In the face of changing and stressful times, we think it’s important to share positive and inspirational stories. That’s why we wanted to share a conversation we had with Sideline user Danielle Edwards, founder of The New Body Project in Brooklyn, New York. Danielle has forged an incredible community of women supporting women at @thenewbodyproject. We chatted with her about forging her own path as a female entrepreneur, a wife & mother, and how she balances it all and stays resilient.
The following is a transcript, edited for clarity and brevity, of the conversation we had with Danielle before COVID-19 disrupted her business’ normal functioning. We’ve added a section at the end of this article with Danielle’s message to her clients since that disruption.
“I actually started my company by accident.”
An unusual beginning
For years, I worked on Wall Street at a big-time bank, until the market tanked. I lost my job and was unemployed for 5 years, with two small children. One day, I just told myself, I needed to make a change.
It was a real blow to my self-confidence. On a whim, I decided to apply for a job at a gym. The owner of the gym was looking for someone who is going to help build her business. I said to myself, “I have a Masters in management, I could do this.”
I applied, and the next day I was called in for an interview and was hired on the spot to be the Director of Membership Services & Development. Part of the hiring process was to do a 6-week fitness challenge, so I could better relate to the women at the gym. I exceeded the goals I set for myself.
One day, about a year later, the owner of the gym came in and said she no longer wanted to run the business and was closing up shop. I saw this as my opportunity to start my own business.
First, I sent out an email to current gym members, and asked if they wanted to try and keep the community going. Then I created a crowdfunding page and raised a little bit over $3,000. I also decided to sell my house in New Jersey, which I purchased when I was 23. The realtors told me it would take a year to sell, but it sold in 13 days. I used that money to acquire the space where The New Body Project is located now.
“It’s a real family dynamic and I think our women just love being a part of it because this is the true no-judgment zone.”
Forging a community
The New Body Project is the first and only all-women’s bootcamp in Brooklyn. It’s a space where women can come and feel safe and encouraged, part of a community and family, except in this family we get to choose if we are a fit for each other.
I try to create this feeling in the very first consultation that a woman has with me when she is looking to join. I learn about her, and she learns about me. This is important because I want my clients to know that I’ve been in their shoes. I want clients to think, “Damn, if she can do it, I can do it. If she can lose twenty pounds and maintain this weight and build the business in the process of doing it, while being a mom, being a wife, I can do it.”
During consultations and workouts, we discuss more than you’d think. We talk about our families, job losses, or even the dream of writing a book. Once a member tells me something like that immediately my brain jumps to ” How can I help her? Who can I connect her with?”
People often look puzzled when they hear my members talk about how our studio has transformed their lives outside of our walls. We want to be able to empower each other in any way we can that will be mutually beneficial. We have members who are realtors who have helped other members sell their homes. Members who are event planners who have assisted members in throwing events. We want this to be a place for growth and sisterhood inside and out.
“My intention for The New Body Project is for this to be a space for women to come together, not just for fitness, but for their life passions and goals.”
I’m inspired every day by all the women in this community. They inspire me to just keep on pushing. I’m determined because I have a large community of women that really believe in me, pushing me, and just want this to be as successful as I want it to be. Personally, I think they’re the dopest women in Brooklyn.
“I am productive because I have a routine and plan things out. I am productive because I listen to the needs and wants of my community, my family, and I just make it happen.”
A day in the life
When I first started the business, I was pretty much a one-woman-show, starting my day at 4:45 every day. Before I’d leave the house, I’d put in a load of clothes and cook breakfast. I’d have to be at the gym by 6:15 for our first class of the day. Once class was over at 7:00, I’d race back to the house, get my kids dressed and out the door. Then, I’d come back here to train the 9:00 class. I’d do maybe two or three consultations, and then go back home, prepare dinner, and switch into mom mode. I’d pick up the kids, take them to their extracurricular activities, feed them dinner, then go back to the gym to train the 5:45 and 6:45 classes. Finally, I’d get back home to my husband and kids for the nightly hug up, love up, and kiss up, as we call it.
Things were pretty crazy. But recently, I was able to hire 6 employees who either train or handle the everyday aspects of the gym. I’ was able to drop my crazy schedule and train 1 or 2 classes, 2-3 a week.
“What makes me feel empowered as a woman is just being able to be free.”
How she gets it all done
I bounce back and forth between work-mode and mom-mode, which requires focus and organization. One way I stay organized is with my 2nd phone number from Sideline. It separates my personal life from my business. Sideline lets me be more effective in my day-to-day; it allows things to just move seamlessly. It also gives me the freedom to be able to have a business line without the price tag attached to it. Sideline helps me grow my business and save money at the same time.
Speaking of freedom, that’s one of my favorite things about owning my own business. I love the flexibility – the fact that I am able to wake up and make my own schedule and just do what it is that I want to do. I can be a mom and an active part of my community, transforming women, mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually at The New Body Project.
“You’re going to be gracefully broken before you rise up, so just have patience and wait for your time.”
The world has changed… and has forced a new normal upon us. While The New Body Project is famous for hugs and laughs, we have to put in-person loving on hold and adapt to virtual giggles. We are researching and creating the possibility to bring our training straight into our clients’ homes. We’re reinventing ourselves because we got this. When the going gets tough, we remember it’s not the end of the world and we are just forced to be better. I am determined that no one will be left behind.
Indeed, millions of small business owners like Danielle are facing unprecedented times of uncertainty in the face of COVID-19. Now, more than ever, we are all called to be communally-oriented, to find creative ways of supporting local businesses and our communities so we can all come out of this time having not just survived, but having innovatively found ways to thrive.
We are confident millions of people like Danielle are finding resilience from within and coming up with solutions to keep their businesses alive in the face of mass quarantine. Please check in with your local gyms and wellness centers to see how you can support them and keep your bodies and spirits healthy from inside your home.
We’re stronger together, so let’s share with each other. Tag us on @sidelinehq on Instagram with your COVID-19 business survival solutions and #SidelineTogether to share tips, ideas, and inspiration with us and your fellow small business owners. As Danielle put it, we got this!