What was holding you back from being an entrepreneur?
Michelle: We have been successfully freelancing for about three years before we hit a ceiling. The biggest thing that was holding us back was not being able to scale our business from where it was to becoming a bigger business. We were at a point where we couldn't hire anybody, but we had too much work and we didn't know how to overcome that hurdle.
Julian: So we were looking to create a design agency that could turn my freelance business into an agency and scale that way. Then we decided to look at the Germinator which is a program at the Tech Garden that offers two years of mentorship along with investment opportunities. Then we decided that a design agency wasn't quite interesting enough to compete in the Germinator so we put our heads together along with another web developer, Brian Heffron, and came up with Trainer Engine.
What was your worst entrepreneurial moment?
Michelle: I would say our worst entrepreneurial moment was when we were so poor that the only food that we had were the free bagels we got off of Craigslist. There was a lady who posted 'Free bagels' on Craig's list and that's what we were eating every day; separate meals every day.
Julian: Yeah, you have to sacrifice a lot of things when you don't have money. Sometimes you wonder like should I just get a regular job.
Michelle: We were gaining weight. Our business was Trainer Engine and here we are eating all these bagels. It was pretty depressing I would say but we did overcome that. We are no longer eating bagels as our only source of nutrients.
How did you gain clarity and know what steps to do next?
Michelle: We just persisted. A really important tip for people is that we dressed sharp; we didn't let anyone know that we were in that type of a situation. We put ourselves out into the world. We're looking for business and what happened was that we got into a situation that was kind of a freak accident. We had several clients that didn't pay us at all. Usually the money trickles in like one client pays, another client pays, and then another client pays but at that time no one paid us. So we just had to continue to move forward in getting new clients and, eventually after a long time, everyone ended up paying us. I guess what we did to overcome it was we just acted like nothing was wrong, dealt with it, and we went out and got new businesses.
Julian: For anyone that is running a business, when things are going well, even when you've had a lot of clients and a lot of work, even more than I can handle or anything. You always have to be looking for new business because someone can say “oh I change my mind and I don't want to do this anymore” or like stop paying you, people could fall off at anytime, so you've got to be ready for that.
Michelle: And really not putting yourself in a position where one client is your bread and butter, it’s like trying to have multiple clients which we did but even to have like more baskets and less eggs in each one.
What did you get out of presenting at 1MC?
Julian: The best thing that came out of that was I had a conversation with someone after the presentation that does corporate wellness programs. He really opened my mind to a whole different customer base that I hadn't even considered. We realized that this may be our biggest customer base. It’s something we hadn't really explored or hadn't really thought about and it could totally change our business model.
How can someone reading this help you?
Julian: We are looking for grants, contests, and business plan competitions.
Michelle: Any contest, we love contests, I love winning contests.
Julian: Sign up to be on an email list to find out when our product is ready.
Michelle: I'm not really interviewing personal trainers anymore at this point. However, I'd love any personal trainers or gyms who are interested in hearing more about our product to sign up for our email list. This way when we do have something for them to test or talk about, we have a whole list of people to contact.