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Misa Dugally: “Remain teachable and coachable”

Remain teachable and coachable: While I feel good about my running and coaching abilities, there are many aspects of opening and operating a treadmill studio that I’m not an expert on. It’s so important to not have an ego and surround yourself with people who have expertise in the areas you lack so you can […]

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Remain teachable and coachable: While I feel good about my running and coaching abilities, there are many aspects of opening and operating a treadmill studio that I’m not an expert on. It’s so important to not have an ego and surround yourself with people who have expertise in the areas you lack so you can learn from them and get better. I was lucky to have Katie with her business acumen, among many other people who helped with hiring, marketing, etc.


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 Misa Dugally. Misa is the co-founder of STRIDE, a national boutique fitness franchise that offers treadmill-based cardio and strength interval workouts for walkers, joggers, and runners. She is a mother of two children and resides in Orange County.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Misa! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I had a somewhat unconventional upbringing in Hawaii, where my mother moved us when I was very young. Growing up in a commune with my mother and sister, I didn’t attend conventional schools, so I didn’t play sports, join any teams or participate in extracurricular activities. I was very shy and timid and afraid to put myself out there.

We eventually moved back to California, but I feel like I spent a lot of years on the sidelines, watching other people take charge and accomplish amazing things for themselves. While I’m thankful for my life experiences — graduating college, becoming a school teacher, getting married, and having two beautiful daughters — it wasn’t until recently that I felt I was tapping into my full potential.

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?

My friend Katie Ownbey and I were at a point in our lives in our 40’s where we were both at a crossroads. We started going on walks and having deep conversations with one another. She was taking care of her declining parents and I was a recently-divorced single mom. We were entering the second chapter of our lives, and wanting to take ownership of it, so we began to explore ideas of what that would look like.

Eventually, Katie started taking a treadmill class at Equinox and our walks turned into runs. I would use guest passes to join her for these treadmill workouts and started seeing results right away. Even though the class took place in the middle of the cardio equipment area of this big box gym, it was always booked solid and could be difficult to get a spot. We also joined the Pasadena Pacers run club and loved the sense of community we felt there.

After some reflection, we thought it would be a great idea to combine this incredible treadmill workout with the community of a run club in a boutique setting. Once we decided that is what we would do, we went online, found a great template for a business plan, and got started.

Within just five months, we had caught the “running bug” and turned it into our dream business.

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?

Once we had the idea for our business, we used a detailed business plan to get things moving. A lot of people have a passion, i.e. fashion or cooking, and may want to turn that into a business opportunity, but they don’t take the proper steps before signing a lease. We were very meticulous about our business plan and even hired a business coach. We used her to guide our spending, timeline, and interpersonal skills, among many other factors. At first, this dream was entirely funded by private loans from family and friends, so we had to be rigorous in our planning. There was no room for error.

It’s also essential to have a strong sense of goal-setting, then to keep those goals, principles, and ideas front and center throughout your journey. We took it one foot in front of the other, and if we ever felt like we were getting off track we always referred back to our plan.

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?

If you’re serious about it, write up a plan and stick to it. There’s something about putting pen to paper that gives us clarity and direction. It’s one thing to have a passion, but it’s a completely different story to make it a business or career.

On top of that, you have to surround yourself with the right people to pick up the slack in areas where you may be lacking. While you may be excellent at one part of your business — in my case, running and coaching — you have to remember there a million other components to running a business from accounting, lease negotiations, marketing, PR, social media, real estate, and sales, to name just a few. As was my and Katie’s case, find a partner that complements your skillset. Always have someone to check in with.

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?

We take the business very seriously because we care about it so much, but we try not to take ourselves too seriously. You won’t lose that sense of fun if you remember to laugh every day, share the workload, and consult with others when you are unsure of or stressed out by something. I believe we are magnets of our own energy, and so far, that energy has drawn an amazing group of people to STRIDE.

If you’re ever feeling really burnt out, it’s always a good idea to take a break. Go to the beach, visit a friend, or simply relax, and you’ll be able to clear your head and bring your goals back into focus.

