What Michelle Obama's Favorite Workout Can Teach You About Running a Business

What Michelle Obama's Favorite Workout Can Teach You About Running a Business

Anne Mahlum believes running a business is a lot like a good workout.

Learn how she used that philosophy to build a chain of fitness studios that cater to over-achievers in the nation’s capital, including first lady Michelle Obama.

In this TGIM short, you'll...

  • Hear why running a business is a lot like working out. 
  • Get a tough audio workout from the SolidCore queen herself. 
  • Discover Anne's recipe for success (and why passion is so important).

Check out the full short below:

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Transcript: 

Woman 2: I want you to earn it. Strength, resistance, the burn and then the buzz and glow of accomplishment. We could be talking about Ann Mallum's fitness class, but we just might be talking about her entrepreneurial regimen as well. A few years ago she fell in love with a machine based workout.

Ann: I'm an eleven time marathoner, boot camps, everything. You're like, how different can something be, and discovering that you can work your body so intensely and so safely, by using slow and controlled movements. I immediately got hooked and was fascinated by the business model that I was seeing in this studio.

Woman 2: Ann is a doer. When she jumps into something, she goes at it 100%. In November 2013, she made the financial investment to purchase a few of the workout machines, rent space and she opened her first studio in Washington, D.C. SolidCore was born. She guessed right. The overachievers in the nation's capital loved the kick ass workout. On this Wednesday, Beth is in town from Long Island. She heard about Ann's workout on the Web and she heard it was tough.

Beth: I'm looking to be just pushed to the limit, doing something that I haven't done before.

Woman 2: Elizabeth, meanwhile, has 150 SolidCore workouts under her belt.

Elizabeth: I'm a little bit nervous coming into class because I know it's going to be the hardest workout that I do, especially with Ann as the teacher because she's really tough and she doesn't let you get away with anything at all. If she thinks that you're slacking off she'll call you on it. I'm nervous when I come in and then both exhausted and exhilarated when I leave.

Woman 2: The 5 foot 6 bleach blonde owner has a rock hard body and oozes confidence, without cockiness. Although she does know very well why her business is booming.

Ann: Because it's not rocket science, you know? You provide an amazing experience, you greet people at the door, you do not underestimate how much customer experience, and client experience means, you remember people's names. It's those kinds of things that build community. Whenever you go into SolidCore, if it's your first time you'll be asked what your name is, you'll be asked about your workout history, why you're here, you get to meet your neighbors, and when you finish you get a high five, you get a hug.

Woman 2: Yeah, it's not rocket science. Love your product, be passionate about your customers, eat, sleep and breathe your business and you're bound to succeed. It's probably why Ann had very little trouble finding initial investors, but as many entrepreneurs will tell you, it's the stuff that you don't know you don't know that will cost you. In Ann's case, she was forced to shut down.

Ann: The biggest hurdles, I can think of one in particular, and it revolves around the brick and mortar construction for me. I knew enough about running a business. I'm really good at creating and building an exponential brand and I understand infrastructure, but what I didn't understand is construction. Our first location that we ever had, I had to close it down because the sound was traveling through the ceiling and the walls and the landlord that we signed the lease with, didn't do their due diligence, and we didn't do ours, and there was no way for us to continue to operate there. We got out of the deal financially fine, but to have to shut something down and find new space after your first location, that was challenging. I'm really thankful that we had four other locations up and running at that point because if that would have happened before studio number two, that would have been a really hard recovery.

Woman 2: Closing her studio down didn't break her stride because SolidCore was already booming. With ten locations in the D.C., Virginia, Maryland area, and she's still spreading like wildfire. Although Ann doesn't need any endorsements, well she got at least one big one without even trying.

Michelle Obama: Exercise and moving can be fun. It's about dancing and it's about moving ...

Woman 2: When you're operating in D.C. and the current first lady happens to really be into fitness. She even started the "Let's Move" campaign to get Americans off their couches. Apparently one workout and Michelle Obama was hooked.

Ann: Hold right there. Find your balance here. Hold your focus ....

Woman 2: The day I was supposed to come interview Ann, the secret service notified her that Michelle Obama wanted to work out that day. The interview had to be rescheduled. They were coming to scour the studio as part of regular procedure. Why does the first lady not just workout in what, presumably, is a perfectly fine gym at the White House? Because Ann is the real deal.

Ann: Nothing drives me or our community, or our coaches crazier when people try to motivate especially women like "Oh. It's bikini season." It's almost like this very surface level motivators and when you listen to the words that our coaches use in class and they get trained on, it is about life right? We say things like "How are you going to know unless you try." "You've got to push and if you're not willing to do this in class, are you willing to do it outside of this classroom? You've got to fight for what you want. How are you making yourself stronger, how are you pushing ten more seconds beyond what you want to?

Woman 2: We've established that a workout is very much like life or starting a business. Work hard, sweat, and you will reap the rewards.

Ann: 4, 3, 2, roll back. There you go ...

Woman 2: That analogy grinds to a halt here because during a workout no one can slip in and try to steal your success, you're fitness from you. That's exactly what happened to Ann, and not just once.

Ann: My ex-boyfriend decided to sue me after we broke up, a year after we broke up. He felt he was entitled to some of my company, that he was an actual owner, even though he's not on any legal paperwork, didn't put any money into the company and never worked here. You're telling me it's cheaper to settle than to continue to fight?

Woman 2: Ah yes. The expensive lesson learned by the feisty entrepreneur. Someone wanted to capitalize on her success, and she found out after a pain staking and principle struggle, that it was cheaper to settle. Glad that's over with she thought. She'll never have to deal with lawsuits again. Wait ...

Ann: There was just another one that was with the ... I know, it's like another one right? Listen, when you get into business, you become a target. These will not be my last lawsuits. Anybody that tells you that, I've got six lawyers and most of them are on speed dial. Come on, 30 seconds, keep moving, how bad do you want this? You've got choices ...

Woman 2: Okay. Let's see if the SolidCore queen can make us sweat right now. A tough audio workout for entrepreneurs. If we're willing to feel the burn, but at least know we're being told the truth, what should we know, not sugar coated.

Ann: If you're out there and you're looking for business advice, don't go ask your mom. Your mom is there to tell you, "You can do it, go after your dreams, I support you." You need to find somebody who's going to tell it to you straight, they're going to as you about your finances, they're going to ask you about your knowledge about whatever company you want to start, and they're not there to be your cheerleader. They're there to give you hard business advice, and if you don't want to hear it you're probably not cut out for it.

Woman 2: Oh. Just like a really good workout, that straight talk is going to sting at first, but is very healthy in the long run.


About TGIM: TGIM is a podcast for people who can’t wait for the week to start. In each episode we’ll be bringing you inspirational stories about entrepreneurs who have overcome obstacles, built incredible businesses, and are now living the life they want. 

About the Author

Jordan Simas is a writer at Shopify, all-you-can-eat sushi fiend, and lover of sidechained supersaws.

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