We ask the tough questions of Marisa Lawlor, Just Believe Fit
You’ve got a free half hour during your work day. What do you do?
I can’t say I know that pleasure very often but I would usually use the time to call my parents, a friend or family….or what I also love doing is listening to talking books. Even time spent at the kitchen sink or hanging out the washing can feel like free time when I am engrossed in a talking book!!
Who, or what, is your biggest inspiration?
I have a very special friend who lives in the USA who we visited in September 2014 when I was on long service leave and at my career crossroads. She could see that I was deeply unhappy about the prospect of returning to teaching and was encouraging me to think outside the square and follow my fitness passion. We talked for hours and hours about what I could do to leave my job. I had a business name Just Believe Fit and was teaching a few Pilates classes at a ballet studio under that banner. At the time that was pretty much the extent of my exit plan from school teaching. When I returned to Australia a card arrived in the mail from Kelly that contained a cheque. Kelly wanted me to have the chance to leave teaching and get started on the road to a new career that would feed my soul and keep me happy. She believed in me and she wanted me to believe in myself. And so I did.
It was Kelly who sent me a beautiful print with the quote: She believed she could…and so she did.
It has become my mantra.
We have this quote on the wall of the studio under a beautiful art installation of flying butterflies. It has been altered to say ‘They believed they could…and so they did.’ Now it is everyone’s mantra.
When did you know you wanted to start your own business?
On my 50th birthday in 2013 I knew I had reached a crossroad in my life. Stay in teaching and die a slow painful death in a toxic workplace or recreate myself and try my hand at something new. Walking away from 28 years of secondary school teaching wasn’t easy though and 18 years of service in the one school made it even harder…not to mention I was in my 50’s. Just Believe Fit as a business started properly in August 2015 with some Pilates classes in a hired space, onsite workplace wellness programs and a pre-school creative movement program. Just Believe Fit as a Pilates, Yoga, Barre studio came into being in Jan 2018 when we found our quirky little space down a laneway in Thornbury. Finding a bricks and mortar home made the business real. I think when I had a space to call my own was when my business really started.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt this year?
Trust your intuition and don’t get caught up in the hype of making changes to your business if you don’t need to.
What’s the best bit of feedback you’ve ever had?
Loyalty is the best feedback. I have one company where I have been delivering workplace wellness classes since 2016 when they had 40 staff. They now have around 150 and I am still there teaching two classes a week. We are now in our fifth year which is a great record for a workplace class.
By the same token I have participants who have been attending classes with me since I started running them on a regular basis from a ballet studio in Northcote in 2016. They are diehard followers who say that they need the classes to keep their minds and bodies functioning for everyday life and wouldn’t be without them.
What’s your proudest moment?
Every time I walk into my studio I am proud. I work with the most incredible team of talented instructors who share their passion in every class they teach. As a team we have built a community that we love being part of and that other people love being part of too. That is so special.
What’s your number one way to wind down?
Drinking red wine and going to a movie with my hubby or watching a good Netflix series on TV!
PS: If my husband isn’t around it is catching up on episodes of Call the Midwife!
What’s your favourite film and album?
Red Dog. The only film I don’t tire of watching over and over again! I don’t have a favourite album but I am a sucker for 80’s playlists on Spotify.
What’s the smartest bit of marketing you’ve ever done?
An annual charity fundraiser called Re-Activate. We invite people to donate pre-loved activewear in good condition for a sale in our studio. All proceeds of the sale go to a charity of our choice. This year it was Berry St Child and Family Welfare Service. Whilst people get to clear out their cupboards they also get the opportunity to restock with brand name items they might not have been previously able to afford as a motivator to get active! We raise money for an awesome organisation and do our bit for the environment too. Whilst it does not necessarily convert to sales it puts us out there as a business with a social conscience. And that is exactly what we are. We are building a reputation as a wellness business that has heart and soul in the community as well as in the studio.
What or who has the most grounding influence on you?
My husband. He is practical, pragmatic and an amazing manager. He is my sounding board and strongest supporter and I couldn’t be where I am without him.
