fitness entrepreneur

"Be passionate about what you do" with Carla Gilfry

Carla Gilfry

Carla Gilfry is the owner of the Stiletto Gym™ and the creator of Polga™ (pole yoga) fitness systems and The Stiletto Mobile Program.  Carla is a yoga and fitness professional who performs & teaches in the US.   Producer and choreographer of Polga (pole yoga) fitness videos for commercial sale.  RYT (registered yoga teacher) with training through Yogafit, as well as ACE and AFFA certified in Group Fitness Instruction.  She is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a BA in Psychology, and a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. Carla's mission is to inspire women of all ages, shapes, and sizes to embrace, find, or reawaken their Sexy Fit Side and to live their "Sexiest fittest" life.  

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I have a master’s degree in counseling psychology and am a Licensed Professional Counselor.  Fitness has always been part of my life to feel good and keep in shape.  In 2000, I decided to begin to teach fitness classes at my local YMCA as a “side gig” because it was fun, and the YMCA needed someone to teach the 6 am class.  Soon after beginning my fitness journey, I found that I loved and excelled at it.  I continued to work my corporate job as a therapist for a local hospital.  I began to delve deeper into the fitness and yoga world and soon began to immerse myself in anything fitness and began to take all the fitness training and certifications I could get a hold of and could afford.   I started business 13 years ago.  

carla polga headshot.jpg

I have had a few life challenges along the way but never lost my way.  I became a widow at a young age and began the journey of raising my young daughter alone.  You never know what curve balls life will throw at you.  I kept believing and living and God gifted me a new love in my life and last year I remarried to my current husband,  

What inspired you to start your business?  

I have always been an entrepreneur in my heart and soul.  I love to inspire and help others feel better emotionally and physically.   While on maternity leave after having my daughter, I decided to begin to explore options for opening up my own “wellness center”.  I knew that there was a need for a center that helped women get fit, and feel fabulous.  After losing my husband, I really understood the healing power of movement, dance, fitness, meditation, and yoga and it has become my  life's work now to share with others.    

Where is your business based?

Kansas City, Missouri.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

I started exploring business options.  I took business classes through the Kauffman Foundation and began to learn as much as I could.  I wrote a business plan and got a SCORE mentor who helped guide me through the first years.  

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Social media has been the best way of raising awareness as well as building my contact list and keeping in contact with my list through newsletters.  I also love to appear on TV anytime I can.  

 What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Understanding the importance of numbers, systems, and SEO. 

How do you stay focused?

List, list, and more list.  Having a plan and sticking to the plan.  Understanding that from time to time my focus will be challenged and difficult.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

I try to find my own niche within my industry to set myself apart.  For example, I created Polga (pole yoga) which is a specialty for my studio. 

 What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?  

Video Marketing—so much of my business is visual so showcasing classes, products, or testimonials through video has been huge. 

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Be patient, understand that business like anything has its ups and downs.  Be passionate about what you do.  Do something you believe in and that you believe will help others.

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

Tony Robbins 25 Business Lessons by James Clark. This is a great book for any entrepreneurs.   Gives great step-by-step procedures to achieving success. It teaches how to communicate, build a successful team, plan and organize work.  Great advice from experienced entrepreneurs. 

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

I love listening to podcast and listen to them while in my car or running.  My favorite is Amy Porterfield’s Podcast.

Who is your business role model? Why?

My husband, who is a very successful business man and who has taught me so much and has believed in me. 

 What do you have planned for the next six months?

To launch our brand new Polga (pole yoga) in-Home Fitness Program.   Go from strictly a brick-and-mortar studio in Kansas City into homes across the country. 

How can our readers connect with you?

