex athletes often encourage others to push themselves to their limit, distinguish themselves and smash previous records in a healthy and safe manner. He continued, “If you’re training full body, legs, and everything with complete intention, you’ll be living a bodybuilder lifestyle and cherishing it. You’ll take whatever supplements you need or work best for you, consuming protein is high on your list and more. Those encompass a bodybuilder’s needs in order to get on a bodybuilding stage and become a competitive bodybuilder. If you train and live that lifestyle, then you’re doing it.”

Another core value that Ostos remains focused on is keeping a stable culture within the Metroflex brand that represents honesty, integrity and loyalty. Whether it be representing the Metroflex name and encouraging others to not wear competing brands in the gym, or being completely transparent with what the best supplements are for an individual’s goals, Metroflex Fargo aims to help everyone achieve their goals and create a tight-knit community amongst one another. Finally, another core value is to act like an owner. Ostos said, “You should treat this like it’s your business because it could potentially be one day.” With plans to grow and expand Metroflex in the future, showing a sense of loyalty and care for the culture is a big value for Ostos and the rest of the Metroflex team.

As Ostos aims to expand the Metroflex empire he envisions, he’s continuing to emphasize the value of sharing said culture with one another, no matter the setting or people. He explained, “You’ll see cops, military guys, doctors and nurses. When they come through these doors, they’re like a different breed of humans, you know what I mean? They come in with a purpose and give it everything they’ve got. It’s something that you might see and think, ‘That doesn’t look like somebody that would go here.’ And then you watch them train and you think, ‘They definitely belong here.’ You know, they’re here to train.”

At Metroflex, Ostos shares his bodybuilding and athletic culture with anyone, no matter where the athletes come from. “I come from a culture that I feel is unique to this region. It stands out as a mass appeal. All I did was create something that has helped me, but it has a lot of culture within. Between the music, the graffiti on the walls, the ruggedness of the way we run and operate the business, as well as the content that we create, I try to make it a culture that we can grow through together.”

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Grant is a Senior Editor at Spotlight Media. Grant writes for Fargo INC! and Bis-Man INC!