The other day, someone asked me how I got my business going. I am happy to share in the hopes that my story so far will inspire others to take the bull by the horns and go for their dream!
Here’s the long and short of it. Well, more the long- but I’ll break it up into segments. This segment is more the ‘why’.
My mother put me into dance classes as soon as I could walk. Fast forward to high school graduation. I had been dancing all that time in between and at age 19 I became a professional dance teacher. The performance aspect of my dance background led to acting and singing as well. I performed in several musicals throughout high school, college and beyond. I became a group fitness instructor in 1997 when I was looking for a way to expand my horizons, blow up my comfort zone, and make more money while performing in a version of “Oklahoma” at a local dinner theatre. I made enough money to make a move, and decided- Hey why not pursue acting in NYC!?
I took the leap. My Mother drove me up from Virginia and I stayed on JoAnne Morton’s couch (I found her on the internet and completely lucked out. She is super inspirational and helped me get my footing in NYC. I consider her Angel #1 in my story. Check out her website http://trickydame.com/). I was only supposed to stay on her couch for a month- so it was an experiment to see if I could get it together in that time. I got right to it! Within one week I had gotten a job as a waitress at a bar called Flight 151 in Chelsea. Within two weeks I had also picked up another job as a sales clerk at the Drama Book Shop. Within the month I had picked up a sublet through one of the other waitresses, and there you go. In between all of that, I attended numerous auditions and landed one or two gigs. I had made myself stick!
I met a guy through one of the bartender’s at Flight 151 who was a Personal Trainer. He not only seemed to love what he was doing, but he made a ton more money than I did. I was inspired. I had been a group fitness instructor and a dance teacher, so I figured I could make the switch to training. But I didn’t know how to use any of the machines. So, inspired by this guy-I went to a New York Sports Club and just walked in to inquire about a job. This was how I met Angel #2- Joe Santiago- who was the Fitness Manager at the NYSC on 74th and 1st at the time.
He hired me that day as a floor trainer. That means I stand around making minimum wage while I try to occupy myself. The hope is that I meet the members and turn them into clients. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. I followed other trainers, specifically Angel #3- David Corona, who graciously let me tag along with him and his clients while I learned the machines and watched how he created intense and highly effective workouts, all while expressing this happily exhuberant energy that makes rooms light up. He made me sure I was on the right track.
I got a few clients from NYSC and found that I was in love with helping people in this way. I loved working one on one with people to help them become healthier in all aspects of their lives. I loved seeing the results of their hard work. I was in LOVE with this new life!
After a few months, there was drama at NYSC, and I left. Joe left as well and brought me to his new gym, Synergy Fitness on 81st and 3rd. I loved working there and had many clients of all different walks of life. There wasn’t much drama, and the environment was healthy. I settled in happily.
I was there for 2 years. Joe had left some time before and numerous other managers came and went. The last one during my time at Synergy decided he was going to do some rearranging. I am still not certain what he was thinking. He cut our pay in half. In HALF! And he told us we could make up the other half by selling sessions to our clients instead of allowing the salespeople to sell the sessions, thus effectively cutting their pay in half as well.
Mind you, I was earning $22 per hour. I was fine with this. I could pay my rent, buy groceries and pay my bills, all while working at a job that was incredibly rewarding for me. I was loyal to this company and I would have stayed in that position until who knows when. But this guy comes along and cuts my pay in half and I find that I can no longer afford rent, food or- well- anything.
Time to act. While I was in tears one day, wondering what the heck I was going to do, one of my friends walked me by an independent trainer’s gym. I didn’t even know such places existed. I went in and spoke to the owner and agreed to begin bringing clients over. I guaranteed my clients current sessions and offered them new package deals at lower rates than they had been paying. I made more because I no longer had the gym taking their share. This was so terrifying for me- I was certain I would lose everything and get kicked out of my apt.
I want to stress that I do believe it is unethical to ‘steal’ clients from a gym you are hired at. In my circumstance it was completely self preservation. This new manager put all of us in a terrible position. I would never have left if he hadn’t cut our pay in half. I had no respect for this manager and I lost respect for the club itself. Had no problem making new deals with the clients and moving on with my life.
I was so fortunate- 95% of my clients followed me to the new gym. I couldn’t believe it! I was thrilled. The tears and drama ended and my life got even better than I could imagine. I was able to move to a more convenient apartment, which was huge (the fact that I was able to- not the new apt- haha). I developed confidence that I didn’t have before by taking what seemed to be a crazy leap, and it also sparked up that new piece of me- the entrepreneur.
I believe that horrible manager was fired within a few months. No one else made the leap like I did, they just let their pay get cut in half. So I learned something about myself there. I took the bull by the horns! I should thank that manager now for lighting the fire under my ass that turned me into an entrepreneur.
And that’s the story of how MirZuk Fitness came into being. This part of the story ends in 2001. I’ll take it from there next week…
Love and Success!