What’s the best thing about being a soloist? And the worst thing?
Best: I am my own boss. I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself!
Worst: I am my own boss. I have to answer to myself!
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
Be a community collaborator! The more you can work in a positive way with the people around you, the wider your network will become. The business and local community around you is your survival treasure trove and you receive so much more than you give. We jump on board with school fetes, sponsorship of local clubs, sell honey with no mark up for a beekeeper hobbyist in the area etc, etc. It is the feel good element of working with others that adds another dimension to the sometimes lonely life of the soloist.
Where and when do you have your best ideas?
In the shower!! I don’t know what it is but my ideas flow best under a warm shower. I really need to keep an exercise book in the bathroom to capture them. I have been known to run wet and naked to the home office to write an idea down before I forget it!
What would be your advice to aspiring soloists?
There is no quick fix or fast money. Building a business is constant hard work and every bit of effort counts, if not in dollar value in learning experience. Don’t be fooled by everyone else who looks like they are making it with ease. It is all perception!
What talent do you most wish you possessed?
A Photographic memory. Well any sort of memory would be good.
What would your mum say is your greatest strength? And weakness?
I think my mum (and my husband) would say that my greatest strength is my ability to talk to and make friends with anyone within earshot. I get that from her so I count it as my birthright. My son says he got it from me and it’s his birthright too. It is the best way to meet people and confirm the 6 degrees of separation.
My mum (and my husband) would definitely say my weakness is trying to do too much….hmmm that may be tied to my good Catholic, Maltese upbringing!
What’s one thing about you few people know?
If I told you it wouldn’t be something that only a few people know and then I could never answer this question again for anyone else. In truth I am a very transparent person and there isn’t much that people don’t know. What you see is what you get.
What is the one regret you do not want to have in this lifetime?
That I had regrets!!!!
What inspires you most about your work?
The satisfaction of seeing the positive effect of movement and exercise on people’s everyday life. When participants leave the studio or a workplace class with a smile on their face I get such a buzz. When they leave saying I felt like crap before that class and now I feel amazing I want to hug them. That is my WHY!
My staff and I have the ability to make people feel good from the inside out. No drugs, no gimmicks, no fortune spent…just moving in a way that suits their bodies and is achievable. There is enough hard stuff that we have to deal with on a daily basis so when we can give something that is simple and sustainable then it makes everything we do is worthwhile.
What do you wear to work?
I am pretty much the envy of anyone who has to don corporate gear. I wear active wear pretty much everyday of my life. I am known for how many different pairs of leggings I have. These matched with a branded T-shirt is standard attire. Funnily enough my favourite thing at the end of the day is to get out of my leggings and crops into my PJ’s which feel deliciously ‘more comfortable.’ It is all relative I suppose.
What do you love most about running your own business?
Everyday I: meet new people; work with an awesome team; learn new things; rise up to different challenges; learn that I am capable of more than I thought; laugh lots and lots; have the flexibility to look after my family; live my passion; and am able to be myself.
Success is not measured by the amount of dollars you earn, it is the feeling you have in your heart as you earn them.
And now comes the plug!
What is your business name?
Just Believe Fit
What do you do? Who for? And how does it benefit them?
My business, Just Believe Fit, offers a range of mind body exercise styles in a friendly non-judgemental environment. It is for anyone who feels intimidated by gyms or boutique studios where you have to look a certain way before you can work through the door. It is a community of like-minded people who enjoy social interaction and a sense of belonging. Our aim is for people to have the choice of a variety of exercise types do they don’t get bored and can respond to the needs of their body on any given day. I also offer inhouse classes, presentations and professional development in the workplace to enhance health and wellbeing and all of the benefits these bring. Our classes include pilates, yoga, barre stretch and body conditioning classes.
Want your turn in the spotlight?
Spotlight profiles are exclusively for selected Flying Solo Business Class members.
Already a Business Class member? Simply log in, head to your account area where you’ll find the link to the guidelines under the ‘Spotlight’ heading.
Not yet a Business Class member? Find out more about the best value offering in town.