Have a professionally built website and at least one active social media channel which matches my audience. I have noticed that there are many opportunities for publicity and the first thing a potential client will do is google to check your online presence, your website, social media, reviews, advertisements and articles. I have had a few speaking gigs and publicity opportunities that were created from being found online by organizers of these events. They liked my professional looking website, case studies and google reviews.
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 Kostas Kapelas.
Kostas Kapelas is the founder and head practitioner of Total Health Now Clinic located in central London. The clinic has been running for 12 years and was opened after Kostas suffered work burnout. His focus is to help people holistically rebuild their health and recharge their energy by addressing the root cause of their health problems.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was born and brought up in Trikala, a rural part of Greece before moving to London in 1997. I am the eldest son of three boys of which there is one-year difference between my first brother and eight years between my youngest brother. My mother was a housewife and my father worked for the local government building roads, and general road maintenance which included clearing the winter snow.
We were a very pleasant, humble family, who of course had our own flaws. Despite my parent’s financial situation, we were always well-fed even though we did not have the funds for luxuries. Both parents only graduated from primary school which meant that I had no help or supervision at all with homework, neither had they the funds for private lessons. This forced me to be very creative with my studies as I liked to excel in everything I do. Thus, this learning ‘disadvantage’ turned into an asset allowing me to achieve many school distinctions for my studies much to the shock of my parents! In addition to this, I learnt English proficiently and in later years I completed a Tourism Management degree with distinction in Greece and a self-funded Master’s degree in Tourism Management in the UK before I changed career.
I started working from the age of 14. I worked during my summers and festive periods, and also helped my family and relatives with various labour needs. This allowed me to learn not to be afraid of work, to be financially independent (pocket money wise) and most importantly, to interact with customers and problems in real time. This forced me to be more creative and develop a better emotional resilience which served me massively in life.
I was a great sportsman growing up, especially in football, and captained my high school, university and other teams. The challenge I faced was that I could not go to football training (three times per week plus a football game) with a full or even a half full stomach as it affected my performance, and as such, I had to skip lunch on these days. It certainly was not easy to skip lunch as a growing young man and then remain hungry for another 4–5 hours until dinner. This situation helped me to develop self-control and patience. Another trait sports helped me develop was to always give my best and detach from the results, although that was not always easy. Sometimes we could have played better and lost and sometimes the opposite could have happened.
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?
I always thought that I was healthy as my body looked very fit because I was young and my metabolism was very good but little did I know that that wasn’t the case. After two years of living in the UK, apart from a number of digestive issues, my hair started getting thinner. Soon, I started looking for various health solutions, which I found fascinating. As I started to explore more I discovered that health was so much more than just training and healthy eating.
I started to visit many health events, talks and listen to different health practitioners. This resulted in me developing a desire to train in various holistic health modalities as a hobby on the side. However, I took it even further and ended up qualifying in over thirty official health modalities to date, in addition to this I have attended various seminars, retreats and training skills workshops, prompting my wife to say jokingly, ‘Kostas, you overdo it!’
The catalyst for me was when I managed to rebuild my health after I found that I had become ‘burn out’ from work. Years of stress of long hours on my feet in the catering business, poor eating (or eating in a hurry) and not sleeping regularly had started to take its toll. I rebuilt my health by combining a variety of health techniques, products and equipment. In particular, I have fallen in love with the investigative part of the process, which allowed me to be creative, healthy and not be bored by just doing a repetitive task.
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?
I just had to make a start, and then keep going, making adjustments along the way. To be honest, after witnessing the miracle of both my children’s births, I likened starting a business as giving ‘birth’ to a brand new being, one that you nurture, help shape and grow over the years. This is my ‘baby’ one which I am also connected to spiritually as it allows me to work every day in an industry that I am not only passionate about, but one which defines me as a person. Things can take longer to fall in place and might not be exactly as you dreamt it to be, but you need to keep going and adapt it to the market needs with the resources that you have.
The key to my success was that I always invested in other people’s business, health services, and products and this allowed me to use the best of them which fitted my personality and business model. Many people try to find these kind of answers by looking for ‘freebies’ online, whilst they may act as an inspiration, I always think it is better to invest in something properly, by doing so you are making a real commitment, one you have researched and willing to explore. I have always worked and still do, with one or more mentors who are already a few steps ahead of where I want to go with my business, spurring me on and challenging me for the better.
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?
My advice to someone is that, as long as they enjoy their main job, they can always run a part time or second business on the side based on their hobby without switching professions/career. However, if they do not enjoy their main job then I would advise them to plan carefully on how to create a successful business they love by following specific proven to work steps, processes and systems.
