Denise: Hi I’m Denise Hamilton, CEO and Founder of WatchHerWork.com and this is The BusinessMakers Show. I am thrilled today to spend some time with the Founder and CEO of Momma Strong Courtney Wyckoff. Courtney thanks so much for being with us today.
Courtney: Thanks for having me Denise.
Denise: We want to hear all about it; tell us about Momma Strong.
Courtney: Momma Strong is an online fitness resource for moms. There’s 5 different programs ranging from prenatal all the way through advanced postpartum workouts. It’s $2.00 a month, it’s subscription based and there’s members all over the world. So that’s kind of the surface level of Momma Strong, the deeper level is for me really wrapped around the mission of what happens when a woman is truly strong? How does she then choose to show up in the world?
Denise: You said members all over the world, how have you been able to achieve that kind of impact?
Courtney: That is a great question; I still can’t really give a very good answer. I wish there was a magic answer, I think we’d all use it. The reality is I have a woman sign up in Latvia, I have somebody sign up in Greenland and how they get the information I don’t know except I think that the power of word of mouth, especially with women and moms, is the most powerful. You can do all the marketing in the world but when somebody organically refers that is powerful. And then it just spreads from there.
Denise: I love it, I love it. There are a lot of fitness programs obviously but why specifically prenatal women and women post birth? Why was that a special interest for you?
Courtney: So I started out as a Pilates teacher after retiring from a professional ballet career and I was training women the way I was taught to train. Then I got pregnant and had my own child and had to have a C-section, which was really interesting for me because I had been working so hard on training my own pelvic floor that then to end up with a C-section was like wait, this was not supposed to happen.
And then following that birth I was in a lot of physical pain and ended up with a lot of complications from the C-section that again my industry and my profession should have been able to heal. But nothing was working and so I thought if this core work isn’t working, if everything I’ve been taught isn’t healing this then what is missing? What’s going on? So really it started with answering that question and to be honest it started from a bit of desperation in the postpartum experience; postpartum depression, losing my identity, needing to make money as most families need two incomes; it started from there as well.
So I put my nose in the books and started researching; how does the human spine really work? How does the female pelvis really work? And how can we then take that to the modern age we are all so flex forward all the time? And sure enough I discovered that most core work is focused on flexion-based core work. So you think of crunches, you think of all the abdominal work you’ve ever learned, it’s all forward-facing; it’s all flex forward. But yet what we’re doing every day is also very flexed forward.
Denise: We’re all looking at our phones, right?
Courtney: We’re driving and then we’re going and strengthening ourselves in a flexed position. So that was the first light bulb that said maybe we need to be doing extension work and getting our spines back where they need to be and teaching the core work in extension. So that’s what happened and sure enough I started creating my own method and it healed my back. It healed all my pain, dealt with most of my issues related to postpartum.
Denise: So like most amazing businesses stated by women you solved your own problem.
Courtney: Yeah and I think the important piece is it came out of a dark time and a willingness that in that dark time to be curious. To say instead of this is something I’m doing wrong – not saying this is something I’m doing wrong but instead saying what’s wrong with the container? Maybe something isn’t working right.
Denise: And having the courage to kind of buck conventional wisdom and come up with your own way of doing something, which we love as people who are big supporters of business. And let’s talk about your business; how many followers or subscribers do you have worldwide?
Courtney: There are 60,000 subscribers and then there’s 20,000 legacy members, so 60,000 technically I think.
Denise: It’s pretty amazing to have that kind of reach from a word of mouth, I mean that’s amazing.
Courtney: It’s amazing.
Denise: So there’s a woman sitting in her kitchen right now who’s watching this and who thinks I could never do that. How do you start a business like that? Where did you find the courage to create this entire new platform?
Courtney: I don’t think you can really summon that sort of courage, it only comes from experience. I can’t say that I’m a courageous person and that I set out with some sort of formula to never give up, it just became attached to my own wellbeing, it became attached to something very important for my life on a deeper level. So when it became connected to that, I don’t know, you don’t have to summon the courage or create a formula.
Denise: And it’s just an extension of your existing values.
Courtney: Yeah, an extension. I always call it my golden thread – and this is not woo woo – I think we all have this series of things that we need in our life individually, from business to personal relationships to health and wellbeing; it’s all very different based on our own composition. I think when we sign up for that without question and without compromise things start to happen and for me that’s what Momma Strong is really about. So for somebody who’s thinking up something you don’t know until you’re doing it. You can’t wait until you’re ready.
Denise: Please say that again.
