For a very long time, the fitness industry was a man’s world. In 2016, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Today, so many key players in the fitness space are women. From inventing their very own fitness classes to expanding their studios across the nation, there are so many inspiring female fitness leaders who have paved the way for the next generation of women who have big aspirations to someday open a studio of their own.
The key to their success? While everyone’s path is different and unique, many of the women who have achieved their small business goals do have a secret to their success—plus a few words of wisdom to impart on those who are just getting started in the fitness space. Read on for what these 10 ladies had to say about going after your goals, and what they credit their success to!
OPERATE AS IF YOU HAVE NO BACKUP PLAN
“Dive in as if there is no plan B! I genuinely believe everything worked out so well with my personal training career and HIIT IT! because those were legitimately all I had. If you are truly passionate about becoming a trainer or starting your own business, pretend like there is no plan B and dive in head first — even if you do have a backup or are currently receiving a steady paycheck from a different job. A business is like a baby and it requires a thousand percent of your attention.” – Daphnie Yang, Founder of HIIT IT!
LEARN TO PRIORITIZE
“Remember you can do anything, but you can’t do everything. As a business owner you will have a million ideas, suggestions and observations about your competition — all of which you want to apply to your business NOW! It’s critical to identify the ideas that will make a difference in your business immediately (like sending consistent, compelling email blasts) and others that are more of an investment over time (like a brand ambassador program).” – Jami Stigliano, Head Diva, DivaDance
“Before I considered fitness and speaking ‘my business,’ it was merely a hobby. I taught fitness classes in college and voluntarily spoke on fitness and leadership. It was then that people asked me for online classes to do when they lived far away, were out of town, or stuck inside after a snowstorm. People ‘craved’ my energy and classes. When I launched my own programs, like Adventurcise and Cardio Sweat Party, I recognized which classes filled up and which didn’t, so I learned which time slots to capitalize on. Over the years, I’ve pivoted my business (and am currently doing so!) by asking people what they want. I ask, do you want live classes? Would you subscribe to my website for workouts, motivational mantras, leadership exercises, etc.? Would you sign up for a 4-week Sweat for Success series? I’m not afraid to try something new because I know I’ll get immediate feedback from both my followers and newbies alike. Whether you’re starting something new or trying to grow what you’ve got, listen to what people are saying and going. They’ll provide you with answers to whatever you’re working on.” – Michele Gordon, (a.k.a. Miss Motivational), creator of Cardio Sweat Party
KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE
“When I began pole dancing journey as a student, I knew that this was a path I would one day love to turn into a business. I stayed close to the owner of the studio and gave her my support. I was completely honest about my intent to one day do just as she had, and I let her know I would like to own my own studio. I volunteered for everything in the studio I could and tried out three times for a chance at a pole fitness instructor position to finally land the position on the third try. I worked my way up to an office manager spot just a year later, and completed the next two years as an instructor and studio manager. When I felt the calling to venture off and pursue my own studio, I was offered the purchase of the studio I had spent six years devoted to. I found that throughout the six-year journey, two things can be accredited to me being offered such an amazing opportunity. Those two things are being loyal to a goal and treating the thing that you want as if you already possess it. Success comes from keeping your eye on the prize, doing the above average work, and treating people right. Being your best for the long haul, speaking up about your goals, and treating people right will always come back to you and at the right time will reward you.” – Teresa Saffold, Owner of Power BAR Women’s Fitness
“I taught [yoga] at studios, gyms and corporations while raising my three young girls. Once they were all in school full time, I converted my basement into a studio and taught out of my house, until I found just the right space in my neighborhood. My advice: Begin with a spirit of curiosity. Ask everyone they know what they like and don’t like about fitness businesses, and use their answers to inform your decisions about your business. Set ground rules for your business based on everything you have learned from others.” – Amber Barry, Founder of Westside Yoga
DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY
“Follow your heart and do what makes you happy, and it will show through in your work. I focused my business on embracing yogic values, and created yoga studio spaces in which I would want to practice myself. I keep the intention of helping people close to my heart and make decisions with that mindset.” – Tatyana Souza, co-owner of Coolidge Corner Yoga and Sadhana Yoga
HIRE GOOD PEOPLE
“I became successful with three studios in New York City by consistently providing unique and focused attention with each client I have had, and have instilled in my trainers the same principles. My advice to any woman opening her own fitness studio is to avoid doing everything yourself because then the business completely depends on you. Teach your fitness philosophy to employees from the beginning, and ‘duplicate’ yourself as quickly as possible.” – Patricia Ruiz, founder of Moving Strength
STAY DRIVEN BY PASSION
“Being a female gym-business owner, some would think that the success would be ten or fifteen years down the road because that is what the ‘books’ forecast. Yet I believe there is no true blueprint to what success looks like or feels like, for each story is different. Personally, the success of not only being a female, but also a business owner in the fitness industry comes down to one single trait: passion. Everything that has happened here at CCF, whether a lesson in how to improve or success over a personal obstacle, comes from heartfelt passion and an attitude that I adopted years ago: ‘I can, I will.’ It sounds pretty cliché, but it is this fire that has driven me to make the everyday choice to be extraordinary with the business and within the community. Be real, be relatable and realize early on that perfection is not a reality. Our CCF success story in the fitness industry is beyond what I ever imagined, and it’s a daily blessing knowing that I am working with people day in and day out to be the best versions of themselves.” – Camie Cragg-Lyman, Founder of Camie Cragg Fitness
LEARN HOW TO DELEGATE
“It’s important to remember that owning a fitness studio is so much more than teaching great classes. You will have to wear a lot of different hats and, for most of us, learn how to do things you never thought you would need to do (bookkeeping, retail orders, marketing, managing and plumbing 101). My best advice is to understand that you don’t have to be the best at all of these things, you just have to surround yourself with those who are and learn how to delegate when needed. Coach yourself through your business the same way you coach your clients in a class or workout. When things get tough and you feel like you want to give up, stay the course and remember that you are stronger than you think. Building a successful business, just like reaching your fitness goals, comes from hard work, perseverance, and a lot of grit!” – Shalisa Pouw, Owner of Pure Barre Boulder
EMPOWER YOUR EMPLOYEES
“My mom and I are very lucky that we balance each other out very well, and as a result create a powerful duo. We have found success due to us finding our very specific roles within the company, but also due to our incredible, passionate and loyal team. We absolutely love what we do and each and every day we are motivated and inspired by our team and clients. I think it is important for professional women in their quest of trying to prove themselves to try not to take on everything alone. I was guilty of that early on and learned from my mom (and co-founder), Lauren, that I was much more successful by not only delegating, but learning from my wonderful team. It’s cliché to say that one person can’t do it all, but it’s true. The most important business advice I have learned from working with my mom is empowering those around you is the key to your company’s success.” – Rachel Piskin, co-founder of Chaise Fitness