Interview with Karen Shopoff Rooff – Personal Trainer and Business Development Coach

Interview with Karen RooffTell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.

I’ve never been the kind of person who sits still. I’m also an ‘ideas’ woman. Put those two things together, and launching a fitness business was almost a foregone conclusion. But here’s where I’m different than a lot of other personal trainers out there: I want to come up with a way for you to develop a lifestyle of wellness. It’s not about wearing a bikini and never eating chocolate or bread again. Rather, I want my clients to discover how great they can feel when they treat their body right. Have you ever seen a kid’s face light up because mom has the energy and strength to play soccer with him in the backyard after school? That’s the kind of functional fitness I help my clients achieve.

What did you do before launching your own business?

I was an assistant professor of humanities at a small college in Boston. I had gone to grad school for architectural history, and I loved teaching. I was also a life-long runner, so I got into the Boston running scene. For four years, I competed on a road racing team that was self-coached. It was that experience that led me to study and fall in love with the science of training. When I was pregnant with my first child, I read everything I could about exercise and pregnancy. Working as a personal trainer blends my passion for teaching and exercise, and focusing my business on helping moms exercise is personally meaningful.

How did you fund your business?

I launched my business with less than $2000 from my savings account. I wanted to run a low-overhead business, and I had to be strategic with how I spent my money. I try to keep those ideas at the forefront of my mind as my business has grown and changed in the last five years.

You current have an exercise bootcamp for women that work from home, tell us about that.

I am blessed with friends who live all over the country and the world. I can’t tell you how many times one of them said, “If we lived in the same place, I’d definitely hire you to be my trainer!” So I started thinking about ways we could work together despite geographical distance. I know that structure and efficiency are keys to making a workout program a success. I developed a bootcamp that is delivered via email three times per week, and each workout can be done in less than 30 minutes with minimal equipment. It’s designed so you can squeeze a quality workout into your day, no matter how many competing priorities you have. There is also a private Facebook page for participants to post questions, cheer each other on, or share parts of their wellness journey with a supportive community. It started out as a group of my friends, but it has grown to include participants from more than 20 states and 4 countries!

How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent is your home office?

I work about 10 hours per week face-to-face with personal training clients. Additionally, I spend about 5 hours per week with Balance Virtual Bootcamp. For the past six months, I’ve been working on a business development program for fitness professionals called EQUIP. That’s taken another 15 hours a week or so. Fortunately, my schedule is quite flexible; my husband is also an entrepreneur who works from home, so we work well together sharing family responsibilities.

How would you rate your success?

I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve done, as my business has grown year-on-year and is continuing to do so. The fact that most of my personal training clients are referred to me by other clients is a huge compliment. Like most entrepreneurs, I get restless, so continuing to innovate my offerings and develop new ways of teaching what I know is what makes me feel successful.

What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?

Childcare! Without a doubt, finding reliable childcare on a part-time (and always changing) schedule has been my biggest challenge. Just when I thought I was over that challenge by sending my second child off to school at the end of my second year in business, I found out I was pregnant again. Experience taught me that if my business was going to survive a pregnancy and the newborn year, I had to find excellent childcare. It was a huge expense, but knowing that your child is in capable hands (who will come to work on time every day) gave me the mental space I needed to keep growing my business.

What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?

Get really clear about your idea then plan it out, down to every detail. It may seem like a lot of boring busywork, but thinking all the way through a business plan lets you know if your idea is viable or not before you go investing time and energy into it.

How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?

Google Calendar is my brain. I love the color coding, the sharing capabilities, and the way I can see at-a-glance who is doing what where and when. And if I start to feel like there’s just too much going on for me or my family, Google Calendar makes it very easy to see what can get cut from the schedule.

Connect with Karen and Balance PFT…

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