Courtney: You cannot wait until you’re ready.
Denise: Cannot wait until you are ready.
Courtney: And the beauty of that is actually that it then feeds your business and people appreciate that, especially nowadays. They appreciate that vulnerability, they appreciate that you’re willing to throw something out there that is a half-cooked pancake and they like to grow with you. And then you build that loyalty with your customers as well. And every time you fail and every time it’s a huge flop and you pick yourself back up I look at it as like building a muscle; every time I do that I learn not only important lessons about that failure but I learn how to pick myself up again because I’m not afraid of the failures anymore. But I wouldn’t have learned that if I hadn’t done it. You can’t build your bicep by just looking at the weight, you have to actually flex it.
Denise: Right and we’re kind of addicted to learning right now, right? So everybody’s reading articles and listening to podcasts and whatever but there’s a point where you’ve just got to do it.
Courtney: I heard a great term the other day called maladaptive dreaming and I think a lot of people are stuck in that because there’s so much going on out there, there’s so much information and so many people doing something that we want to do and to really make a business happen, to really make things move forward, you just have to get in and do it. You have to stop the dreaming, you have to literally turn off all that information. I had to block myself from all the books, all the articles; everything out there.
Denise: Wow. So you are a tremendous success, things are going incredibly well; you’re having a lot of great days but I know you’ve had some bad ones because we all do when we’re starting businesses. What’s been the hardest part of starting your own business?
Courtney: I think first off with a digital business it’s really about traffic and that’s a reality that I wish somebody had told me before. We kind of all think if you have a great idea and a great product that you’re automatically going to get traffic and nowadays that’s just not true. Like traffic is a deal and then we deal with traffic, right? But the next layer is converting that traffic that you do get into sales. It’s becoming harder and harder and that piece I wish I had known a little bit more about that difficulty. I would have reached out for more funding, more realistic funding, from the beginning so I wasn’t so desperate and things like that. So that’s one of the big difficulties.
The other one would be that I think with the business I run I am so personally invested and so each complaint that I get, each customer service blip or each person that is unhappy or each person that the exercise isn’t working for I feel it; I fell it and being able to manage that and learn how to grow despite that is hard. So there’s that point in time where your business is at that launching point and hitting that tipping point and you have to make the decision that you’re not going to be able to be there intimately for everybody.
So then how do you structure the business to grow but still be personable? And I think the Zappos framework is a really good one where they sell shoes but they believe they’re a customer service first company. And I think Momma Strong needs to become that as well where we sell fitness, we offer all these amazing programs but underneath it all it’s the customer service. People want contact nowadays, they want immediate results obviously, but that personable aspect is the thing that I think makes a business successful nowadays. And that’s hard as a sensitive CEO.
Denise: I love that, a sensitive CEO.
Courtney: It’s tricky to find that balance.
Denise: It is; how do you scale up and keep it personal? How do you grow but keep it small and intimate?
Courtney: In many board rooms I’ve been told it’s not possible Courtney, get over it. You need to automate this and that. And actually I kind of refuse; I think this is the female business owner wisdom that I think is important for the world, I actually refuse that idea. I say no I do think that it’s possible to create that accessibility without it burning me out. How? I’m looking for the latest innovation on that; that’s what we need to create.
Denise: But just like the whole concept of Momma Strong you were open to a new way of doing things, maybe there’s a new way in that space too?
Courtney: I think there is.
Denise: Hope so. What’s next for Momma Strong?
Courtney: Well we’re going to keep growing. We are building a fancy app finally.
Denise: We all need a fancy app; everyone needs one.
Courtney: You do and until you’re at a certain place it’s a joke. So an app is coming, we’re taking it a little bit more live so this summer we’re doing a tour all over the country of a workshop. We have a live high end retreat coming up too, so there’s lots of things happening with Momma Strong. But I think also the outreach program is a really big deal, that’s the part I see expanding. So we have an outreach program that motivates members based on a percentage of them showing up each day, and as long as we hit that percentage I donate my time to women in need. It’s called Share the Show Up and I can see that program developing more and more as well. Because it really is at the end of the day what motivates women to show up to workout is that they’re engaged in the world.
Denise: Well I love it. I love everything about it. I love the innovation, I love the courage even though you don’t describe yourself as courageous, I love the sensitive CEO; I just love what you’re doing. Thank you so much for being with us today, this has just been amazing. This has been The BusinessMakers Show and we thank Courtney for her time and we hope that you’ll be with us next time.
Courtney: Thanks for having me.
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