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Fudge Fitness Finds Strength through Internships

Derek Fudge, Fudge Fitness

As a father, grandfather, business owner, and former collegiate and professional athlete, Derek Fudge of Fudge Fitness knows the meaning and value of hard work. Fudge Fitness provides athletic support to children of all ages in the community. Through Fudge Fitness, Derek assists with various ages, sports, and populations, and for motivation, he says “I was them.”

Starting his business in 2008 without access to adequate startup capital was challenging, which meant Derek had to multitask and cover expenditures out of pocket. The situation affected him physically and financially and he started exploring options to continue to keep his business thriving. One day, his wife suggested bringing interns in to assist. Derek welcomed the idea, having interned with the Boys and Girls Club in his youth, and has been mentoring interns at Fudge Fitness ever since. His interactions with interns help them develop much needed soft skills for their next steps. However, the major challenge has been his inability to pay each young person a wage or support them with transportation and other supportive services.

That all changed once Derek connected with the First Tennessee Development District. Through the Development District’s WIOA Programs, he learned about the Title I WIOA or Paid Work Experience program, which provides funding for wages while young people gain valuable work experience in local businesses. This program has successfully supported interns at Fudge Fitness. During their internship, young people receive $10.00 an hour for up to 400 hours. This partnership has lowered operational costs for Fudge Fitness while empowering interns through delegation of responsibilities, acquisition of soft skills, and has created a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Some of the interns have already started jobs that provide them with self-sufficient incomes and Derek is hopeful that the rest will be as successful. Reflecting on his partnership with FTDD, the American Job Center and ETSU, Derek shared that, “I look forward to a continuation of our partnership because these kids mean a lot to me.”

For more information on WIOA programs that can help grow or support your business, please visit

For more information about this story, please contact Mark Stevans,

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