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 coaching classes at STRIDE more than anything. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in my life personally or professionally when I walk in to teach. Once I start interacting with the people who walk through the doors of our studio and the music starts playing at the beginning of class, I am immediately energized and in a better state. It’s extremely rewarding to watch clients come into class with the same apathy or doubt that I approached life with for so many years and completely shift their narrative after a couple of months.

One downside I would say is that it’s very hard to “shut it off.” You put so much heart into your business and want to make sure everything is always going right and running smoothly. It takes a lot of work to sustain your business and keep growing, and for some people, it consumes them. I will find myself checking email at 9 pm when I should be present for my family, so I have to constantly remind myself to turn it off.

Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

I thought to own and running our studio would really feel like a “job,” but, honestly, it doesn’t feel like one at all. I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy it and recognize I’m very lucky that it’s been such a positive experience.

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?

Believe it or not, I’ve never had that moment in my STRIDE journey. I can’t imagine my life without it. It has helped immensely to have a partner along the way too.

Even when things start to get tough, I take it as an opportunity to evolve and grow. I would be selling myself so short if I went back to a 9-to-5 desk job. I’ve always been a seeker, hungry for evolution — spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical. STRIDE has been that vehicle for both me and Katie.

Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?

There isn’t a celebrity or giant influence in my life that I would consider my perfect role model. I would have to say that my friend and business partner Katie inspires me in life day-to-day. Her work ethic, passion, loyalty, and sense of humor are a wellspring that I tap into on a daily basis. In general, it’s the wonderful people that I’m surrounded by daily and who are on this journey with me that inspire me to keep going and be a great leader.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I like to think that our STRIDE studios are making the world a better place one runner or walker at a time. It’s amazing how something as small as a boutique fitness class can uplift someone to become a better version of themselves. I hope our classes at STRIDE are allowing people to walk out the door in a better state, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Beyond that, since we partnered with Xponential Fitness and STRIDE started franchising across the nation, we have been able to give so many other fitness entrepreneurs the chance to pursue their business dreams and give back to their communities without reinventing the wheel.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Create boundaries between work time and downtime- When you’re starting a business, it can feel like your whole existence. Plan times to spend with family and friends, and put your phone or laptop away so that you can be fully present. When it’s time to go back to work or whatever new project you have with the business, you’ll be re-energized and more productive.
  2. Sleep more- You might not think much of sacrificing a couple of hours of sleep at night, but it adds up over time. Get ample sleep and you’ll have a clear mind and be able to accomplish more in less time.
  3. Every mistake can be a learning experience- I believe that everything happens for a reason and you can’t wallow in your mistakes. Use them as an opportunity to grow and propel you forward in your journey.
  4. Remain teachable and coachable- While I feel good about my running and coaching abilities, there are many aspects of opening and operating a treadmill studio that I’m not an expert on. It’s so important to not have an ego and surround yourself with people who have expertise in the areas you lack so you can learn from them and get better. I was lucky to have Katie with her business acumen, among many other people who helped with hiring, marketing, etc.
  5. Jump and the net will appear- If we hesitated for too long, we may have never taken the leap to open our own boutique fitness studio. I’m thankful that we just “went for it.” It’s scary to think about all the things that could go wrong with your business, but if you’re confident in yourself and give 100% to everything you do, success will follow.

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 wish for a movement of “I can!” So many people get bogged down by the “I can’t” narrative and stay stuck for way too long. I was a victim of this thinking, but once I dropped my guard, I started accomplishing more than I ever could have imagined. We see it every day at STRIDE Pasadena. People walk through our doors refusing to identify as runners, but once they take a few classes, they discover they are capable of more than they gave themselves credit for and eventually become runners!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“That which you resist will persist.” — Buddha

I’ve always been a seeker, but for so long, I played things safe. I went to college, got married, and raised my kids but was always resisting the entrepreneurial urge I had inside. Thankfully that urge persisted and didn’t succumb until I did something about it, which was opening my dream studio with Katie.

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.

I’d have to say, Oprah Winfrey. She’s been there and done that through so many obstacles and remains teachable, honest, and vulnerable. I try to live my life sort of like that and get a lot of inspiration from her Super Soul conversations and book recommendations.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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