Firstly, they need to buy a variety of products and services related to their hobby as this will help educate themselves in the industry and business ideas. Secondly, they need to ensure that they get professional help to set up the packages, prices, lead generation and sales process, website etc. Have faith in other people’s expertise and learn from them. Thirdly, ensure that you are healthy and that you have the energy and spiritual foundation to persevere when difficult times come, as running your own business will be a marathon rather than a 100 metres sprint. Fourthly, let the business unfold. Be prepared for change as it might take you longer and take you to a slightly different direction to the one that you hoped. Be aware that change is absolutely fine as things can change rapidly and we need to adapt to the market’s needs. For example, the company Kodak failed to adapt to digital photography and it went bankrupt after over 100 years of successful operation. It is this type of scenario business owners need to avoid by being willing to adapt and listening to the market.
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?
I achieve this by constantly educating myself with courses, products and market updates which makes my job exciting and not stale or boring — practises are always changing and improving and as such it is wise to be a part of that process, just because you have a degree or experience in something, doesn’t mean you cannot learn something new to make your practice better. Also, as not every client is the same, I have to combine a variety of skills that I have collected in my toolbox so that I may match each client’s bespoke needs. This stops my work from ever being boring or repetitive and allows my creativity to flourish and keeps motivation high.
It is worth considering the ancient proverb “everything in moderation” which does not apply only for food, relationships and training but also for work. So, avoid overworking and having other interests and besides, it will keep the passion for your work flowing!
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 enjoy that it helps me to be ‘on my toes’ and not complacent. It also helps me to be creative and having to learn lots of new skills related not only to my actual work skills, but to business skills. In addition, I like that the full responsibility for the success or failure of my business lies solely on me and my wife who is my business partner as well!
The downside is that when you start and grow as a business there are a lot of things to deal with at once and the nonstop pace will wear you out if not very healthy, resourceful and without the appropriate systems and teams in place to support you.
The solution to the drawbacks was to restructure my business model and strategy, so it will fit in with my lifestyle rather than the other way around. Even though this may mean less profits and growth, the return was better health and a happier family, which for me, is just as important!
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
When I was an employee the only thing that I needed to do was to use my catering skills and of course being present during my work shifts. Once I started working for myself, I felt vulnerable and did not know where to start, as handing out leaflets and being present in the clinic was not enough to bring clients in. I had to educate myself in tax matters, marketing, sales and automation systems just to mention a few, which takes time, money and dedication. The best way I can describe this is, as an employee I was provided with the “fish” (salary) every month, whereas now I had to learn how to fish.
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?
I seriously thought of working in catering in a part time role until I had developed my business running skills properly. However, I knew that this would look like a failure to my wife and business partner, and she would have insisted that I call it a day, as she would have lost trust in my abilities to survive just with our business. She helped me trust in myself and skills and take the risk I needed to take.
Therefore, I invested my savings into a device and focused on one programme which could deliver great weight /inch loss results within a month. Then I marketed the programme and provided complimentary demos and I managed to get a few clients. That gave me the confidence and cash flow to focus on promoting the programme more until I was in a better financial position to promote other services too.
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?
It was actually a funny and embarrassing situation at the same time. At the beginning of my career, I offered a discounted programme to a friend who had lots of physical and emotional issues. Whilst I charged them the same rate, I offered to treat them for double normal sessions without extra charge. However, as part of the healing mechanism there is a paradox that in some cases someone might feel worse before they get better (Hering’s law) as the body will unwind old stored problems sooner than the body can cope. Unfortunately, due to extra amount of sessions, my client experienced this and the funny thing was that I had to explain/convince them that this was a good sign of healing (feeling terrible) and that I would support them further as soon as possible so they can get through it sooner rather than later — which they were dubious about. In the end my friend was very grateful and benefitted a lot from the process.
The lesson learnt was not that it was a ‘mistake’ but more of a learning for me that providing ‘more’, even if it is ‘free’, does not mean it is better! Everyone has their own starting point when it comes to healing and by providing them with bite chunks of information and treatments it will actually be more beneficial and reduces the chances of an overwhelming healing reaction and will keep them happy to come back.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
I was inspired by my Greek heritage, mythology and the great battles that my ancestors won against the odds. Leaders like Great Alexander, Leonidas (Battle of Thermopiles), just to mention a few, were leading from the front line and lead by example which inspired and motivated their teams/armies.
