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Good Mistakes

18 Apr

Check it out: twins! I didn’t realize it until after I put salt and pepper on. Then I couldn’t eat it because twins are cute, and it made me feel evil.

twin egg yolk

Onto other news.

Do you guys remember back in the day when I told you I was going to get certified as a personal trainer? Well, I somehow managed to be very anticlimactic about it, because I did get my certification about two months ago :) . I have a sweet little certificate sitting in a folder in a closet in my bedroom that says “Melanie, you can kick people’s asses legally.” After three years of writing on this blog about health and fitness, sharing my push up enthusiasm with thousands of readers, I can finally say I’m a professional trainer!

personal trainer certification

But you know what? At first I didn’t want to train anybody.

Weird, right? Spend all that time, money and energy on something you love only to come out of it thinking … “Eh, I don’t know.” But after seeing what the life of a personal trainer is from the inside of the industry, it just didn’t seem like a good fit. It wasn’t enough for me, so to speak. And while some people might consider that a waste, I started to consider it an expensive mistake that was worth making. There are so many things I “want to be when I grow up,” that I need to go out there and try them all so that I don’t find myself one day saying, “Dang, I bet I would’ve loved being a fitness professional.” (thought I never say “dang”, so I’m probably safe).

Regardless of my inner instinct to avoid training people, friends of mine who knew I was a certified butt-kicker started asking me to help them get in shape. Not because they didn’t care that I thought it wasn’t for me, they didn’t even know I was feeling that way, they asked because they believed I could truly make a difference for them. So I said yes.

Fast forward to now and I’ve found myself with weekly regulars. Goes to show that you can chart your own course all your want, but it always pays to explore a little bit. It’s worth it, because I’m enjoying myself while also learning a lot–and my friends are getting the best of the best to train them (heh). Everyone wins and I’m glad things worked out the way they did.  Being that I’m also in the midst of launching Trainer Link, it’s good timing for me to be active in the industry. Not only that, but I would have never thought of Trainer Link had I not gone down this road. Personal insights are invaluable for things like that. So here’s to getting really real!

Have you ever chased a dream only to think you made a mistake? What did you do next?

Sancho spotlight bonus! Here he is playing with his new favorite toy Rocky Raccoon, and then stopping to burp.

Healthy Portable Snacks & Trainer Link Market Testing

12 Apr

In case you missed it, sign up now to be one of Trainer Link’s first clients! We’ll give you the VIP treatment as we work to find you the personal trainer that will help you achieve your fitness goals. Now, onto today’s post :)


A friend of mine came over yesterday for a training session, and after our awesome sweat attack was over, we sat down to talk nutrition. As we went through her eating regiment, she talked about her snacks that consisted of half a bag of baby carrots, or a piece of fruit or granola bar. These are the types of snacks people who start a new diet or weight loss plan immediately gravitate towards–very low calorie items. And while these are all perfectly fine foods to be eating (depending on the sugar content of that granola bar), there’s one missing link to make these snacks truly effective: protein + a weeeee bit o’ fat.

When I think of snacks, I try to think of them as mini meals. If you’re eating because you’re hungry, then it means your body needs fuel. Just because it’s an off-hour like 10:45am or 2:30pm, doesn’t mean you are relegated to a dry bag of pretzels, swedish fish, half a box of Teddy Grahams (ahh! guilty!!) or some other lame snack food. Whole, well balanced foods will fuel your body much better. What does whole mean? As close to the earth as you can get–think fruits, veggies, legumes, etc. Not only will your body get the benefits of the vitamins and minerals found in those foods, it will also allow you to “float” into your next meal rather than make a running dive for that taco special and scarf it down as fast as possible. Why? Because they will keep you satiated for a much longer period of time, i.e. two hours vs. 30 minutes.

So what types of foods can my friend add into her snacks to make them a little more effective? Here are some options we talked through:

healthy portable snacks

Taking my own advice, I boiled a bunch of eggs last night so that I could grab them for an afternoon snack when I’m having a crazy day (which is pretty much everyday). Did I ever mention how much I love eggs? They are 70 calorie super foods and make amazing snacks all by themselves.

hard boiled eggs

After taking care of my fuel for the week, I then focused on another type of portable fuel:

Trainer Link Team

My Trainer Link team. We worked on the business at a coffee shop until 12:30am talking about how we’re going to setup our first market tests. A new website is in the making, providing a more robust preview of the product as well as an inside look at the team. Who’s pumped up?!

