EPISODE 2: WHAT IS AN ENTREPRENEUR? WITH MARIA PARRELLA TURCO
Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? Today's guest is longtime fitness entrepreneur and visionary Maria Parrella Turco, who is also the founder and CEO of MyFitPod, among other leading fitness and wellness brands like Honor Yoga and Salubrity. Listen up and learn what it means to be an entrepreneur and how now could be the perfect time to trade in your “employee badge” and become your own boss.
You can listen here or on any major podcasting platform by searching "The Independent Fitness Pro Podcast".
JAMES BROWN (00:00):
Since early 2020, almost everybody that works has been taking a good, hard look at the path they're on and whether or not to alter their course. Now, more than ever, people who were traditionally employed are going out on their own as part of a growing wave of entrepreneurs and independent service providers. What's stopping you from doing the same?
If you think you're too old, need a special degree, or might regret going out on your own, you're probably wrong. Did you know that almost half of small business entrepreneurs are between the ages of 41 and 56 and only 9% of entrepreneurs have a bachelor's degree in business? 97% of self-employed professionals say they would never go back to having a boss. 97%!
So the real question is this, "do you have what it takes?" Listen up and learn what it means to be an entrepreneur and how now could be the perfect time for you to trade in your employee badge and become your own boss.
This is the independent fitness pro podcast, the people and things you need to know to launch, grow and elevate your independent fitness career brought to you by MyFitPod. In this series, we're taking a deep dive into the journey from being an employee, to being an independent entrepreneur in the rapidly evolving world of fitness and wellness, what it means, what it takes and how to make it happen.
MARIA PARRELLA TURCO (01:21):
My name is Maria Parrella Turco and I am in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. I am a visionary and entrepreneur with a focus in the health and fitness and yoga industry. My journey started when I was 16 years old, I was fairly overweight and I got a job at a health club working behind the desk.
And then ultimately started teaching classes, became a personal trainer, became a group fitness teacher. I remember being pre-med in college and managing a health club, and I loved it so much that I decided to turn my major into business instead. And I always had a passion for wanting to help people. And so I spent most of my career after that working my way up by learning and where I am today is a CEO and founder of several companies: Honor Yoga, MyFitPod, and Salubrity. And I've had an amazing journey along the way owning various health clubs and in different positions in the health and fitness industry.
JAMES BROWN (02:30):
Where along that way, would you say that you made the shift from being an employee to being more of an entrepreneur?
MARIA PARRELLA TURCO (02:40):
For me, it was more of a process and it was a process of, of loving what I do. In my world, there's not much of a difference between entrepreneur and employee. And what I mean by that is that, you know, an entrepreneur is someone who essentially starts a business and creates operational processes and systems, and sometimes even puts teams together around a mission and a goal and a vision. And so that could be something that is done in a day to day job too. And so I almost acted as an entrepreneur in any position that I had, even when I was an employee. The only difference is is that the big job from really being an employee to an entrepreneur is this idea of taking a financial risk or taking, you know, taking bigger risks. And so, you know, that, that, that could be, you know, scary and there could be, there could be fear associated with that.
And I made that really true shift to that second part of what it means to being an entrepreneur really when I was at, you know you know, a lower point in my life where I wasn't happy with what I was doing, and I really wanted something more for myself and something that gave me joy. And so the catalyst that catapulted me into true entrepreneurship, which is put it all on the line and take a risk, happened when I was really searching for flow and searching for fulfillment in what I do and loving what I do.
JAMES BROWN (04:13):
Can you tell us more about what, what it was that made you see that you needed to make the change?
MARIA PARRELLA TURCO (04:20):
Yeah, it's a good question. I remember I was I was managing a health club and I I was married at the time and I was loving my world. I was getting up at 5:00 AM and working at the gym from 5:30 to 2:00. And I was part of a startup concept health club that essentially we started with a business plan. I helped write the business plan. I helped opened up the club. We had 3,000 members. Our first year I was married. I was traveling into the city and exploring and educating myself with different programs. And ultimately what had happened was is that I had a personal challenge where my spouse was having an affair. And yeah, and I was in my zone doing my things and loving, loving, loving what I did live in a beautiful townhouse with a baby grand piano, you know, had this amazing epic life.