My websites:

www.stilettogymsexyfit.com   www.polgapoleyoga.com

https://www.facebook.com/Thestilettogym/

https://www.facebook.com/PolgaPoleYogaFitness/

https://www.instagram.com/thestilettogym/

carla@polgapoleyoga.com

"There’s simply no better time to learn a foundational skill than childhood" with Michelle Miller

Michelle Miller

My First Workout® is an award winning, mom-founded company on a mission to build stronger family connections and instill a habit of fitness from the earliest age possible.  The key to a healthier tomorrow is strengthening kids today.  This super smart kids-fitness program that focuses on fun and ease of use has quickly become one of the most innovative and critically essential new products to hit the market in 2019!  Certified Personal Trainer and Founder of My First Workout®, Michelle Miller, has over 20 years’ experience in the fitness industry and has developed this program just for kids age 5 to 10 years old.  https://www.myfirstworkout.com

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I earned my B.S. Magna Cum Laude in Exercise Science and Fitness from Liberty University in 1997.  After college, I got married and pregnant right away, so I found myself as a stay at home Mom for several years.  I very much wanted to use the degree I had worked very hard for and that opportunity came at the local YMCA where I was a member and took several classes each week.  One day the instructor announced she was leaving and needed a replacement.  I was one of the best students in her class and she asked me if I would take over.  I got certified to teach group exercise classes and over the next six-year period, had an amazing time teaching senior fitness, step, boot camp and weight training classes.  It was hard to earn a living just teaching classes though, so I pursued my certification to be a personal trainer.  I have trained individuals ranging in age from 5-92 with varying skill levels from complete beginner to professional athlete.  I found a unique niche with people who are coming to fitness with a particular need that requires an advanced amount of training and understanding.  I love teaching fitness because every day I get to see people’s lives change for the better because of it.  I see my client’s moods, attitudes, energy levels, relationships and lives change before my very eyes on a daily basis.  I will continue to encourage as many people as possible to adopt fitness as a lifestyle while here on this earth. 

 What inspired you to start your business?

On Sunday, March 18, 2018, my young son, Cole, who was 5 at the time, and I were cuddling in bed before starting our day.  I was overwhelmed with appreciation for the special bond we have and that he is such a healthy and happy child.  I attribute this close connection and his good health to our many exercise adventures together since he was tiny baby.  My mind began to wander to other children and families around the world who I am confident also desire health, happiness and good physical fitness for their children but might not know where to start to achieve these things if their education isn’t in fitness.  I thought if I could put together everything a parent would need to teach their child how to get started on a habit of fitness from the moment the package arrived on their doorstep, then parent and child could both benefit while they are learning the exercises together.

 Where is your business based?

 Tallahassee, Florida. 

 How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

 The first thing I did was a ton of research.  Every question that entered my mind was thoroughly investigated and I printed out so many articles that first month.  I must have gone through a box of paper!  All that research confirmed that I was on to something great and it firmly established my belief in my product and in my mission to help children and families grow stronger connections through the power of exercise.  Seeing the bigger picture through all my research allowed me to take what may seem like unrealistic risks along the way.  I still use all those great articles and they are the foundation for my product.  

After I knew my idea did not exist and I was going to have to create it, I researched the steps to take when you have a really good idea for a business or product.  The common denominator from all the articles I read was to get a notebook and document every step of the way so there was a paper trail to prove how the idea came to life.

 What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Social Media has been vital to the growth of my product and brand awareness.  I post to LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Google Business several times each week.   

 What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge I have encountered is being the face of my product and the constant self and product promotion that is vital for growth.  I am naturally a behind the scenes person that likes to work hard and remain anonymous but no one else could represent this product or communicate the mission for why we exist better than myself, so I had to step up to the plate.  It would not be the truth to say that I have overcome the inadequate feeling I get every single time I step in front of the camera, but I am taking the steps, such as joining Toastmasters, to get better at public speaking.  It’s just like anything else, the more I practice, the better I’ll get. 

Another struggle was the amount of technology involved with developing a product and selling it.  There is an unbelievable amount of computer work around every corner, and I had no idea there would be so much.  My mission to get this product into the lives of children is the driving force that motivates me to stay with something until I’ve figured out how to do it.  In the past, I would have just abandoned ship or asked someone else to do it if I couldn’t figure something out right away.  With My First Workout®, that’s not an option and I will literally do whatever it takes to keep making progress.  I have learned so much about what I am truly capable of doing from this experience. 

How do you stay focused?

The statistics on children’s health and fitness in this country are very bad and I know my product can help them so much.  That’s what I focus on whenever I’m feeling weak.  I walk every single day, and this calms my mind and helps me to process everything more clearly.  I do my best thinking when I’m walking. 

