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Issue Date: April 2012 Web Features, Posted On: 4/15/2012


Training Wheels: A Mission-Driven Fitness Business
By Lindsay Vastola

I recently was inspired by a feature I read about Lauren Bush Lauren (granddaughter of former President George H.W. Bush, niece of former President George W. Bush and married to fashion designer Ralph Lauren's son). In 2009, she was named one of Fortune's Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs for co-founding a mission-driven company called FEED. The company sells FEED-branded canvas bags, T-shirts, and other accessories to benefit charities that help feed hungry children around the world. What Lauren has been able to do quite successfully is incorporate giving back and doing good with doing business.

You may ask what Lauren Bush Lauren and her "mission-driven" business have to do with fitness professionals. Reading her interview and learning more about FEED, I was inspired to reconnect with the mission of my own business. It actually encouraged me to look at my company in a whole new light.

As fitness entrepreneurs, we often find ourselves in a conundrum: we want so genuinely to help people yet many trainers find it difficult to make a rewarding living doing what they are so passionate about. I've heard fitness professionals on so many occasions say that they would train clients for free if they could. I believe many trainers, especially when first starting out, struggle with validating their own worth because they have difficulty justifying charging for something they love to do. They end up "giving away" their time and services and ultimately devalue their worth as a person and as a professional. The challenge is finding the perfect balance of a rewarding living while still fulfilling our altruistic passion.

I suggest that if we begin to define our fitness businesses as "mission-driven"; this offers a liberating mindset shift from the traditional definition of "business" that may intimidate many.

There is most certainly opportunity to discount or offer free services, and there are several ways to do so through community service or partnering with foundations or charity organizations. Community give-back should be a central focus of all fitness businesses. Just as easy as it can be to give away services, it can also be easy to lose focus on what is important: serving our clients. We can't become so engrossed in profit and loss statements and marketing strategies that we lose sight of why we chose the fitness profession. Finding the perfect balance between building a rewarding and flourishing business and community give-back, I believe, is how you create a successful "mission-driven" business.

We are always giving back to our communities by the sheer nature of what we do as fitness professionals. Empowering others with the tools and knowledge necessary to live healthier, longer and more fulfilling lives is one of the most wonderful gifts we can give. Appreciating the balance of service and success will help us capture the essence of the successful mission-driven business.

So my challenge to you: have you defined your mission-driven business?


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