Also, having worked for over 15 years in an extremely busy high-end restaurants and hotels I realised that the best lasting results were achieved by leading by example and having some sort of personal knowledge and understanding of the tasks before I delegated them. This way I could understand and appreciate the effort that was needed by the team for the task to be completed successfully and within the specified time frame. From experience, I knew which practices and team members were “bad apples” and removed them before they affected the rest of the team. This is not a pleasant part of the job, but it is necessary for the functionality of an effective team and work-place.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Firstly, through the use of my health skills, I have helped myself and my family to be much healthier which means we inspire other people to do the same, and have not been a financial burden to the National Health Service. Secondly, by helping people get healthier this is a priceless gift that I can offer to humanity. Allowing and assisting people to live a much healthier life without aches pains and dependence on medications to manage their symptoms. Thirdly, according to Nerdwallet over 60% of USA bankruptcies in 2014 were due to medical bills therefore by keeping entrepreneurs and business owners healthy this will help and protect their businesses and family’s financial wellbeing and consequently their survival.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Firstly, research the market and competition really well, educate yourself on different business models and decide which model and operational system will work for you and which ones don’t and to know ‘why’. Then come up with your own hybrid version that suits yourself and your business. I created my business using a one-month weight/inch loss device and programme which I developed and improved further until it started being profitable, it was at that point that I started to develop and provide other services as well, despite many clinics making a living just with that one programme — I knew I wanted to expand and had a plan of action to achieve that.
Secondly, know the needs and struggles of your key audience/ clients very well and offer bespoke solutions and marketing campaigns. This would have saved me lots of money and time rather than chasing ‘too many rabbits’ at the same time and risking catching none! I could have always expanded afterwards to other audiences, when the time was right. In our business, although we can help people with a large range of health problems, we decided for a long period to focus our advertising only to audiences who needed to lose guaranteed weight and inches or detox from a cellular level resulting in better skin and more energy. This focus helped the business to be more stable financially.
Thirdly, have pricing, packaging all ready and together with a clear marketing strategy to match them. This will help with cash flow and clients getting results as they will be committing to a longer process rather than one session. Again, the detox/weight loss programme and the maintenance packages at our clinic helped the clients to achieve and maintain great results and resulted in referrals.
Fourthly, set up an automation system and subscription models for repeat sales. This is not only good for repeat sales for the business but also for the client as if you do not serve them yourself, then you risk the chance that someone else will, and in most cases it will not be as good for them in the long run. However, the ease of being a part of a subscription is very attractive for clients as you are doing the ‘thinking’ for them but still giving them the freedom of bespoke packages and choice. This is something that we are still improving on in our business, especially after Covid. Having been a client of many similar business models I find that this is a powerful way to build a strong community and serve it even better, as you will have more time helping many rather than being always restricted to one to one.
Fifth, have a professionally built website and at least one active social media channel which matches my audience. I have noticed that there are many opportunities for publicity and the first thing a potential client will do is google to check your online presence, your website, social media, reviews, advertisements and articles. I have had a few speaking gigs and publicity opportunities that were created from being found online by organisers of these events. They liked my professional looking website, case studies and google reviews.
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.
The movement will be Know Thyself. In business we need to ‘start’ with the ‘end’ in mind. The ‘end in mind’ in life is that one day we will die, at least in a physical sense, as the soul continues — which is a different topic altogether! Therefore, by organising a will and even assisting in the planned party for our funeral, this will take care of the biggest obstacle people have in life, which is the fear of death. You can address this fear by participating in the preparation and celebration of it. Even the fear of losing our job or having no money or no food or being alone are linked to the primitive fear of death and the unknown of what happens thereafter.
Realising our spiritual nature and soul’s eternity the world suddenly will become a playground where we can go and give our best shot as we never know when the “game” is over. It may sound very philosophical/spiritual, but I kid you not! A foundation/understanding of our spiritual nature is required if you are going to raise high in life and weather the storms which you will inevitably face.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are plenty of quotes and stories that throughout my life have massively influenced me. However, there are two that go hand in hand and you can also find them written outside of most temples in ancient Greece. One is “know thyself” and the other one was “everything in moderation.”
In order to succeed you need to have spiritual foundation /understanding to keep you going during rough times thus the need to “know thyself.” Also, too much work, exercise, food or too many restrictions (relating to diets, routines etc.) can throw us off balance thus — “everything in moderation.” Hence, the lessons are: enjoy life and do the best that you can by always being honest with oneself and making sure it comes from your heart.
We are very blessed that 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.
American personal development authors and public speakers have had a massive impact on my life since 2000 when I started this work and my own holistic journey with the Nightingale’s Conant personal development programmes. There are three people who have had a big impact on me and they are Michael Neill, Dr John Demartini and Anthony Robbins.
Any one of them would be an honour and pleasant surprise to have a virtual meeting/meal or in person when Covid is over so that I can personally pass my thanks to them and share how they have helped me transform my life.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
You are most welcome and it was an honour to be invited to contribute in this series of interviews and I sincerely hope my input will help and inspire many people who are thinking of following their passion or hobby as their main profession!