Ask (Augustana) Alumni Anything: Tony Nguyen, '14 BSc

Alumnus Tony Nguyen answers questions about starting your own business, his time on campus, his recent Top 40 Under 40 award and more!

29 November 2021

Photo of Tony Nguyen in front of a corner cut-out image of Founders' Hall

Born and raised in Whitehorse, YT, Tony moved to Alberta after high school to play college basketball for the Augustana Vikings. He began his personal training career in 2015 before opening his own personal training company and indoor fitness facility called F.R.E.E. Fitness in Edmonton, AB.

F.R.E.E. Fitness houses a team of eight qualified personal trainers, one boxing instructor and a physiotherapy clinic located under one roof. The team of personal trainers operate on a sliding fee scale (Pay How You Feel), which allows their clients to determine the amount they pay based not only on the value of the services we provide, but also their budget. This personal training model is unique to F.R.E.E. Fitness Inc. Since establishing F.R.E.E. Fitness in 2016, Tony's personal training team has impacted the lives of more than 500 clients. 

In addition to his hands-on role at F.R.E.E. Fitness, Tony organizes charitable fundraisers, promotions, including free bootcamps, stair runs and yoga classes. These community events have engaged more than 1500 participants throughout Edmonton over the last six years. Tony has also been recently acknowledged with a Top 40 Under 40 award from Edmonton’s Edify magazine.

Q: How did you like living on campus? 

A: I loved living on campus. It was such an amazing opportunity to meet new people from all over Alberta. My first two years I lived in dorms before moving off campus, and I am still great friends with my roommates from my first and second year. 


Q: How did you feel when you found out about the Top 40 Under 40 award? 

A: Interesting enough, I found out three days after my Achilles tendon surgery in August while recovering on my couch, haha! I was ecstatic to hear the news. It's a privilege and an honour to be considered part of this year's class. It's taken six years of hard work and consistency, so I'm proud of the achievement. 


Q: Steps to starting a new business and what people should consider before starting one?

A: 1) Is your service or product a demand in your community, A.K.A. will people spend money for what you're selling?
2) Does your service or product involve human relationships/connection?

If you've answered "Yes" to both, you most likely have a business that can be successful long-term. I've learned over the years the importance of building strong relationships with your customers and consumers. They are everything to your business—treat them like gold.


Q: What type of jobs would you recommend for a first-year on campus?

A: I recommend finding a job that actually brings enjoyment in your life. I was always told that you should find a job that will gain you experience for your "future" career, even if it was boring and dry. In my opinion, finding a job that connects you with people where you can grow meaningful relationships is the priority. You have your entire life to "work", so challenge yourself to learn new skills and meet new people along the way. If it pays well, that's a bonus.


Q: Rate your Augustana experience and share your worst and best memories.

A: 7/10.

Worst memories include not drinking coffee throughout my entire college career, haha. Such a simple thing I deprived myself of during late nights and early mornings. Best memories include supporting the sports teams at Augustana. It was so much fun attending different games and supporting fellow Vikings athletes. 


Q: What has been your biggest motivation with starting your own business?

A: If I'm going to sacrifice my personal time away from my friends and family to earn money, it better be for something that I'm proud of where I'm making a difference in other people's lives. That has always been and will forever be my biggest motivation about my business, F.R.E.E. Fitness.


Q: Did you take any further schooling after undergrad?

A: Besides continuing education (specifically in nutrition and areas of rehabilitation), I did not pursue further schooling after my undergrad. I’m 100 per cent proud of completing my degree; however, I felt as a business owner, I needed to build my communication and relationship skills to grow and achieve more of my professional goals.


Q: What are your tips for building strong relationships with customers?

A: Provide as much value for your customers and consumers as possible. Go beyond and above. Remember their name, what they do for work and their hobbies. Connect with them outside of what you’re selling them. The simple conversations you have with them go a long way in building a strong rapport. In return, they will support you through the ups and downs of owning a business.


Q: I’m trying to decide if I want to look at becoming a registered kinesiologist. What are your pros and cons for the job?

A: Becoming a registered kinesiologist is a great entry point if you’re interested in physical activity as the
primary means of intervention in the prevention of musculoskeletal conditions. It provides a great foundation and stepping stone if you choose to further your career towards becoming a physical therapist (OT, PT and medicine). Sadly, not all companies and people recognize registered kinesiologists as health care professionals. The narrative is changing in many provinces in Canada, as private health care is seeing the value of integrating registered kins in their patient care. Alberta Kinesiology Association is a great organization to learn more.


Q: How do you make a profit with a Pay How You Feel scale?

A: As most people know, personal training can be expensive. It’s not to say we’re not worth that amount, because I do think we are; however, it really limits the number of people in the community that can afford training. I wanted to create a system that makes fitness more accessible. Our sliding scale typically ranges from $40 a session to $75 per session for a 60-minute workout. Whatever dollar amount a member chooses does not change the value we provide for them. We’ve recognized that by offering clients the option to choose, it opens the referral door for MORE people to afford training over a longer period of time. Our success since 2016 demonstrates that this model serves to engage a broader community of Edmontonians by making personal training more accessible.


Q: What are things you didn’t expect about owning a business?

A: I didn’t expect the platform that owning a business would have to allow me to give back to Edmonton. Outside of the services and activities offered by F.R.E.E. Fitness, I am an advocate in the Edmonton community for health and wellness. Our free community events have engaged more than 1500 participants throughout Edmonton over the last 5 years. I have organized 17 major fundraisers since 2016, generating $54,000 towards the following initiatives: Movember Edmonton, Kids with Cancer Society, Playgrounds for Cambodia, Edmonton Mental Health Foundation, Youth Empowerment Support Service “YESS”, Edmonton Food Bank, Canadian Blood Services, Queer Scouts YEG, Alberta Cancer Foundation, Kid Sport Edmonton, YEG The Come Up and Black Health Alliance. Organizing community events/fundraisers is something I really love, and I wouldn’t have been able to do so without growing a business.


Q: What’s your favourite workout?

A: It changes all the time. However, I particularly love training strength/stability for golfers right now. I’ve really dove head in on how to improve stability, rotation and the ability to generate power. This type of training can be applied to basically all types of sports, but also people who want to live pain free and be strong in life.


Tony is answering YOUR questions all week! Submit your questions through our Instagram story or by emailing