Anita 1

The story of a true entrepreneur

"I don't believe in luck. I belive in hard work driven by true values".

Education: Foundation studies in private law and public law, Marketing studies from BI (Norwegian Business School
Work experience: 1999 – 2006/2007: In charge of Marketing and Public Relations at Telenor Business Solutions
From 2006 - CEO Coremon AS
Founder of the TheCoreBar®

Prior to establishing the fitness concept TheCoreBar, and starting my own company in 2006, I had a good and secure job at Telenor.  Excellent wages, a car, a house, and everything else that goes along with what one would call a successful and predictable average life. I met my husband when I was 17, married at 25, and studied law for two years before going on to complete an education in Marketing and Public Relations. I gave birth to my first child when I was 26. I accepted a position with Telenor even before finishing my studies at the Norwegian Business School (BI), and completed this full-time education while working at the same time. We had a second child when I was 29. I decided to take a short leave of absence in order to return to work more quickly.

I was surrounded by experienced, competent and well-educated colleagues in the country’s leading technological company, and had every reason to be happy! But after 7 years, I began to feel dissatisfied. Fed up! It wasn’t that I didn’t feel challenged. I was in charge of an interesting and demanding project. I thoroughly enjoyed working with my wonderful colleagues, and since I was involved in Telenor’s internet spearheading project, and internet was at that point just taking off, I was able to be part of a very exciting area of development in the company. Career wise, it would have been an extremely good idea to stay on with the company, but as strange as it sounds, all this gave me nothing. I was not truly passionate about my work, though I had every reason to be. When I turned 30, I took a good, long look at myself, and with the aid of a skilled mentor, the conclusion was crystal clear. I was in the wrong place.

I had no dreams of becoming an entrepreneur or starting my own business. I don’t think you need to feel any sort of calling in order to commercialise your own idea or start your own business. For me, this was simply about the enjoyment of helping people to get in better shape.  It gives me kick-ass energy and true, genuine inspiration knowing that I can provide others with a good fitness experience. And it is this inner drive that has undoubtedly been, and continues to be, the most important driving force in the company’s growth and development.  

My starting point was to be able to make a living from training others without having to be tied to one specific fitness centre. How could I reach a large number of people? I created a type of fitness training that I could sell to fitness centres, sports clubs, gymnastics clubs and other enterprises that operate organised group training. By training instructors and creating choreographed videos of fitness programmes with specially-adapted licensed music, I was able to commercialise my idea of offering Corebar fitness training as part of a group training programme to a wide variety of people, all over Norway.

This form of training would be tough, implicitly intensive, and as effective as possible, meaning the greatest amount of fitness benefit in the shortest amount of training time. I drew my own equipment on yellow post-it notes and was able to get Askim Mechanical Workshop, just outside Oslo, to manufacture the prototypes before moving my production abroad. The most important thing for me was to make Corebar training so much fun that people got hooked! If you enjoy your training, you don’t need to come up with excuses to avoid it, and I know you’ll return again and again! It’s almost like an addiction – maybe the world’s healthiest addiction! Or, as someone remarked after one of my fitness sessions in Greece, a land suffering from a serious economic crisis and major challenges with the wave of refugees from Syria, “Thank you so much for bringing an hour of happiness to Greece”. Wow! This gave me a feeling of indescribable joy, and heartfelt gratitude.  

I had no formal education in the field of fitness training when I started, but rather in sales, marketing and brand building. In addition, I had a fundamental and essential understanding of contracts and contract law after a couple of years of law studies, as well as experience with technology from my job at Telenor. Since fitness training expertise was essential to the brand’s credibility, this particular competency was hired in on a project basis at the start. Slowly but surely I built up a team by hand-picking employees from different countries: Team Corebar. Altogether, the team has the expertise and personal attributes needed in order to succeed on the global fitness market.  

As a founder, you cannot possibly manage everything on your own. Those individual you choose to become part of your core team must have expertise and experience that complement your own. I believe that the greatest challenge is not to sell, market or create a good and enjoyable fitness training programme, but rather to locate the right people. Find those who are willing enough and strong enough to go the extra mile, without burning the candle at both ends. People you can trust and that remain loyal. It is my experience that personal attributes are often far more important than formal expertise and experience. Especially during the start-up phase. Founding something means that no one has done what you are doing in exactly the same manner. This implies that each day, you and your team will be doing something you don’t really know how to do. The question is how you are going to deal with that. How you will find strategies to meet the challenges and adversities that present themselves. How you will learn to trust one another, and also support one another when it turns out someone made a decision that proved to be a wrong one.       

Today the brand name TheCoreBar® is composed of three companies, whereby one is located in the United States. We have launched four concepts under the brand name TheCoreBar, including Corebar training at a fitness centre, Corebar training outside the fitness centre with the motto “Let’s Corebar anywhere, anytime!”, whether at home, at work or on holiday. We also have a signature collection of fitness training clothing, as well as annual non-profit training events for the purpose of providing a fitness training incentive. In 2016 we will be launching our fifth concept, an entrepreneur academy for European agents who want to start businesses using our brand. We would like to facilitate such businesses in various countries or districts.

I will be the first to admit that I did not start out with a very detailed business plan, but it would be incorrect to say that I had not given careful thought as to how I could make money from this business. Although the income in itself was never the driving force behind this business, it is important to set some sensible goals, especially with regard to the balance between income and expenses. The truth is – this is one of the most important and most difficult things to consider when establishing and developing your own business.    

