Home » Meet the Boss: Rocco Castellano

Meet the Boss: Rocco Castellano

From a Stuttering kid, afraid of everything, to a Media executive and sought-after therapeutic exercise/biohacking practitioner

My business card used to say, Author, Speaker, and Fitness Personality. Now, you couldn’t get my number if your life depended on it unless you knew someone who knew me. This was a testament to where I was and my journey to becoming a multi-millionaire fitness personality.

Six Years Old Shining Shoes

I have worked hard and made money since I was a kid. When I was six years old, I shined shoes every morning at the Bus Stop in front of my Apartment complex on Shaler Blvd in Ridgefield, NJ, humping my shine box to ensure I got at least four shines before the bus drove away with my customers.

When I was ten years old, I worked as a gopher for a construction company, making 10-12 dollars a day. I used that money to buy groceries to cook my brother’s dinner every night. When my mother worked the graveyard shift, I’d do anything to avoid getting back on welfare and using food stamps to buy food at the local grocery store.

You Can’t Communicate When You Can’t Talk

And to make it worse, at age 5, I developed a terrible stutter that kept me from communicating what I wanted. My mother would try to figure out what I was trying to say by guessing what I wanted. If I started stuttering and the sound K, K, K, K, K, K, K, K, K, K came out of my mouth, my mother in rapid-fire would spew the words Cake, Cat, Coffee Can, Coat, and eventually Cookie. I feebly nodded in acceptance of a cookie from the cookie jar, even though I wanted to ask her if I “could” go outside and play with my friends. I took the cookie and ran out to play without asking; it was too much work.

My stuttering became such a hassle that even my Guidance Counselor at School told me I should “learn a trade” so I wouldn’t have to speak too often for my work. I did take up a trade and learned Masonry and Carpentry from two incredible mentors, Michael Broderick and Ricky Venasanos, but I quickly realized that I would instead not break my balls too hard for my living. I still semi-mastered my trades but worked part-time for my “Cousins” at a North Jersey Health Club gym. They weren’t my cousins, but that’s another story entirely.

My Cousin Frank

The fitness bug hit me hard, and I was good at it. The only problem was I still stuttered and only cleaned showers, emptied garbage, and vacuumed the gym. I wanted to be like my “cousin” Frank and train people well. I became so fit, strong, and tough that my “cousin” put me to work in his other “family” business, and I was good at that, too.

It was like an episode from the Sopranos. Rocco, this is Joey; now break his leg. Breaking bones seemed to come naturally to me because I couldn’t talk; I snapped fingers, toes, or maybe an elbow or nose—nothing to it.

The only problem was that the authorities were always looking over our shoulders, which is not a good way to live our lives, always trying to survive. I needed to get out of just surviving and get something stable.

Sheer Determination and Tenacity

I knew I needed a change, but I had no road map or idea of how to change my life. Knowing it had to change, only through sheer determination and tenacity I decided to find a way to stop stuttering. I stuttered my way through many a sales pitch at the gym and speaking in front of crowds in School, and as one of the Captains of the Wrestling Team, led Pep rallies; screw it, I was on a mission.

Then life steps in and slaps you in the face! My bone-breaking acumen got me in trouble, and I was sent away for a year. I took that year to think about how I would become a millionaire.

Curing My Stutter

In jail, I overcame much of my stuttering. I had to learn to communicate quickly and efficiently. Before going in, my Sensai Carlos told me, “I should never, ever fight with anyone because I would be showing my cards, and it was always better to keep them guessing about the big tough “white guy.”

I took that advice seriously and studied the dictionary and thesaurus daily, looking for words I could say. Because I stuttered on sounds like “G,” B,” and “W,” I changed the word from “get” to “acquire,” or “bring” to “take” or “work” to “task.” it was like my world changed I was able to speak and communicate. I threw away all my Mafia history and handbooks. I studied every sales, marketing, and business strategy from Tom Peters “In Search of Excellence,” Eliyahu Goldratt’s “The Goal” to Jay Levinson’s “Guerilla Marketing. Now, I was ready to build my future.

Starting My Business

Because I couldn’t speak growing up, I listened a lot to one of my father figures, a great man named Ed Bogosian. He said, “If you have no money, your best investment is knowledge .” I studied and studied. When I exited jail, I started my own business with all the knowledge I had accumulated. The first business I was to “acquire” was my “cousin’s” gym.

