Joanna Helcké – What’s On 4 Me 2013 Awards Finalist

Joanna Helcké, Leicestershire

What’s On 4 Me 2013 Awards Finalist

From academic to pregnancy and postnatal fitness expert

DSC_1690 copy (5)What motivated you to start the business?

I started off life with a career in academia which explains why my title is “Dr”. Everything was ticking along quite happily until I had my first two sons within the space of 17 months – it turned my life upside down, and to be honest I found it really quite hard going.

One day a leaflet dropped through my letterbox announcing the opening of a fantastic new gym on my doorstep. I joined, started exercising regularly and my life was quite simply transformed. I suddenly felt wonderful, as if I could take on the world! This planted the seed in my mind which eventually grew into my business, Zest4lifeUK.

Tell us about your business…

Zest4lifeUK specialises in pregnancy and postnatal fitness and was born out of my desire to bring together health, wellbeing, fun and friendship for mums-to-be and new mothers. It’s all about creating social networks and providing support for mothers because it’s my firm belief that health is not just about physical fitness but also about mental wellbeing. So Zest4lifeUK offers a range of specialist pre and postnatal fitness classes which are accompanied by all sorts of social aspects, such as tea and coffee after the lessons, meals out, a breakfast club for mums-to-be and a very lively facebook page! Time and time again people tell me how important the social aspect is –exercising and socialising seem to be the perfect combination.

About three years ago I started thinking about how I could expand my business. My initial thoughts turned towards franchising but I have to confess that I’m a bit of a control freak and I would be breathing down the poor franchisees’ necks. So I decided to create an online pregnancy and postnatal fitness system which would be accessible to women everywhere and anywhere. I’ve spent that last two years working on this huge project and it is due to go live in November 2013 – I am incredibly excited about it as it will be the first of its kind in the UK.

What were the first steps you took when setting up your business?

Well of course the first thing I had to do was retrain and gain a whole series of vocational qualifications, ranging from personal training and Pilates to aquanatal and pregnancy/postnatal fitness. Part of my personal training qualification included a business module which gave me the opportunity to reflect on the business I was going to set up. We had to prepare a business plan and I remember that whilst everyone else had created a fictitious one, mine was for real! So by the time I had completed my qualifications I had a name for the company, I had purchased a domain name, I had a professionally designed logo, and I had high quality headed notepaper.

During my studies I also offered to set up a postnatal Pilates class at the college where I was studying so that I could gain hands-on experience of teaching new mums. By the time I qualified I felt ready to steam ahead with my business plan, which is exactly what I did.

Most effective marketing?

Now that my business has been going for nearly 5 years I have the pleasure of being able to let word-of-mouth do the work for me. It’s always lovely to know that you have been recommended. Having said that, this has been underpinned by years of extremely hard work and of never ever letting standards fall. Interestingly, people often say to me “Jo, you are everywhere” and I think there’s a really important lesson to learn from this comment: successful marketing is cumulative and people will eventually come to you when they have heard enough about you and seen you in many different arena. I give talks for the NHS, I write for local magazines, I get myself into the local newspapers, I support many local business and they in turn support me, I organise charity events and, above all, I remember everybody who I have ever taught and when I bump into people – which is all the time – I chat. A lot.

With the forthcoming launch of my online pregnancy and postnatal system I now have to take marketing into a completely new sphere: a national sphere. Scary but exciting!

What has been your biggest challenge?

There is no doubt in my mind that the biggest challenges are yet to come. The shift from local to national is enormous and feels daunting, yet at the same time incredibly exciting. I was giving a talk last week and I commented that it feels as though I am standing at the very bottom of Mount Everest looking upwards and, boy is it high! In answer someone said “Jo, you just don’t realise how high you have climbed because the peaks are up in the clouds”. I like that!

What do you most love about running my own business?

It would be far quicker for me to answer the question “What don’t you enjoy about running your own business?” because I quite simply adore what I do. Teaching  mums-to-be and new mothers makes me happy, whilst developing my national online fitness system gives me a huge buzz of excitement and anticipation.

What advice would you offer to others?

Choose to work in a field that you are passionate about because people will always sense genuine enthusiasm and will be drawn to you and your business.

What is your business philosophy

Always exceed your clients’ expectations by going the extra mile or two. Aim to delight.

Joanna Helcké on Facebook

Joanna Helcké on Twitter

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