Meet Our Founders: Jeff Bao Nguyen
Jeff Bao Nguyen is a dreamer and the creative one; a modern-day Renaissance man; a jack of all trades.
First and foremost, he is a visual artist. In his late teens, he had four art exhibitions–in New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto. He sold most of his artwork as his realistic charcoal drawings had many think they were photographs. He attended photography classes to improve his lighting and composition techniques, only to fall in love with the medium and landed a job as a photographer for a modeling agency shooting up-and-coming models for their portfolios and did a photoshoot for Miss Canada. He also shot some weddings, including one for a high-profile craft beer maker and his wife, a local television personality.
Jeff loves to play tennis and can be found on the court for hours at a time, sweating it out, especially on a hot and sunny day. He got his certification as a tennis instructor with the Ontario Tennis Association and coached a few players one-on-one.
During this time, he washed dishes in a restaurant and worked up to becoming a chef. However, born a natural people person, he quickly grew tired of being stuck in the kitchen. His love for fashion had him opt for a career in retail where he would outfit customers at Banana Republic and made the elusive Million Dollar Club (selling $1M in one year). Being one of only three people in the country that had this distinction at the time, he quickly climbed up the ladder and into management. He was the youngest manager in the company at age 21. He led a team of over 100 people, focusing on visual merchandising, human resources, and teaching other store managers how to train their staff using the company’s sales techniques.
Jeff later accepted a job as a Counter Executive at Barney’s New York in New York City in 2003. He lived there for the next five years, traveling across the US, opening new counters and training employees. After realizing that traveling for work wasn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, he left that company and started his own graphic tee shirt company, selling to small boutiques in the high-end New York neighborhood of Chelsea. He also worked part-time at a smoothie bar in a gym. But this wasn’t any gym… this gym was home to some of the most awarded and biggest bodybuilders in the nation. He was impressed by their workout regimens and it inspired him to focus on his own physical fitness. Being 120 lbs. soaking wet, he didn’t have genetics on his side and faced challenges in gaining muscle mass. But with consistency and trying all the different protocols that were used by his idols, he slowly grew to over 180 lbs., earning the nickname, Tank.
In 2008, after returning to Canada and looking for a new start and career, Jeff used his sales experience to get a foot in the door at Goodlife as a Membership Coordinator with the intention of becoming a personal trainer. He specialized in kettlebell training and kickboxing and after a year of being one of the most sought-after and well-known trainers in town with a wait-list of potential clients wanting to get whipped into shape, he opened his own fitness studio, simply called BAO–his middle name.
While at BAO, he developed a 90-minute small-group class called BaoFIT90 that combined 30 minutes of kickboxing, kettlebells, and a sequence of poses called Yoga Stretch–which came about after attending years of yoga classes and finding that certain muscles weren’t being stretched. People loved it! So much so that after a year, his program was acquired by a local gym. They made him their fitness and design director, tasked to incorporate BaoFIT90 into their existing offerings as well as to redesign and rebrand the shabby facility into what is now known as The BAO Institute For Healthy Living.
At the same time, Jeff also served as a contributor and writer for a European Automobile Magazine where he shared about his travels across North America attending the prestigious Roll Royce Owners Club events and other car shows.
After a couple of years, he left the fitness industry altogether to open his own branding and design firm, The BAO House, a play on the German design movement, Bauhaus. He designed several international book covers, launched some small artisanal brands, created a series of posters for an academic department at Duke University, and worked on a fitness brand started by a colleague named Adam Robert McDonald. This is where he influenced and greatly impacted the trajectory of his soon-to-be best friend’s company, ARM Training Systems. After three years of designing posters, brochures, and service menus–and using his expertise in the fitness industry–in 2015, Adam convinced Jeff to work for him, not only on design but in the fitness department as well. Over the next few years, the company evolved to what is now ARM SYSTEMS and the intended 3-month short-term gig turned into a flourishing business partnership with no end in sight.
Jeff is now the Vice President, Wellness Director, and Design Director of ARM SYSTEMS. As the Wellness Director, he personally consults with clients about their eating habits through daily food journaling, weekly webinars, and monthly meetings. He also coaches clients–enrolled in the ARM Academy–on their entire lifestyle ranging from career, relationship, community, charity, adventure, and whatever matters to them most.
As the Design Director, his design process involves everything from the brand-identity system to human-resources policies; from the way they train their own team to the way they sell, market, and promote themselves throughout the GTA; from their menu of services to the nature of their delivery; and far beyond.
He is currently working on his autobiography, to be released by the end of 2018.