 How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

The differences between My First Workout® and every other fitness company that exists is for starters, kid’s fitness is all we do.  Kids are not an afterthought or just another stream of revenue to tap into.   Secondly, our goal is to provide kids with the very best in fitness, equal to if not better than, all the great products on the market for adults.  All I could find when I searched for a children’s product comparable to what I wanted to create, was dumbed down fitness equipment and short-sighted programming for children.  This is so frustrating and sad to me.  Kids need programs written for them that will safely and effectively teach them skills and habits for life just like adult do.  Adults often turn to fitness because there is a problem they are trying to solve, and fitness holds the answer.  Kids make a choice to exercise because they seek out things that are FUN in life.  Exercise can be a lot of fun. 

There’s simply no better time to learn a foundational skill than childhood.  It will positively enable them the rest of their life.  My First Workout® is the real deal in muscle strengthening but for kids and this program will progress a child from beginner to advanced skill level at their own unique pace.  This program was designed for all children from natural athlete to disabled and all those in between.  There is simply no other company or product on the market offering the complex skill of weight training in such a convenient, safe and simple format.

 What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

I hired a marketing company to work alongside me to produce my vision for the My First Workout® brand and they provided me with tangible, beautiful visual materials.  I knew I needed to go big or go home. They listened to me and presented me with professional and creative ideas for my logo, branding, colors, box designs, website, trade show materials, letterhead, business cards, inserts, posters, videos, etc. Everywhere I go, people comment on all my great looking, colorful stuff.  People are wowed and that’s what I was going for. 

 What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

If you are only in it to get rich, then don’t do it.  It’s not worth it. The toll on your health, relationships and finances is just too great.  However, if not doing it would leave you with such a huge void and sense of regret that you would be willing to risk everything  and regardless of how it turns out still say, “I tried and now my mind is at peace,” then I would say Go for It! 

Also, if you want to learn how to have an extreme amount of patience, become an entrepreneur.  You’ll learn it pretty quickly!

 What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

My favorite app is Pandora and I listen to the Christian Contemporary Radio station during my walks to get my head in the right place to face another day.  I don’t have time to read blog’s but every morning at 5:30 am, I drink my coffee and read the Bible and Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky Bailey.  My source of strength and comfort through this whole incredible journey is my faith in God. 

 What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

Google is amazing.  I find the answer to every question there and there are so many questions when you’re starting a new business.  I am so appreciative to all the people who have figured out how to do something well and are gracious enough to share that information with those of us who are just starting out.  Also, strange but true, I use Shift + Command + 4 on my Mac computer daily for all sorts of things.  It has been an enormous help to me! 

Who is your business role model? Why? 

The cast of Shark Tank are my business role models.  I have watched that show since it aired and each of their humble beginnings have always inspired me.  Since starting this whole journey with My First Workout®, their humble beginnings have truly taken on a whole different meaning.  I see myself in so many of the contestants and relate with the Sharks on an entirely different level than before I had My First Workout®.  I never thought in a million years I might actually have a chance to meet my role models and again, with great patience, only time will tell what 2019 has in store for My First Workout® and Shark Tank.

 What do you have planned for the next six months?

Over the next six months, I will be working hard to build the My First Workout® brand and raise awareness on the importance of fitness as a lifestyle from the earliest age possible.  There are many irons in the fire at the moment and I’m eagerly awaiting to see what 2019 has in store for those things in the works.  I also have several other product lines in the development stage and will be working on getting those on the market as soon as possible.

How can our readers connect with you?

www.myfirstworkout.com

michelle@myfirstworkout.com

850-545-9284

Linked In:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-miller-77106235/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/myfirstworkout/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MyFirstWorkout/

Q&A with Fitness Entrepreneur, Elaine Starr

Elaine Starr

 

Elaine Starr is the owner and head Pilates instructor at Starr Pilates. She is certified through Long Beach Dance Conditioning under Marie-Jose Blom.  Elaine uses her professional dance background and extensive movement training to create effective and challenging Pilates workouts in a fun and supportive environment.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I started taking Pilates when I was in my teens while training to be a professional dancer.  Years later I was dancing full-time with a professional company and went to a Pilates class with a fellow dancer.  I realized many of the exercises were so challenging for me which blew me away.  I was dancing 6-8 hours a day but certain muscle groups weren’t developed enough to support me. I became determined to figure this Pilates thing out.

What inspired you to start your business?

