You don’t need to work 24/7. Everything will get done eventually. It doesn’t need to all get done today. Breathe and enjoy the journey.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Allison Jackson, founder of Allison Jackson Fitness. Allison is passionate about all things health and fitness, but she really loves sharing her knowledge and expertise to help corporate moms get lean eating foods they love so they can be at their best. She knows exactly how hard it is to work full-time, take care of the kids and household…plus try to fit in working out, eating right and taking care of herself, too! Allison has spent the last seven years training and competing in figure competitions — even winning her pro card — so she has a crystal-clear picture of what it takes to get to your ideal weight and stay there. Now she’s ready to share what she’s learned and experienced.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Allison! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in the NJ suburbs and was always interested in sports and fitness. I played field hockey in high school and college. But I can distinctly remember being in my teens, reading my dad’s Muscle & Fitness magazines, and imagining what it would be like to transform my body through weight training. I would frequently use his weight bench in our unfinished basement.
In college, I taught fitness classes and was a personal trainer. I had always thought I would pursue a career in fitness, but then ended up in corporate communications. Not long after entering the working world, I got married and had two kids. While I still worked out regularly, it was more about just trying to get my pre-baby body back. I’ve run marathons, completed triathlons, did a Tough Mudder and other obstacle-course competitions, but I could never seem to get my body to where I felt good about how I looked.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
After years of dreaming of trying my hand at bodybuilding, I found a competition prep coach at the ripe old age of 38 and finally decided to check off this milestone from my bucket list. After that first show, I was hooked and kept competing in figure competitions (think bodybuilding meets beauty pageant) year after year. Over the past three years, more and more people were asking me about my workouts and nutrition plans. I gladly shared everything I was learning. Finally, a co-worker made a comment that I should start coaching. The thought literally never even crossed my mind!
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
There are countless health coaches and online fitness/nutrition coaches, but I think everyone has something slightly different to offer. For me, it’s about walking the walk and talking the talk. The same methods I use to prepare for figure competitions is what I use with my clients. I’m right there in the trenches with them losing weight. I think you need to have a solid idea of how you want your business to make money. Is it through one-on-one coaching, creating an online course, creating products or something else?
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
I would encourage anyone to test the waters to see if their business idea is viable. See if you can make a few dollars, then slowly scale. That’s what I did. I’m still working full-time and growing my business on the side. But it doesn’t even feel like work because it’s just so rewarding and fulfilling to me!
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
Yes, it’s important not to get burned out. I could literally work on my business 24/7 and I think that’s the fastest way to turn it into drudgery. For me, it’s taking breaks, which means stepping away for a day or two. I also try to keep learning. That definitely keeps things interesting. I love learning about nutrition, new fitness trends, marketing, social media —there’s no shortage of things to learn when you run your own business!
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
I most enjoy helping people reach their fitness goals and also learning new ways to grow my business. The downsides of running your own business are keeping your motivation levels up because you’re wearing so many different hats. Sometimes it can feel like you’re spinning your wheels, especially as a one-woman business. I overcome these by ensuring I’m involved in entrepreneurial groups either online or in person. It’s important to establish relationships with other business owners so you can share ideas as well as trials and tribulations.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I think the most striking difference is how many different roles you have to take on when you’re just starting out. You need to know how to do a little of everything or know how to appropriately outsource. For example, you’re IT, finance, HR, procurement, sales and the CEO all at one time!
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
My business is still a side hustle, but I’m hoping to do make the switch to full-time within the next 2–3 years. That said, there are still days when I’m ready to just pack it in and rely on my corporate job. But then I re-focus on my “why.” Coaching others feels like my calling, what I was always meant to do. It’s so rewarding and fulfilling that I would deeply regret not doing this as a full-time endeavor.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I think the most interesting aspect is when other coaches turn to me for help. Sometimes we get so caught up in doubting ourselves and our abilities that we don’t realize how much we have to offer. Most importantly, just because someone is in the same line of work doesn’t mean you can’t collaborate or help each other.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake was when I was launching a new product. I was so excited that I actually launched it with the wrong price. I couldn’t believe it! But I am a woman of my word and I kept the wrong price and actually got a lot of interest. So in the end it was a win and I learned not to let my excitement get the best of me.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
I continue to be inspired by Marie Forleo. She’s one of the very first business coaches I invested in. She’s a Jersey girl and self-made business coach. I think she is so authentic and love her brand and what she stands for. If my business could grow to half of hers, I would be ecstatic!
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Whenever I can, I try to support causes that are near and dear to me. I was born with clubfoot (a common birth defect) so I try to give back to Cure International. My dad is a Vietnam Veteran so that is another area that I work to support. Finally, I was a coach for several seasons with Girls on the Run, which my daughter also participated in. This organization empowers young girls and trains them to run their first 5K. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had the privilege of being involved in. I trained my daughter and my 65-year-old mother to both run their first 5K races.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
My 5 things would be:
- It costs money to make money.
I wish someone would have told me how much money it costs to start a business. Even with an online business, there are so many costs! I can’t even imagine the costs involved with a brick-and-mortar business!
- You don’t need to work 24/7.
Everything will get done eventually. It doesn’t need to all get done today. Breathe and enjoy the journey.
- You are your brand.
Especially when you feel like quitting, remember why you started and be true to yourself. What you do, say and how you act are all part of your brand.
- Growing a business is a lot like raising a small child.
In the beginning, it needs a lot of attention and nurturing — any money! There is much care and feeding involved in starting a business from scratch.
- Get a business coach.
Having the right business coach will help you grow and learn faster than trying to figure out everything on your own. Be sure to enlist the help of someone who has already achieved what you’re trying to do, someone a few steps ahead of you.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would love to eventually create a business that involved family fitness coaching. Currently, I focus on moms since they’re usually the ones tasked with feeding their loved ones. They’re the role models for their children and their families. How awesome would it be if I could coach entire families to eat healthier and get movement? That’s my goal — help as many people as possible reach their health/fitness goals.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“What’s meant to be is meant to be.” Sometimes we all try so hard to be the best. But in the end, it’s just about doing your best and letting the chips fall where they may. You can only control so much in your life, career, business, and family. I’ve found on many occasions, that if I just relax and “let go and let God,” life has a funny way of working out for the best.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
It would be a tie between Marie Forleo and Warren Buffett. I would love to get personal business coaching from Marie on how to scale my business like she’s done. And I’ve been enamored with Warren Buffett since I first started investing in my 20s. He’s so down-to-earth and incredibly smart. I think it would be fascinating to have a meal with him to get a glimpse of how his mind works.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.