And within two weeks I lost my spouse. My townhouse sold, and the owner of the club fired me. Sometimes we have these moments in our lives where we say, what am I doing? You know where, where, what am I meant to be? And you know, you get to a point where you, you really have to you have to understand that your dreams are on the other side of fear and that sometimes it takes losing things in your life to realize what your great gifts are and what your great powers are. It's almost like, you know, when you see these superhero movies, right, and it's like activating your konda, you know, what is your super power? I, that was one of the Marvel movies. If I'm not mistaken, right? It's like going through this, this is great epic event to find out what your superhero power is.
And once you go through it, it unlocks right. James, do you know what I mean? Right. We all, some of us have had these, these moments and I had that moment. And you realize that, you know, everything that you want is really on the other side of fear, once you experienced, you know, kind of things in your life that really move you. And it's an emotional experience. Sometimes it moves people to become an entrepreneur to say, I don't want to live this life anymore. I want to live a different life and I'm willing to risk everything in order to live and to be able to create something amazing. That's going to leave the world a better place. That's going to change people's lives and inspire, you know, the world. I think we all, we all want to do that, right? We all want to have that, that experience.
And so for me, it was a personal event looking back on it. Now it was a blip in time. And, but at that moment it was so tragic, right? And so it really helped to push me in this fearless direction. And entrepreneurial ship does require some fearlessness because it can be lonely. It can be hard. You can have imposter syndrome where you wake up in the morning and you say, am I really good enough to do this? Can I, can I make this happen? And so it can be a lonely place. And sometimes when you go through these experiences where builds the strength and you're alone, and it really forces you to dig deep down within yourself and find out who you really are. It activates that power in you, that you gives you the strength, the courage, the tenacity to pursue and, and to, and to move on. And to me, that, that, that is something that is in all of us and ability that we have to activate our superhero power. And you know, entrepreneurial is, is one of those superhero powers that some of us have. And, and I, and I love that.
JAMES BROWN (07:59):
Would you say that it was the desire to have more control over what happens to you that took you into, into entrepreneurship?
MARIA PARRELLA TURCO (08:07):
It's part that, you know, it's part you know, wanting to to see something and being in control of something, but, and to be in control of your own abilities to make something happen. But I think that that's kind of a immature way to look at, you know, leadership because you know, his leadership is really about activating the gifts and other people. And so it's kind of like, you know, Stephen Covey talks about the maturity continuum and we all are dependent on our parents and we're dependent on things. And then you move to independence. And so I had moved from being dependent to independent, right. But there's another level that's higher on the maturity continuum and that's interdependence and interdependence means, you know, I can achieve great things and we can achieve greater things together. And so it's about understanding, true entrepreneurship is, is really about other people, whether it's your customers, whether it's your team, your colleagues. And so, yes, I do think it's about control, but over time you have to also let go of some of that control because you need to give other people within your establishment, your company control to be their own entrepreneur, because if you're too controlling, then they're not creating, you know if you want to scale it, you gotta let go of some of that control, but still have a vision and paint that vision for everyone in the company. So we're all navigating the ship towards that destination that we want to go to.
JAMES BROWN (09:35):
If somebody is seeking to go from from dependence to independence, would you recommend that they look beyond independence to interdependence from the very beginning?
MARIA PARRELLA TURCO (09:47):
No. I think it's important that we work on ourselves first, our own foundation, and that we, you can't get to the top of the maturity continuum if you are still dependent upon others. And you have to move from being dependent to independent. And that requires a lot of self work. It requires a lot of control. Being able to do things on your own, being able to create things on your own and someone that was a mentor to me. And I asked them, give me one or two pieces of advice. He said, number one, the best way to get out of a hole is to stop digging, which means you want to fail, fail big, and then get out and move on to something else. Don't, don't keep digging that hole. You know, don't get attached to the ego and the outcome of it, look at it for what it is and make a decision that is very objective.
And then the second piece of advice he said is you need to master what you do, and then replace yourself with someone that you hope can do it better than you, so mentoring other people. And so I look at, I look at your question of, you know, being dependent than an independent and an interdependent. You can't, you can't just skip to interdependence. You, you have to work on yourself, your foundation. Now, this idea of you know, really mastering what you do and then teaching someone else to do it and hope they do it better than you.
