Today we’re meeting Megan Ronan from Mind Over Matter Fitness and Nutrition, based in Oxfordshire. Megan has been the personal trainer for one of my friends for a year, so I know she’s good from her reports, and she knows a lot about running, my exercise of choice (so I took the opportunity to ask her a couple of sneaky marathon and ultramarathon tips at the end, too). There’s a lot to personal training and nutrition consultancy and there are so many under-qualified people out there, so it’s great to be able to feature someone so well-trained and knowledgeable. If you’re considering going into the health and wellness industry, you’ll find this and other interviews really interesting, but I love seeing people’s paths to success whatever line of business they’re in. Let’s find out how Megan’s got where she is today …
Hello, Megan, and it’s lovely to meet you. First things first: what’s your business called? When did you set it up?
Hello! My business is called Mind over Matter Fitness and Nutrition and I’ve been completely self-employed for almost a year now, but part-time for a good while before that.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I worked for other people in this industry for a few years to gain experience as this was not my first field of work – I was in education and nutritional research before. Working for other people guarantees you an income but does not allow you much flexibility or creativity. I was fed up with working hard, offering new ideas and not progressing. Lack of organisation and structure in my previous role(s) just made me want to work for myself. I felt I could offer more and make better use of my time, as well as earning more.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
I’m a nutritionist by original training and worked for Oxford Brookes University for 6 years in a research role. Whilst I enjoyed this job it became tedious – always working in the laboratory and quite a solitary role. Whilst working in this role I also increased my own running (moving on to ultra-marathons) and was really enjoying it. I just felt that my knowledge of nutrition and my love of exercise, specifically endurance running and weight training was where I wanted to concentrate my energy. It seemed a natural progression to train to be a personal trainer and fitness instructor and try to inspire people to love exercise as much as I do.
Back in 2003, I knew I wanted to work in the fitness field and as such signed up to a personal training course whilst also completing my degree. I studied hard but actually failed one of the modules, this knocked my confidence and I never went back to re-take the module! So it took me a few years to gain the confidence to try again and go back to the drawing board and sign up to another course.
Had you run your own business before?
Yes, when I was in my last year or university I started my own cleaning company to earn some money and have a flexible job. I expected to have just a few houses, but after a few months I had enough work for 10 others and so started my own company. The company run for 3 years in total. I sold it to go into nutrition research.
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
I started off studying at home (distance learning) to become a qualified personal trainer and fitness instructor. From there I applied to become a personal trainer at a small local gym, where I worked part-time (30 hours a week) and had a couple of regular classes at other gyms and trained my family and friends. Going for my first personal training job was a bit of a shock to the system as it was literally half my current income. It was a bit of a struggle financially to start with but other than going self-employed it’s the best move I made. It wasn’t long before I was a manager and earning a bit more.
From there I moved to Oxford Brookes University gym where I was also part time, working an average of 27 hours a week and slowly building my own client and class base around this. I was also working another job for an exam board which kept my nutritional knowledge up-to-date. Eventually in October 2016 I was working 27 hours for Brookes and had about 30 hours a week of my own classes and clients, so I had to make the huge decision to go completely self-employed before I worked myself into the ground! I still kept a few classes at Brookes to keep some guaranteed income. Now I only teach 3 classes for a small gym and run my own business full-time.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Learn to say no. You can’t do everything and you have to keep some time for yourself and family. There are also only so many hours in the day – try to work too many of those hours in the day, you only burn out.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Be confident and learn to ask for help. When marketing and selling isn’t your strong point, ask someone else professional to do it for you – it saves a lot of time and money in the long run.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
Been bolder and more confident – tried to set up more classes and initiatives or set up with a like-minded friend so that you have more support and can bounce ideas off each other. There are things that are working really well at the moment that I just didn’t have the confidence to set up to begin with.
Set work and home life boundaries – by this I mean, have times where you turn your phone off and don’t answer client emails and texts and don’t feel stressed out about doing this. Otherwise work takes over every aspect of your life.
What are you glad you did?
Actually going fully self-employed – there is no better feeling than being your own boss and scheduling your own time.
What’s your top business tip?
Learn to love the cancellations and quiet days.
And – keep on top of the book keeping.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
It’s my first full year in being fully self-employed so I am learning that the business can be seasonal, so it’s quiet in July and August due to people being away on holiday and enjoying the good weather and again in December as people are getting ready for Christmas and tend to have less disposable income. So, it is good to use these times for long-term planning and preparation for the busier months. These times are also good to implement advertising and marketing strategies that you don’t otherwise have time for.
Overall the business has grown with overall more clients and classes and my location has changed – from a small portacabin to a large commercial gym. The nutritional side of the business has picked up in the last few months which is exciting.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
I would love to see myself (and a colleague) in our own premises but I think in reality this is more of a 5-year goal.
So more realistically I would like to see myself offering some sort of nutritional coaching and growing the nutritional side of the business. It would be wonderful to have someone else working for me to grow the business further, offering schemes linked to workplace well-being. And of course, having more 1:1 clients as well as my own classes.
And a final cheeky question: what are your marathon and ultramarathon top tips?
Marathon top tip – get the fueling right. Try lots of things during training to make sure you have sufficient energy and don’t crash on race day.
Ultra tip – Break the distance down in your head and mentally tick off the distances as you go, and be prepared to go to some dark places in your head – remember why it is you set out to do it in the first place.
Brilliant – thank you! I remember doing my first marathon I even tried out a million different hairstyles to find one that didn’t rub or annoy me. Anyway, back to the work stuff: I so remember knowing when it was time to jump ship and go fully self-employed (it was almost six years ago that I made that decision, shockingly!), and building in boundaries to work time and having one- and five-year plans is definitely the way to go. I’m looking forward to seeing Megan go from strength to strength (ha ha) and finding out how she’s doing next year.
Megan Ronan’s Mind Over Matter Fitness and Nutrition website is at www.mindovermatterfitnessandnutrition.com and you can email her or call her on 07773 675884 / 01865 735708. She’s also on Facebook and Instagram.
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.