A former celebrity personal trainer and elementary school teacher, Jess turned her "side hustle" into a million dollar business in less than two years. Since leaving her job in 2017, Jess has hired a team of incredible heart-centered humans, served hundreds of clients, and raised and donated more than $50,000 to charity. Jess' mission is to cause a ripple effect and inspire change for generations to come; making a massive impact and leaving a lasting legacy beyond her singular actions.
Q: What's your background, and what are you working on?
Like many of us, my background is multifaceted and always makes me feel that “I’ve lived a lot of lives”. To be honest, my “all over the map” background held me back for years as I thought of myself as a quitter and failure. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I reframed my story and realized that my expertise/experience across a broad scope was actually my superpower. That said, here is the short of my background.
I started working as a Personal Trainer & Group Fitness Instructor the day I turned 17. By age 19 I was training celebrities and had solidified “being in fitness” as a constant side job to my other responsibilities.
I went to The University of Rhode Island for my Doctorate of Physical Therapy and graduated undergrad with a B.S. in Kinesiology, as well as a K-12 Physical Education/Health and Adapted PE Teaching degree. After my first semester of grad school I “took a leave of absence” (in quotes because I never went back; hence being a quitter) to work through a near decade long battle with an eating disorder.
During my time away from grad school I accidentally fell into selling handmade purses and jewelry (something I had always done as a hobby). This led me to studying Accessory Design at The Fashion Institute of Technology; while still working as a trainer and interning for Heidi Klum, Jordache, XOXO, and US Polo. A very glamorous year of living on my older brother's couch in NYC.
After completing my first of a two year program in fashion, I dropped out (yet again) and found myself finally settled (or so I thought). After a few years of back and forth post college, I finally got “a real job” and began my 8 year career as an Elementary School Physical Education/Health teacher. Finally, I secure, stable job that I loved and I was good at!
However, right around year 5 I started noticing that my interest/passion was stronger for my side hustle stuff than it was for the classroom. So, I began exploring how I could grow outside of school. I started hiring business coaches, taking courses, and learning from experts in the entrepreneurial/personal development space.
In 2017 after 8 years working as a teacher I decided to leave my job and go “all in” on my “cute side hustle”. This allowed me to grow my “cute side hustle” into a multiple 6-figure online health/fitness business. While grinding on my business and working as a fulltime celebrity personal trainer in NYC, I started getting trainers knocking at my virtual door, asking for help.
So, in 2018 I made the pivot into business coaching; helping and teaching other coaches/trainers start, scale, and build their own online businesses.
Q: What motivated you to get started with EmpowerU?
As alluded to above, my desire to start EmpowerU stemmed from having a solution to people’s problems and people asking me to share that solution with them. It sort of started accidently, but by no mistake at all!
Once I began diving into teaching friends (for free) and seeing the impact it was making on their lives, making it “a thing” was a no brainer. Since day one we’ve centered the business and all of its decisions around impact and education.
Q: How have you attracted users and grown EmpowerU?
Our number one growth tool has been word of mouth/referrals and proof of concept/social proof. I like to say, we’re like Tony Robbins always says, “we have a PHD in results”. Truly, our clients get such incredible results and share about our EmpowerU family with such pride that it’s organically grown over the years.
Aside from our clients and results, we also have a large presence on Instagram. We have never played with paid ads, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin, Tik Tok, or really any other marketing. It’s all happening on either Instagram, email, or texting.
We attract users by sharing highly valuable content, being extremely vulnerable and transparent about our journey and what we offer. I pride myself on authenticity and my number one core value is integrity, so showing the real behind the scenes has always been a driver. I personally have done a ton of internal work over the years around my ego, worth, and looking for external validation. Why is this important? Well, by “doing the work” I’ve been able to also learn to take feedback and make necessary tweaks so we’re constantly updating our content, messaging, and programs based on what people need, want, and craving, and however the market is best learning/buying at the moment.
Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
Our basic business model is centered around the coaching industry which means that we offer different small/large group coaching programs to clients. They’re run just like a semester in school with a start and end date. We also have other niche coaches on staff that teach what I can not (like an accountant, lawyer, technology coach, etc).
Over the years I’ve expanded from being a solopreneur running the entire back/front of the business and doing all of the coaching, to now an entrepreneur with a team of 11. This has allowed me to stay in my “ZOG - Zone of Genus” and delegate the things that I’m not great at. By doing this, I’ve opened my space for myself to continue creating/coaching.