JAMES BROWN (11:19):
And so mastering what you do includes learning self control and discipline and the work on yourself that you talked about?
MARIA PARRELLA TURCO (11:28):
Entrepreneurs need to be able to, you know, I think also be in the trenches and then be able to look at what's happening down in the, in the forest. And then also have the ability to climb to the highest tree and look out and see beyond, you know, the trees for the forest for what's ahead.
JAMES BROWN (11:46):
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JAMES BROWN (12:34):
All right. So in, in this journey that you, that you've that you took from, from the beginning of your career to now, as you transitioned to being more of a leader in a business owner, were there any skills that were necessary that you, that you didn't have at the beginning and that were, that were difficult for you to, to learn?
MARIA PARRELLA TURCO (13:00):
Yes. All of them. Yeah. I think, I think, you know, when you decide to switch your major from pre-med to business, right? It's because you recognize, okay. If I want to make a career in the fitness industry, I can't just be necessarily a personal trainer or a group fitness instructor that just does that one thing. I, if I'm going to kind of elevate my career, I need to learn how to build a financial proforma, how to mark and myself, how to sell, you know? And so you learn the pillars of business, which, you know, is financial management, facility management, marketing, selling branding, direct response, and brand marketing. And what is the difference? And, and so your capacity for growth as a leader, or as an entrepreneur are only as high as your educational ceilings. So if your educational ceiling is year, then that's gonna be, you know, your growth ceiling as well.
And so, as an entrepreneur, you're constantly reading, you're constantly, you know researching and developing or ripping off and duplicating, you know, what's happening out there and you're looking at, you know, the industry and you are visionary, and then you have to get your roll up your sleeves and apply all of those aspects to it. Now you don't, you might not necessarily be a master at marketing or at selling or financial planning, but you know, enough that you put people in places you scale that can do that better than you, but you certainly need to have your eye on all of those things, because if you're just one dimensional and you focus on one thing, you're not going to be able to grow your company because in most businesses, all of those facets and elements are required. So your skills needs to be a little bit more broad based kind of like a jack of all trades master of none in a way. But, but you know, you want to try to master it as much as you can, especially if you're starting up as a you know, as a, as a, as a one man show or one woman show as an entrepreneur.
JAMES BROWN (15:03):
So, so about people thinking about people for whom this path might be a good idea. Are there certain personality traits that, that you would say that sort of identify somebody as I would like, if, if you, if you had a lineup of 15 people and you had to pick a couple that you think would do well with this, what, what would you be looking for?
MARIA PARRELLA TURCO (15:24):
I would look for, does this person have a vision? Do they have discipline? Do they have drive? Do they have passion for what it is that they want, what the business needs and or what the concept needs and are they, are they passionate about it? Passion and flow are a hallmark fundamental foundational element of being an entrepreneur because that fire can never go out and there's a lot of dead ends. There's a lot of failure. There's a lot of learnings there. And so you need to have grit. You need to have tenacity. You need to have passion because without passion and really love for what you do, whether it's a product or a service for, for what you're entrepreneur-ing and what you're creating, all of that could extinguish very quickly. And you run out of you run out of steam. So to me, that's the, that's the foundational element. And then the ability and the skills that are associated, you know, is this person well-rounded, do they have lessons and experience in work history in all of these facets of starting a business and being an entrepreneur? So whether it's finance or marketing or sales or facilities and mostly leadership, right. And cultivating those skills is what I would look for if I were selecting an entrepreneur.
JAMES BROWN (16:59):
For you personally, can you tell us something that really stands out for you recently, or in the past, as a moment or experience that made you really happy that you followed the path you're on?
MARIA PARRELLA TURCO (17:08):
I believe that when you are an entrepreneur, you are following a consistent path, perhaps in an industry. And I remember when I was 16, I loved the feeling of getting up and teaching my first step aerobics class. I loved how it made me feel, because I love to see how happy other people felt at the end of that class. And so it was, I say, it's a gift to give. And the fitness industry in particular is, is like that. For me, it's, it's, it's, it's really selfish because I get so much joy out of helping other people guide other people to reach, you know a salubrious lifestyle, which is, you know, a lifestyle of health and wellness because I tie fitness and wellness to our mental wellbeing, to our physical wellbeing, to how we are with one another. And we treat each other.
