Flying High Now: Meet David Tessler — serial entrepreneur, yoga master and co-founder of Jabs Gym.
Mix boxing and yoga — yes, mix them — and find a very modern workout in Birmingham, and now, Detroit.
That’s the combo that makes Jabs Gym stand out. And it’s just one of the many cutting-edge and diverse business ventures David Tessler helms.
Developed by Tessler and Willie Fortune — Tessler teaches yoga while Fortune, a pro fighter, shows how to punch — the gym offers a unique experience plus options for those who also want something more conventional.
“Yoga and boxing complement each other,” says Tessler, 33, who took up yoga before thinking about getting into boxing. “With the breathing and mental focus that come into both, they work well together.
“Boxing brings the heart rate up, and a round of yoga makes the heart rate go down. That burns more calories and is a more challenging workout.”
The two sports enthusiasts have trademarked their idea as BOYO, joining the first two letters of each discipline and reminding customers that both are great stress relievers. Punch out stress or breathe out stress, they advise.
“I’ve been a yoga teacher for about 10 years and moved to Los Angeles for a year to teach,” recalls Tessler, who grew up in Lathrup Village and Birmingham, attended Groves High School and tried yoga at the urging of a friend.
“The studio where I was supposed to teach in California didn’t open, and I was looking for another physical activity. I wandered into a boxing gym and got into that.
“When I moved back to Michigan, I wanted to keep up with boxing. I was teaching yoga and started teaching that to the guy who was training me in boxing.”
As the two men got to know each other, they came up with the idea for Jabs and opened their Birmingham location in 2013. Fortune suggested the name Jabs because of the importance of jabs in setting up other boxing moves.
Tessler, based in Birmingham for residence (see Home story on page 41) and work, decided on a Detroit location while organizing other business projects in the city. The second facility opened at the end of last year.
“I’m in a real-estate business and saw what was going on Downtown,” Tessler explains. “There were new restaurants and new things to do, but I was seeing a lack of fitness. There were a couple of yoga studios and a couple of gyms but nothing like what we did.
“We had the opportunity to go into Midtown or Downtown Detroit,” he adds, “but we wanted to find a space that embodied the spirit of Jabs. Even in Birmingham, our location is in a converted warehouse, so it has the feeling of a true boxing gym.”
The partners found a space in Eastern Market, a mile north of Downtown. “We loved the energy in Eastern Market — it was constantly bustling with people,” Tessler says. “Our space is on the third floor in a converted loft, so there’s exposed brick and concrete with an amazing view of the whole city, but you also can see what’s going on in Eastern Market. It created this cool idea of being in a classroom hitting a punching bag and being surrounded by the city.
“We wanted Jabs to be a part of the rebuilding of Detroit,” Tessler says. “I own land in Detroit and am focused on doing as much business as I can in Detroit — I’m really
excited for the city’s future.”
Tessler, who had his bar mitzvah at Temple Emanu-El in Oak Park, began showing a strong interest in business opportunities while still in high school.
“A buddy of mine was Irish, and his dad would go to Ireland and bring back Red Bull before anybody around here knew what Red Bull was,” Tessler recalls. “He said we should try it, and we really liked it.
“We wrote a letter to Red Bull — the company was in Austria at the time — and asked where we could get this in Michigan. We got a letter back saying they were not in Michigan yet; they were looking for a distributor in the state and asked if we would be interested.”
Not revealing they were 16, the friends went to the library, found out about distribution and wrote a business plan. There was a series of contacts with the beverage maker over time, and the two were hired to set up events and develop the drink’s presence in Michigan after they graduated from high school.
Tessler’s attention to marketing continued, and he established his own firm, Rain Marketing. He did work for automotive companies and arranged online gift and incentive programs for some 150 casinos across the country.
“The marketing company is day-to-day, and the gym is a passion project,” says Tessler, who refurbished a warehouse to launch the Birmingham facility.
“In Birmingham, we have a regulation-size boxing ring, a weight room and a personal training area with treadmills and ellipticals. There is a fitness room, changing area and showers.
“Downtown is a smaller space with a full classroom and personal training area, but we don’t have an actual boxing ring.”
Tessler teaches yoga in Birmingham, where the gym is connected to his office space.
“In 2014, I started an equity crowd-funding portal, Michigan Funders,” Tessler explains about another enterprise. “In 2013, Michigan passed a law that allowed raising business money through Michigan residents at any income level.
“We launched a website to facilitate this, and our largest fundraising has been for the Detroit City Football Club, which opened a new stadium in Hamtramck after raising funds from more than 500 people.”
Robert Tessler, who has worked in real estate, has been his son’s inspiration in many ways. Dad introduced boxing as the two often watched matches together.
“My wife, Meagan, and I met at a yoga teacher training,” Tessler says. “She doesn’t teach but wanted to try. We met in 2008, and she managed the gym for about a year.”
The couple’s family time is devoted to their 6-month-old daughter, Harper.
“I love to cook,” Tessler says. “Ninety percent of my food is the result of being health-conscious, but we like to make potato pancakes for breakfast.” *