Back in high school, Ryan DeLuca developed passions for bodybuilding and business. So it wasn't long before he decided to merge the two. He began working out, with hopes of competing as an amateur bodybuilder and perhaps one day opening his own fitness studio. Around the same time, during the early days of the Internet, he started dabbling in e-commerce, selling a report of marketing tips for $3 each. The Web, he came to realize, would be a great place to peddle vitamins, supplements, and other tools for the weightlifting set.
DeLuca's company has benefited from a savvy domain-name purchase, but in a crowded marketplace that includes retail giants like GNC and the Vitamin Shoppe, Bodybuilding.com keeps customers coming back with the online community it has built over the years. Today, the site's forum has nearly 9 million posts from more than 200,000 members, generating 1 million page views a day. The company has also created more than 18,000 pages of its own fitness content, expanding into audio, video, and live webcasting of professional bodybuilding events. And while visitors are there, many of them place orders -- helping propel Bodybuilding.com to No. 230 on the Inc. 500.
"People naturally want to meet others with their same passion," DeLuca says as both a CEO and fitness fan. "How cool is it that if I am in Idaho and I am having a problem building my arms, I can talk with somebody in Australia who had the same problem but found the way to overcome it?"
Heading a fast-growing company with sights set on $100 million in revenue does have one drawback, though. "I haven't been able to work out that much," he says.