It is a foundational element of how we can be better as a species. And so for me, that's what fitness has been since I was at that age. And so recently developed a company called MyFitPod and put together this amazing team. And what I recognize is that the true people in the fitness industry that have made a difference on a day-to-day basis are not the gyms, necessarily ... People used to say, "well, what's your most, or what's your best piece of equipment in the gym. What's your most important piece of equipment that you, if you had to buy, you would buy?" I would say, "my staff, my staff is the most important piece of equipment. It's not the, it's not the metal, it's the people". It is about the wellness professional. It's about the independent fitness and wellness professional, single mom who has three kids, loves what she does, but has to teach 14 classes a week to put food on the table who woesn't want to give that up because she's a better mom. And she helps people. And it gives her so much joy and, and really taking that and helping her monetize and create a sustainable living commensurate with the value that she provides in people's lives.
That's what I do now. And that's what these two business models have unlocked. And so everything that I, I, my career, I think has led me to the moment and I am so happy to be doing it's hard, still trying to figure it out. You know, how do I help that single mom get 20 new customers in the next month? So she can take her earning from $400 a month to $4000 a month. And, but I, I feel that the team that I built and the experiences that I've had equip, equip us to be able to do this really important and really great work. So that is what I'm most excited about.
JAMES BROWN (19:58):
You've done a lot of work as a turnaround specialist, going into gyms and fitness facilities and helping them identify problems that needed to be addressed before they could meet greater success. Can you share with us some of the more common issues that you found that needed to be addressed in those establishments?
MARIA PARRELLA TURCO (20:15):
Yes. As a turnaround specialist, you have to go in and convince an owner that they need to invest in their business. They need to take out a loan. And that this plan that we've put together is going to get them to profitability. And ultimately one day ... I'll tell you a story. I said to the,uthe owner, "we have a problem. You know, we, we, we've invested in the business. We've built this great plan, but we're not really following the plan. So the general manager is really the biggest culprit of not following the plan. So I really feel that we have to fire the general manager, and we need a new general manager that's going to lead the team to executing the plan that we put together. We have a great plan. We have a great team. We just don't have a great general manager."
And the owner looked at me and he said, "wait a minute. I'm the general manager". And I said, "exactly". And so the moral of the story and the answer to your question is the most common thing that I see sometimes that where entrepreneurship can run short, and this could be a habit that we all fall into, and we work on what we love to do and what we like to do, and not necessarily the things that we have to do to take the business to the next level. And so the most critical thing, and the thing that I used to work on as a turnaround specialist is really keeping the entrepreneur or the gym owner focused on the things that we have to do, and the skill sets we need to hire for, or cultivate within ourselves in order to get the result that we need. And so that was a consistent theme in my work as a turnaround specialist.
JAMES BROWN (22:01):
Do you have any closing thoughts, bits of advice?
MARIA PARRELLA TURCO (22:04):
If you're thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, make sure that what you do is what you love, because when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.
JAMES BROWN (22:16):
Thank you so much for me, it's been a real pleasure talking to you.
MARIA PARRELLA TURCO (22:19):
Thank you, James.
JAMES BROWN (22:21):
Like what you're hearing, you can learn more about this topic and the, my fit pod academy, where you can unlock your potential as a fitness pro with a custom training path. I'm James Brown. And I developed the content for the MyFitPod Academy. Our Academy was designed to fill in the gaps between just being a great instructor or trainer and reaching your maximum potential as an independent fitness professional in today's quickly changing environment. The Academy teaches what you need to know about mindset branding, growing an audience, working with technology, running a business and building wealth. It's all waiting for you at myfitypod.com.
The independent fitness pro podcast is brought to you by MyFitPod. You can find more information about the topics covered in each episode, along with an episode transcript at myfitpod.com. MyFitPod exists to launch grow and elevate the careers of independent fitness pros everywhere with the tools, support, and education they need for sustainable success. You can tell us what you think of this podcast by writing a review on Apple Podcasts. Thanks for listening.