What fuels you throughout the day?


Austin Startup Weekend 2012: Taking First Place!

3 Apr

Four weeks ago, I was working around the clock trying to get all the critical pieces together to launch my business Train Like A Mofo, a business that would bring independent personal trainers and clients together.  I was spending early mornings trying to hack together my own unique Shopify store, while trying to get the legal T&C’s in place, contracts drawn up, all while reaching out meeting with personal trainers in Austin to get them to sign up. It was a lot of work, which I was ready for, but I quickly realized that it was a lot of work that I shouldn’t be handling alone.

I knew there was a huge entrepreneur community in Austin, and I was determined to figure out how to tap into it. I dedicated one whole day to researching what was out there, and one of the things I came across was something called Startup Weekend. Startup weekend is a competition in which 100 people break out into 8 or 9 teams and attempt to build a business (including proving out the business model and creating a prototype) in just 54 hours. A startup sprint, if you will. After reading the description, I immediately bought the $100 ticket to be a part of it. I was going to pitch Train Like A Mofo. The event promised to bring a mix of idea people, developers, and designers to together—and that’s exactly who I wanted to meet.

startup weekend austin 2012 results

Well, this past Friday was the kickoff.

I practiced my 60 second pitch all week, even recording myself to catch nuanced mistakes, and walked into the room on Friday night full of nerves (and high hopes). The hosts, Kyle and Keith, both co-founders of HubAustin, and Joey, the Startup Weekend representative, gave everyone a warm welcome and prepared us for the two days that were ahead of us.

austin startup weekend 2012 results

When it was time to pitch, 37 people raised their hands to participate. 37! “OMG,” I thought to myself, “I hope mine gets picked as one of the 8!” I stood up and found myself seventh in line. Six minutes later, I was up. The words flowed out of my mouth without a hitch except for one thing—the name of the business. I couldn’t bring myself to say “Train Like A Mofo” to a room of professionals! So I quickly changed it to “Train Up”. After all the pitches finished, there was a 20 minute voting period. When Joey stood up to call out the top ideas, he called Train Up first. WAHOO!! I jumped up to the front of the room with a huge smile on my face. “Okay, I got through step 1,” I thought. There was another 20 minute break in which people had to recruit the room to form their team, and then it was time to start building the business. I started out with a great team of two backend developers, Juny, and Chander, two designers, Matt (who was also a frontend developer) and Meredith, and one business development partner Armando.

We headed over to our workstation area and hit the ground running. “Okay, let’s start by identifying what the critical elements that we’re going to need for Sunday’s pitch are, and then divide and conquer,” I said. And the team jumped in on a brainstorm. With the help of all of their thinking, we came up with an action plan. For night one, the development team would start to build out the critical functionality of the site based on the business objectives we outlined, the design team would establish the brand’s look & feel, and Armando and I would begin to go through the Lean startup methodology to validate our customer market. We worked til 1am.

austin startup weekend 2012 results

On Saturday, I showed up bright and early to find that two more people had decided to leave their teams and join mine—Vivek, another backend developer, and Nik, a software architect who specialized in mobile app development. SCORE! I shook their hands, and we talked about how they could add to the project. At the end of it all, I have to say, day two might be an example of one of the most efficient workdays ever. By 9am, I had the wireframes drawn up, and handed them to the designers to get started applying their look. While they started designing, the developers were able to also continue building out the backend to accomplish some of the functionality in the wireframes. Nik had a great idea for an app that would add value to the business—a client management tool for trainers—and he mapped out a flow and wireframes for himself as well. Along the way, we pivoted the business’ name to Trainer Link—the for personal training.

Armando taught me how Lean startup theory works, and we got started interviewing trainers and customers to identify their biggest painpoints, and research if the total U.S. market was big enough to monetize the idea. How many personal trainers are there in America? And would they be interested? Would people actually come to the site to find a trainer? And how many people would we need to visit the site to make money? What price would people pay? So many questions, so little time!

At 3:30pm, I called a status meeting. We needed to assess our progress, and make a plan for what needed to be accomplished by the end of the night.

- At that point, it turned out the developers had made GREAT headway, and were ready to start receiving design pages to turn into HTML.

- We decided on three pages that were absolutely critical to the website demo that we wanted to show on Sunday: the homepage, the trainer directory page, and the trainer profile page, and the design team set out to complete them.

