Kathrine Bright’s small business inspiration came to her while pregnant with her second son. On bedrest dealing with a difficult pregnancy, the fitness trainer’s thoughts of impending “baby weight” lit a spark.
“I had an 'aha' moment alone in my hospital room,” says Bright. “The fitness industry is failing women and mothers. We deserve better.”
The internal dialogue continued to churn, and she lasered in on the pressures society and the media places on women and moms, and how it leads to postpartum depression and PTSD. “‘Get your pre-baby body back quickly and at all costs’ and to accept that pelvic floor aches and pains are ‘the price you pay’ because you chose to have a baby is unacceptable,” says Bright.
She had been supplementing her job at a physical therapy office with fitness training on the side. The “amoebic phase,” as she called it, was no more. Her mission took shape: empowering fellow moms.
“I rebranded my business to KatFit and embarked on my mission to help educate and empower women to gain strength through motherhood by providing tools to redefine one’s relationship with their body and their worth,” she says.
Four years after rebranding, Bright has a thriving fitness training business — she’s developed a personalized training app for her clients and expanded her client base to the point where she has hired an intern.
We sat down with Bright to chat about how the Pepperlane community helped improve her business and the best advice she learned along the way.
Tip 1: Take the first step and get started
Bright’s path to launching her business is a familiar refrain we can all relate to: burnt out from demanding job, overwhelmed at home, and frustrated that she had no time to for her own self-care.
“I was miserable because I had no energy or motivation to give back to me,” she says.
She turned a potential breaking point into a launching pad and left her 9-to-5 job to take on personal training clients, while working part-time at a physical therapy office. A reference from a physical therapist colleague led to her first client. That client led to another client and before she knew it, her fitness training business was no longer a dream — it was reality.
“Get started” is her #1 piece of advice for moms looking to start a small business. “It doesn’t have to be perfect because you will learn what works and what doesn’t work along the way.”
Tip 2: Network your way to more clients
After moving from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, a new hometown forced Bright to rebuild her business from scratch. So she set out to find new clients her way — the “no selling” sale.
“I challenged myself to reach out — not sell — but reach out and speak to five people a day in my community, send five messages to businesses in and around my community, then follow up with five people,” says Bright. She posted fitness tips on social media, posted to parent groups on Facebook, and emailed small business owners to get together and chat.
“I never promoted myself or mentioned owning a business, just listed my credentials,” she says.
Tip 3: Find your community and support system
In 2016, a friend of Bright’s recommended Pepperlane. A supportive community of small business owners? A safe space to share ideas, even the wild ones? And everyone gets that I’m a mom first? Bright was in.
“The brilliant aspect is everybody is at a different stage in their business, from just starting out to someone seasoned and established. We are all still figuring it out and we all have something to offer,” says Bright. “That to me felt very empowering. It’s a space where you can be truly vulnerable and know you’re going to get the support and leave, maybe not with your full question answered, but steered in the right direction.”
Bright regularly relies on the Pepperlane Boosts for feedback around new marketing programs, social media, and content.
“In the Boosts, I hear things I never would have thought of and it helps me improve upon my business.”
“In the Boosts, I hear things I never would have thought of and it helps me improve upon my business,” says Bright. “You’re not made to build a business by yourself. There’s a lot of great women at Pepperlane to support you. Just before COVID hit, I almost invested in another program that was absurd amounts of money, but something didn’t sit well with me. What sealed the deal for me and the Pepperlane Journey is that inclusion that I am a mother and a businesswoman and keeping it real. I can still have a powerful business and take my business where I want to go, while being a mom.”
Tip 4: Own your mom-ness
Pepperlane was built by moms in business for moms in business — and that mission was a key selling point for Bright. Our community members understand the whole person, not the separate identities of “colleague” vs. “parent.” We get that sick days happen and ballet recitals always win out over happy hour drinks with co-workers.
“What I find sometimes in business or when you look at mainstream business advice, it doesn’t talk about family. Yes, it says [participate in] personal development, take time for yourself. But there’s nothing about kids in there. And I have kids — I need to be there for my kids,” says Bright.
“That’s where the Journey gave me the freedom to think, ‘Oh, I can do this. I'm a mom and this is totally part of it. My business can succeed and this is how.’ [CEO] Sharon [Kan] does a phenomenal job of keeping the motherhood piece in there and allowing you to normalize it versus it being a burden.”
Sharon Kan believes motherhood is good for business. She says "The skills you have acquired through being a mom are valuable. So valuable that they will help you to become an entrepreneur. Being a mom forces you to be resourceful, creative and empathetic...all things that critical for business success."
Tip 5: Smash the idea of preconceived limits
We all have preconceived limits about starting our small business. The self-doubt pings are constant as we negotiate the “but” hurdles: Will I be able to make enough money? Will I actually enjoy it? How will I get my first client? How will I get my next five clients?
“I had many preconceived limits when I first started. First: Who will ever pay me and am I worth what I am asking?” says Bright. “I recalled a question from my college counselor asked us to think about when writing our admissions essays, ‘Who are you and why the he** should I care?’ I took time to write down who I am and why my potential clients should care, and why they should invest their hard-earned dollars in me. By doing this action-step, it helped me to keep the self-doubt at bay and get started. It is a document I still revisit and update especially in times of self-doubt or in low seasons in my business.”
Tip 6: Turn high expectations into manageable goals
“As a mom and a business owner, I have high expectations,” admits Bright. “I can get overwhelmed with the feeling that I am not doing everything to help my business succeed. Pepperlane's Boosts have been instrumental in helping me see the supportive behind the scenes look at many business owners. Each time I come to a Boost with my own struggle, I leave with even more advice and help from hearing others who share their struggles.”
Sharon Kan understands that high personal expectations are common among mom entrepreneurs. "I've worked with hundred of entrepreneurs and have seen so many get bogged down under a giant to do list. That is why we designed Boosts so attendees walk away committing to one action. Just one. It helps them stay focused and accountable. It is simple but I hear from Pepperlaner's all the time how helpful it is."
Tip 7: Expand what “growth” means to you
As a small business owner, you will naturally be focused on growing your business — increasing revenue, decreasing expenses, selling more units, or booking more appointments.
Bright looks at things a little differently. Yes, she has a minimum number of training clients required to maintain base income, but she approaches it through the Power of One.
“I [aim to] grow an average of one new client per month and some months more than others,” she says. Then there’s the more intangible: “For the backend of the business, I practice one daily habit. I look at what will have the biggest impact on my business and stick with that action item until it is a habit.”
“Focusing on one task and growing by one client at a time has helped me ease the notion I need to do everything all the time or be everywhere at all times,” she adds.
Tip 8: Reposition negatives into positives
Bright has learned to embrace the failure. She sees fails as positives: they are well-earned adjustments, they are much-needed learnings, they are how a business grows.
“To me, a failed product launch, a flopped social media post or email campaign isn’t negative — it is an opportunity to keep learning about my clients, followers, myself and my business,” she says, adding that one of her favorite quotes is from “The Founder,” a biopic about the brothers who founded McDonald’s: “We’re an overnight success 20 years in the making.”
“You want to be that business that is sustainable and not one hit wonder. That's where you have to be comfortable with failing and trusting your own ideas,” she finishes. “Allow yourself to fail and grow.”