Q&A with Fitness Guru & Entrepreneur, Gabrielle Bolin
Gabrielle Bolin is an ACE-Certified Personal Trainer and the owner of Fit By Gab, an in-home and online personal training and nutrition counseling service for women. In addition to being an athlete, a trainer, and a business owner, Gabrielle is also a cycling instructor, a writer, an actress, and a wife to her wonderful husband Simon, with whom she has one dog named Reese.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I have been an actress for most of my life, appearing in a number of television shows, films, stage productions and music videos. As an actress, staying in shape was always important to me, but working out felt much more like a punishment for what I ate than a way to stay healthy.
After college, I found myself in a corporate job as the training manager for a restaurant group and fell in love with helping my young employees realize their worth and move up from a minimum wage job to a corporate position with a salary and benefits. I started feeling really bad about not focusing on my acting career, so I took out my frustrations with "me time" at the gym whenever I could, which was usually 4:30 AM. Before long, I looked and felt better and rediscovered my self-worth, and I knew I wanted to use my passion for training to help other women do the same.
What inspired you to start your business?
My first personal training job was at a small local gym where the only people I was able to train were members of that location, most of whom were not the women I dreamed of helping. Some of the other trainers I worked with had clients on the side that they trained in-home, so I figured out how to market to non-gym members looking for a personal trainer and started growing my clientele through online advertising and word of mouth. There were really no independent personal training "brands" in my area, so I decided to distinguish myself and really dive in with both feet.
Where is your business based?
My in-home training business is based on Long Island, NY, but thanks to the internet, I have clients from all over the country.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
There were really two parts to starting Fit By Gab: the legal side and the advertising side. My husband took care of most of the legal paperwork because that's his forte (and, truth be told, it would probably still be in a pile on my desk if left up to me), while I did the advertising, wrote the training programs and found ways to set myself apart.
However, the most powerful thing I did when I first started out was defining what my business was all about. I didn't want to just be another run-of-the-mill trainer, so I slowly started phasing out my male clients and only took on women who wanted not just to look good, but to feel good. Setting myself apart and learning to turn down clients who weren't a good fit was the best decision I made when forming my business.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Nothing has raised my brand awareness quite like challenges. One week I was going away on vacation, so I posted a workout video to my Facebook page each day for my clients to do, and each workout they did earned them 10% off their next training package, as long as they posted a video of them doing the workout, tagged me in it and included #FitByGab.
I was just trying to keep my clients from falling off the wagon while I was gone - I had no idea it would create so much traffic! Now, I run online challenges on Facebook for people who are not yet clients, and it's a great way to get people engaged and posting about me and my workouts. Blogging has been great as well, but only when I write about things that are a little edgier than "How to stay healthy on Halloween."
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenges have been learning to say no and keeping myself organized as both a business owner and a personal trainer. As someone in the business of helping people, it can be really difficult to stick to boundaries like work hours, service offerings and prices, but it is crucial for me to honor my own time off, my abilities, and the value of my time.
As far as organization, I am always switching between being a personal trainer with workout programs to structure and a business owner with consultations, charity events and meetings to set up... and that's not including the time I need to dedicate to writing my cycling classes, structuring my own workouts and creating content for social media. My to-do list is my North Star. It's becoming a little easier to handle now that I have people working for me, but this business is my baby, so I still have a hard time handing over a project and not micromanaging it!
How do you stay focused?
Dedicating time to myself and my own fitness goals has been crucial in keeping me focused. The women that I train all want to look and feel stronger, sexier and more confident, so when I don't feel that way about myself, it can be hard to bring that force into their lives. Keeping my own fitness a priority also helps me to change up the workout programs I write so that they never get stale or overdone.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
The strongest separation between Fit By Gab my competitors is that I am a feminist, and I really built my business around the idea that women can be just as strong as men (in fact, one of the biggest pillars of my training is learning how to do real push-ups!).
Eventually, I noticed that the women I train are inundated with so many extra responsibilities and workloads, so I switched my program to high-intensity 30-minute workouts that could be fit into any schedule. I feel like men can find extra time for leisure, but women always put themselves last, so Fit By Gab is all about helping busy women be strong, sexy and independent.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Facebook has been crucial for growing my business. Whether clients are posting about Fit By Gab on their own page or I am using Facebook ads to draw new audiences to my content, I am always connecting with new people. I would not have any of the success I've had on Facebook without Vix Reitano of CreatiVix Media, though. She really helped me to take my online presence to the next level.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
To aspiring new entrepreneurs, I say: invest in yourself. When I first started out, I had crippling anxiety about spending money on the business for fear that I wouldn't get a return on it, but it wasn't until I began investing in my dreams that they came to fruition.
Whether it's marketing materials, advertisements, equipment, employees, business strategists or even a new hairstyle to give you the confidence you need - you need to spend money to make money. I suggest hiring someone to teach you how to do the things you're not great at, which, for me, was social media marketing.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
My favorite app is Instagram because it's an extremely concise - you can find anything you're looking for on there! I get so much inspiration from other trainers on there, and I love to see what kinds of workouts people are into each day.
My favorite book is "Shut Up & Run" by Robin Arzon, which tells the story of how she went from corporate lawyer to street athlete and gives awesome tips for running and working out on a busy schedule.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
My favorite blog is Blogilates by Cassey Ho because she is such a force to be reckoned with! She's strong, sexy, opinionated, and really wants young women to feel empowered. She also always shares the craziest pilates moves to have your core screaming in just a few seconds!
I could not function without Schedulista! Schedulista is a service that allows me to schedule all of my clients' appointments and sends them reminder e-mails 24 hours before. When I first started training, I had a client whose house I would get to at 5 AM, and one morning she had forgotten our appointment and didn't set an alarm. I went straight home and by 5:45 I had Schedulista! It really keeps me sane and keeps my clients in the know about their appointments without compromising my privacy and making me share my entire calendar with them.
Who is your business role model? Why?
Danielle Pascente is someone whose business I really admire. She's so down to earth and real, but her programs rock. A lot of trainers seem like perfect gym goddesses that you'd be embarrassed to ask for advice, but Danielle is just so warm and welcoming. I also really admire Robin Arzon because she an accomplished marathoner, celebrity cycling instructor, unbelievable trainer and the queen of "no excuses," so whenever I'm feeling tired from teaching cycling or working out, I think of her and adjust my crown!
What do you have planned for the next six months?
The next 6 months are going to be pretty exciting because we just rolled out a new in-home and online nutrition counseling service with the new Fit By Gab Registered Dietitian, Robyn! We are also working on rolling out a new Bridal Body program for brides and their bridesmaids who are experiencing the busiest time of their lives and have very specific goals and deadlines!
How can our readers connect with you?
The best way to connect with me is on Facebook (www.facebook.com/fitbygab) or on Instagram (@fitbygab_). I love connecting with people on social media, so send me a message and let's chat!