These High School Best Friends Achieved Their Dream of Being Their Own Bosses. Their Next Step? Starting a Wellness Revolution. Entrepreneurship involves a lot of blood, sweat and tears -- especially when your business is designed to make people sweat.
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what's your business?
Cynthia Calamari: We are the co-owners of MF3, a Lagree Fitness Megaformer studio located in Larchmont, New York. We're two best friends from high school who were looking to pursue our passion and start a local business that delivers wellness benefits to the community.
Gabby Hajdok: We offer small group classes and one-on-one training on the Megaformer, which offers the most effective 50-minute low-intensity/high-impact workout out there. We plan to also offer health coaching, spiritual guidance coaching, meditation and massage to better serve our clients.
What inspired you to do this?
Cynthia: For several years we both dreamed of doing something on our own and being our own bosses. We both come from corporate finance and wanted to create a future for ourselves that was more independent. I took a class and immediately called Gabby from the car saying, "You have to go and take this class!"
Gabby: I was hooked on the workout and the results that it delivered. As a working mother, I have limited time to dedicate to my physical wellbeing. Nothing gave me the immediate results I saw with the Megaformer, which only requires 3x a week.
Describe your company culture and how you helped shape it.
Gabby: Our culture with our instructors as well as our clients is the same: We want all to feel welcome. Each instructor brings their own flavor to their class, and we embrace that as opposed to a strict formula of teaching. While that may not work everywhere, we think it definitely has worked for us, our community and our instructors. We are truly a family.
Cynthia: We have had community nights where we feature a local wellness-related business so that everyone can learn more about it. We are planning on featuring a beauty product line of one of our instructors in the studio once it is completed. We are here to raise others up and support our community. As female business owners and mothers, we feel a duty to do so. That was always part of the business plan.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?
Cynthia: We went directly to the banks where we held accounts. Once we felt a connection and knew we had someone who believed in our business plan, they took the bull by the horns and went to the Small Business Administration to get approvals. So in the end, it was a combination of the SBA, our bank and personal investment.
Gabby: We prepared a business plan and a marketing analysis, and we knew our product and the results it delivered. Overall we think our finance backgrounds and passion for the business is what sold the idea to our investors. Our bank officer said that they find people with finance backgrounds tend to succeed more than those with experience in the actual field of the business they are opening.
What does the word "entrepreneur" mean to you?
Cynthia: It means freedom. Freedom to create. Freedom to express. Freedom to be who you are meant to be and to provide a service that is beneficial to others.
Gabby: Creative risk. Taking a vision/passion/idea and running with it because you truly believe in it.
How did it feel the first day you opened for business?
Cynthia: Exciting. Accomplished. Sometimes it still doesn't feel real when I walk into the studio and think "we made this"
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
Cynthia: There is a Buddha quote, "What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create." I have this pinned on my desk at work. You have to keep positive thoughts in your head. You need to feel happy -- on your own, not as a result of someone else. And you need to dream and take baby steps to get you there. It inspires me to grow and not set limitations on what I can and cannot do.
Gabby: "If you love what you do, it isn't a job." When you pursue your passion, although challenging and difficult at times, the mindset you have while facing those challenges is different. It becomes something you enjoy and want to do, rather than something you have to do.