I credit my revenue growth to my personal growth. The more I expand myself, stretch myself, my network and my education, the more our revenue grows!
I’m a huge advocate for diversifying your streams of revenue, so at the current moment (stepping into 2021) our business model looks like:
- Empower: 3 month group coaching for new entrepreneurs (typically 40-50 students/cohort)
- Elevate: 4 month small group mentorship for higher level entrepreneurs (10-15 student/cohort)
- 1:1 coaching: 6 month container (3-6 clients at a time)
- Affiliate partnerships: I work with a number of brands/coaches helping sell their programs/products that I know, like, trust, and use for a kickback
- Events & Retreats
- Physical products
- Real estate rentals
- Investing in start-ups
Q: What are your goals for the future?
I have so many goals it’s really hard to pinpoint. My husband and I actually play “crazy stupid idea time” every quarter (honestly, more like every month) where we sit down and dream really big. But, just like our annual “vision board” tradition on NYE, we always say WHY we want to get there and HOW we plan on getting there.
That said, some of my current goals (always changing and expanding) are:
- Being able to visit our school that we’re currently building in Ghana, Africa
- Helping create 100 7-figure business owners
- Causing a ripple effect of impact beyond my singular actions (globally & generationally)
Q: What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome?
Over the years I’ve really shifted my mindset from challenges/obstacles to simply lessons and experiences that allow me to teach and share from experience, which has really become a superpower of mine. If I zoom out and look for a common thread or theme, I can see that many of my obstacles and challenges were actually self-induced.
I struggled for most of my childhood and young adult life with perfectionism, so much so that I battled for a decade with a horrible eating disorder. That perfectionism and unhealthy obsession with being the best also created an environment where I wasn’t taking action, procrastinating, walking away from opportunities if I wasn’t going to “win”, exhausting myself while trying to control everything, constantly worrying and stressing about things out of my control, and living a life addicted to working/overworking. That life led me to burn out more than once, as well as a series of health issues.
It wasn’t until a few scary “wake up” calls that I began slowing down and asking for help. I’ve spent years “unlearning” the default Jess, doing the deep work around my worth, and allowing my ego to die (multiple times).
Now I’m actually addicted (in a healthy way) to asking for help, hiring, delegating, admitting I’m wrong, publicly making mistakes, taking messy action, and being a beginning. I absolutely LOVE being a student, I love not knowing, I love trying new things, I love learning, I love making mistakes, and I love using all that I learn to teach.
Q: Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Aside from the traditional answer of asking for help, hiring a coach, investing in yourself, and getting/making yourself a “seat at the table”; I would have to say that the internal work has been everything for me.
Healing old wounds, asking myself deeper questions, looking beyond my habits and changing them even if it’s uncomfortable. Consistently getting out of my comfort zone. Mastering my energy and boundaries has been another secret weapon. My health and energy is my number one asset as an entrepreneur so I fiercely protect those.
My alone time, morning/night routines are non-negotiables. I found that saying “yes” was the quickest and easiest way to build my business, but saying “no” has been the only way for me to scale it. I’ve let go of friendships and practiced the art of having difficult conversations.
Building a business is really just a rocket ship to personal development and the more I lean into growing myself as a human (and understanding myself) the more success I see all around.
It’s not for everyone, some call it “woo woo”, some think it’s too spiritual, but understanding myself has been the most important “strategy”. As my mentor says, “Ego is your biggest overhead” so I committed to leaving my ego at the door and trying everything from rewiring my brain to meditations, from journaling to pulling oracle cards, and learning things like masculine/feminie energy to human design/enneagram. I am determined to learn and understand as much about myself and human psychology as possible.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
Here are a few of my favorite things to ponder, quote, and teach my clients (in no order):
A rising tide lifts all ships so stop competing
All feedback is neutral, always lead from a place of compassion
Lean into your triggers
Subtraction truly does equal success
There is clarity in contrast so keep trying
Frustration is a symptom of broken expectation so communication is key
Have more difficult conversations
Become a master of making decisions
NO = New Opportunity
People buy from people so just be a real person
Lead with impact and income will follow
Don’t judge the “carrot” that keeps you running
Build off purpose not passion because passions are ever changing and not sustainable
Information + implementation = transformation
You’ll never be ready, it’ll never be perfect, just start
Comparison truly is the thief of joy, put your blinders on
Serve don’t sell
If you have the vision, it’s yours to create; why NOT you?