- Armando and I got a landing page up that announced to the world that we were starting this business, and they should sign up to stay in the know (part of customer validation), and needed to finish interviews with 5 trainers and 5 customers.

- Nik was well underway in the coding of the iOS app, and planned to have two screens completed for the presentation, as well as a working prototype.

austin startup weekend 2012 results

Not only did everyone meet these goals—but they exceeded them. The team sat diligently around our workspace in front of their computers and focused like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Also, something fantastic happened that I didn’t expect—we got our first paying customer! While Armando and I were interviewing a person, asking them what they think about personal training, one guy said, “I’d absolutely do it.” …I looked at him, and then I looked at Armando… “Really?” I said. “Really.” He said. I confirmed, “Like, you would really buy a personal training session if you had this service.” “Yes,” he said. “Would you do it right now?” “I would,” he said. I ran and got my computer. He chose his trainer, made a purchase, and we jumped for joy! That was an opportunity I’m glad we recognized when it hit us in the face! I walked back to my team to find that the designers had finished every page, and the site was already partially working. By 12:30am, we were all sitting there with bloodshot eyes, but were getting very excited. Armando and I worked just a little longer to figure out the actual market numbers, and then headed home.

The final day on Sunday was all about getting ready for the pitch. Why was your idea a valid business model? What problem were you solving? How big was the market? How ready was the market to receive your solution? And how complete was your prototype? All things we needed to be sure we proved out.

austin startup weekend 2012 results

I got started on creating our presentation first thing in the morning. Part of the challenge was to validate the business, but the other was to do it in only 5 minutes, while telling a really compelling story to the audience and panel of expert judges. While everyone on my team worked to polish and complete their parts—website, app, number validation—I sat on the floor in the hallway by myself practicing the presentation. I needed to have three or less main points on each slide, and they needed to be extremely clear and important. Five minutes is not a lot of time to make a business case AND demo a site AND demo an app. I do have to say, Startup Weekend was fantastic in providing us guidance, and we met with a pitch expert as well as a market validation expert to get some feedback and guidance. We used that help to put final touches on the presentation at 4:30. I walked around the parking lot going over the pitch in my head, while trying to quell the jitters that all the adrenaline was giving me. Every five minutes, I walked up to my team saying, ”Okay! I need your help!” and presented them with a possible question the judges might ask that I didn’t know how to answer, or a transition in the presentation I needed help with. I can’t tell you how valuable it is to work on a team rather than by yourself! It was getting close to go time, and we sat in a room chatting. We pumped it up by doing group push ups (hell yeah! did you expect anything else?) and then walked into the room as confidently as we could. We were fourth in line to pitch.

austin startup weekend 2012 results

Before I knew it, I was standing in front of the room pitching our business. As I spoke, I watched the audience smile back at me, and I knew I was doing something right. I talked through the problem—”Jen wants to lose weight for her honeymoon (because those pictures will be on facebook! Ahh!) but she doesn’t know how!”–and went on to build the case for how helpful an interactive website that matched local independent personal trainers to people in need could be in extremely high demand for both parties. We had the numbers to back up the business, as well as a slide on competitive differentiation, and customer acquisition (we had two paying customers in less than 24 hours!). Before I knew it, a buzzer rang and my 5 minutes were up. I didn’t get to the last slide, but I don’t think it mattered. There were 3 minutes for Q&A with the judges, and then my team sat down. Phew!

 austin startup weekend 2012 results

We went to the back of the room and nervously tapped our feet through the rest of the presentations. Some of the other ideas included TrailerQ, which made movie trailers actionable,, which matched people to host families in foreign countries, and many more fantastic businesses. After all the teams pitched, there was a twenty minute break while the judges deliberated.

When they walked back in, it was time to announce the winners:

Most creative: Talent Genuity, a business that leverged social networks to source talent for hiring businesses

Most tech complete: TrailerQ, for their app that could recognize what movie trailer you were watching and allow you to send yourself a reminder about it

3rd place: TrailerQ

2nd place: Host Family

1st place: TRAINER LINK

ATXSW Winner Reaction from Tech Hustlers on Vimeo.

WE DID IT!!! WE TOOK HOME FIRST PLACE AT AUSTIN STARTUP WEEKEND!! We jumped up and down cheering!! This was it!! This was amazing!! We all hugged and set a day to meetup next week to continue this action. Though we were amazingly tired from the weekend, we were also amazingly inspired, and the journey had just begun.

P.S. Check out and sign up to find out when we launch, and get put on a list for a discounted first training session.

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