After teaching for almost ten years I was craving a change. Starting Starr Pilates was that extra element that tied in my interests in design and photography and includes a unique take on the fitness lifestyle.  I’ve been lucky to work at some of the most beautiful studios in LA and under some really great businesswomen.  Becoming my own boss was the way I could take things to the next level and really express myself.

Where is your business based?

My business is based in Los Angeles on Melrose Ave.  I see clients that live and work in many areas: Downtown LA, Hollywood, Silverlake, Hancock Park, Koreatown, Los Feliz, Miracle Mile.  It’s a great little stretch that has cool historic buildings and there is a wonderful community of small businesses springing up.  And I can walk to work.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

There were quite a few stops and starts along the way.  At first, I thought I would call my business Body Downtown and rent a loft in Downtown LA and teach out of there.  But then I met my now husband Mark Starr and moved to Hollywood with him.  When we became engaged Starr Pilates was born.   I was lucky enough to have a bit of a following from teaching all over LA so when I finally set down roots it all flowed.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Referrals.  I cannot thank all my clients enough for their glowing recommendations!

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge to this day is asking for help.  I want to be able to do it all.  Starting a business was the best thing that happened to me because I learned how to take risks and make mistakes and be able to say, “That flopped but I’m still here.” 

How do you stay focused?

I stay inspired by taking Pilates classes from other teachers.  I still dance and go see dance performances, the physicality of dancers is the ultimate inspiration.  Having a curated playlist helps keep me energized.  This week it’s a mix of Tess Parks, the Standells, Mott the Hoople and Young MC. I make a calendar at the beginning of the week and schedule my workouts, block out my office hours and personal errands. I also make at the start of the week at least one easy breakfast option I can have at the studio with me and one big batch of soup or spiralized noodle pad thai that I can have for a quick dinner.  And I teach better when I feel put together.  Some of my favorites these days are from Carbon 38 and Electric and Rose. 

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

We offer smaller size classes so it really gives clients the chance to learn the why and how of exercises. I find it ultimately helps people save resources because I’ve seen clients who are working out in group classes 4-7 or more times a week switch to 2 times a week and start getting results instead of just training the same patterns.  It’s also a great way to be introduced to Pilates. Clients get to understand the unique nature of Pilates instead of trying to learn on the fly in a large class where they may compare themselves to people who have been working out a long time.  A lot of Pilates exercises can seem awkward or inaccessible at first but that’s what makes it great because it breaks you out of your comfort zone.  Having someone there to help guide you through the process helps immensely.   

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

My marketing strategy is a few different layers of in-person networking, social media, email marketing, blogging and the periodic Google or Facebook ad.  I realized no one specific thing was going to make the business so I just started consistently applying what I was hearing in podcasts.  I got really clear on who I was and what I offered and the rest took care of itself.  I eventually ended up hiring a business consultant who really pinpoints where I should focus my energies. 

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

If you love something and can communicate it to other people then you are golden.  When I started working out properly and seeing more results I couldn’t wait to share it.  I wanted people to know that they didn’t have to go to the gym for hours at a time to feel and look the way they wanted.

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

My favorite app is Instagram.  It’s the modern day visual version of the mix-tape.  My favorite blog is The Minimalist Baker.  Everything is 10 ingredients, one bowl or 30 minutes or less and most recipes are vegan and gluten-free.  My favorite book is Ballerina by Edward Stewart.  It just captures the dance culture in New York in the 70s so well. 

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

MindBody Online changed my life.  In 2017, I danced in two major ballets, moved my business and got married.  When I finally automated my scheduling I was so much more efficient.

Who is your business role model? Why?

Ryan Heffington of the Sweat Spot.  His creativity reaches so many levels he has made expression through dance accessible to everyone.  Lauren Kleban of LEKfit really cares about her clients and sets a really great example of self-care and kindness.  I’d like to offer streaming workouts in the future.  I love New York Pilates branding and music.  And those TEASER t-shirts are genius.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

I’ve got some great things planned for the next six months.  I’m working on ways to grow and connect the Starr Pilates community and support other female-owned brands. 

How can our readers connect with you?

Email: info@starrpilatesla.com

Website: www.starrpilatesla.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/starrpilatesla

Instagram: www.instagram.com.starrpilates