Looking back at my story, I realize that I had an uncanny ability to see the future like I had a crystal ball to get myself out of a bind. I had to develop that skill to make more money quickly. Even today, I use the same skill I created in my youth to get my clients’ and my own results where they need to be.

Only Certified Personal Trainer in New Jersey

In 1991, I saw an ad for a new profession in Muscle & Fitness called Certified Personal Fitness Trainer. I could get “Certified” without a College Diploma, so I bought a plane ticket to Chicago to become one of the first 400 Personal Trainers Certified by Bob Goldman’s National Academy of Sports Medicine to become the only “Certified Personal Fitness Trainer” in New Jersey. I used that statement in a hefty $15,000 Yellow Pages ad (remember them before you Googled anything) that landed me my first Personal Training client.

Being the “only” Personal Trainer in New Jersey had its perks. Who wouldn’t want a “personal trainer” named Rocco? I went to the interview and got hired on the spot for $25 bucks an hour.

Getting Out of New Jersey

If there is only one thing that I learned from my time in the “Family” business, it is that your past always comes back to haunt you again, and it did. I beat up the wrong guy this time, so my “cousins” told me it was a good idea to leave New Jersey. Get out of Jersey, I did. I borrowed money from some friends and got on a Greyhound Bus to Cincinnati, Ohio 14 hours later, and with $60 in my pocket, I set out to change the world. OK, the fat people in Cincinnati, but I set out and did.

Within the first six months, I met a friend who owned a Hair Salon named Strands. I made a deal to train him to use his vacant room for Massage. He jumped at the chance to have that amenity and be trained.

Within the first three months I worked at Strands, I got in front of enough people and talked about Personal Training that I had to give up doing Massage and wound up training a complete list of clients at a place called “The Boathouse for $25 bucks a session, making $5000.00 my first month, I busted my ass.

My Own Personal Training Facility

Ninety days later, I had my 800-square-foot facility making $10,000 a month, doubling my income. A big problem was that I doubled my income but was working 5:30 am to Midnight every day, including Sundays.

It all turned around. I put one of my lessons to work, “Get yourself in front of the right people,” so I hung out at a Bar where all the radio jocks hung out and met Jimmy the Weasel. Jimmy saw some great potential in having me on the Dawn Patrol. I met Rick Consolo, General Manager for “The Gary Burbank Show,” who asked me to visit the Radio Show. That’s when my Celebrity began to build. Nobody was a better teacher than 2-time Marconi Winner Gary Burbank to teach a kid named Rocco from New Jersey how to be on the radio. My attitude and Gary’s tutelage created a Celebrity juggernaut.

Building my Celebrity

With my Celebrity building, I decided to do something everyone told me wouldn’t work. I more than doubled my prices, and something strange happened. I attracted a better client and reduced my workload by half!

Within one year, I went from “0” dollars to making $60,000.00, $120,000.00 to $250,000.00, and buying my first 1600 sq. ft. facility at 519 Main Street, Covington, KY.

The following year, I stumbled upon the best client retention system—I told the truth. It worked so well that I had a waiting list of more than 100 people, and I started firing the clients who didn’t live up to “Rocco’s” standard.

They went kicking and screaming because no one wanted to leave. The results didn’t lie.

Everything was going so well that I opened a facility across the river in Downtown Cincinnati on 7th Street and started a boot camp and personal training. At this point, it was 2001, and I had two facilities, four trainers, 4 group fitness trainers, an admin staff, was on the #1 Radio Show, had the #1 Column on the Web & Newsstand, and was a regular on all the news outlets affiliates, ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. Specifically, “Sports Rock” with Ken Broo and George Vogel.

In 2008, after winning an Emmy for participating in a TV for MTV called MADE, I moved with my girlfriend (later my wife) to Albuquerque, NM, where I started askROCCO Media, a fitness business coaching and consulting agency. Twenty years later, askROCCO Media has launched many multi-million dollar eCommerce Brands, like iReliev, Rolflex, Dynamic Contraction Technique, and product brands like Risana Prima, Earl Pitts, American, and my wife’s brand Pommy Mommy.