When I first started the business, my original goal was to sell Corebar equipment and subscriptions/licenses to 50 fitness centres in Norway, and hold courses for 150 to 200 group fitness training instructors. Being an optimist, I thought this would take about 1 year, but it took exactly twice as long… 2 years, in fact.  

After 1 year I employed my mother to handle the administrative work such as invoicing, deliveries and customer support. She came cheap, could be trusted, was efficient, and of course wholeheartedly interested in the success of the company, which meant she was willing to go that extra mile when necessary.  

I worked very hard, focusing my efforts on establishing the first fitness training centres. Then, after 2 years, everything came together, and we soared on the Norwegian market. I was able to employ additional people, the shop operated at a profit, and we received DN’s Gazelle Award in the post in both our third and fourth operating year. Wow! To have it confirmed that people really benefitted from, and enjoyed this fitness concept was incredibly motivating and satisfying.

It is exactly this feeling that led me continue to set increasingly higher goals, for myself and for the company. That euphoric rush that comes with success, to know that it really IS possible. Many might say that it would be wise to wait until the euphoria dies down, in order to set more realistic and rational goals. Everyone knows that setting goals during an emotional rush will involve a certain level of risk…but I am still convinced that believing in yourself is essential for achieving success. And the belief that you will reach these new, even higher goals cannot possibly be stronger than the euphoria of having achieved another goal. The challenge is to commit yourself, and accomplish what you set out to do. I have done this by telling other people about it. I have made a conscious effort to make my goals public, and in doing so I have committed myself and the rest of the team to ensure delivery.      

With the first 50 fitness training centres in Norway established, we set a new goal of 100 centres. Then 200. I decided that each time I reached a goal, I would set a new goal that was so high, it would terrify me just thinking about it.  

The Norwegian fitness training centre market is small. With a market size of approximately 550 training centres at the time, we achieved a high market share, close to 70% during our fourth and fifth operating year. The question was whether we would expand internationally with another fitness training concept in order to sell to the same customers, or if we should go international with what we were already good at. This would prove to be a crucial decision for Corebar history. Not just for the company, but also for me, personally. I didn’t know then that from the moment we went international I would be taking the biggest roller coaster ride of my life. 

Even with the most enjoyable, most exciting, instructive and interesting journeys, experiences, acquaintances and cooperative partners, I have never felt so frightened, frustrated, alone and confused. I did not realise before I was right in the middle of it all that I had gone from living a life within my comfort zone to a life more or less constantly outside that zone. Decisions I was convinced would help us reach the stars proved to be completely off-target, leading to dead-end roads. People I believed in and trusted suddenly turned their back on me when the going got too tough. Cooperation agreements that were meant to open new doors eventually shut us off from market opportunities. This learning curve was a steep one.

But from all this I can honestly say that I learned something very important, which today permeates the entire culture of our company, and has an impact on our employees, values, decisions and of course on me, personally: Pushing back your boundaries is essential for progression! Whether it’s fitness training or life in general. The truth is that when you’ve done the same uncomfortable thing enough times, it becomes easy!  

My experience is that you have to dare not to know. You have to dare to be afraid, be let down, acknowledge defeat and loss, and then learn from it by recognising similar situations so you don’t keep making the same mistakes again and again. When things are going bad, it has always been important for me to take a step back. Take time to think, a kind of meditative exercise, and consider all the fantastic feedback I get, about all those people doing Corebar training every day in various countries, all the miles the team has travelled since 2006, and all that we have achieved. And then I focus on our ambitions and current goals of making TheCorebar a global brand, and realise that we actually can make a difference: “An hour of happiness”.

Just thinking about it gives me chills! This is what gives me a buzz. I believe it is essential to find methods that can help us in the face of adversity.

I can honestly say that we have had far more adversity than good fortune. And I’m sure if you’d asked Steve Jobs (Apple) or Howard Schultz (Starbucks), they would have said the same. The motivating factor here is that you know you’re not the only one. What they all shared was the determination to never give up. Many a time I’ve thought about how Howard Schultz was rejected by banks 242 times before he was finally able to establish his first Starbucks. Or about Caroline Olsen from Norway, one of the world’s fastest road racers, who had to contact 250 sponsors and attend 70 meetings before she had enough sponsors to finance Moto America Superstock 600 class, perhaps the world’s toughest races on two wheels, held in the United States.

We have technically been bankrupt several times, and balanced on the edge of a liquidity squeeze because we dared to take a chance without investors and with high risk. We have gone from being strongly criticised in the fitness training industry to being awarded “Fitness Training Concept of the Year” by the sports and athletics stronghold in Norway – The Norwegian School of Sport Sciences. We received hundreds of rejections over the years before finally getting a “yes” in the United States. And when we finally did get a “yes”, it was a partner contract with US celebrity Mary Murphy, a business development contract with one of the biggest agencies in the US, United Talent Agency and DRTV (TV advertising) contract with Delivery Agent. Just to name a few. There have been long intervals between the highs and lows, and in order to sleep well at night, I’ve decided that this is not just about my goals and my ambitions, but also about enjoying the process along the way.  

Our slogan “Train Hard - Have Fun!” reminds us of why we get up and run to work every morning. For us, this is a reminder of how we push back our boundaries a little further each day, and that we must never forget to have fun while doing so.

There is something magic about seeing results from all that hard work and tireless efforts. I think we get hooked on this euphoric rush that makes us want to keep doing what we’re doing, again and again.  

The truth is, we would not be where we are today had it not been for the enthusiastic, energetic and passionately committed Team Corebar! With this kind of team, you can achieve almost anything! When you’re surrounded by people who share your passion, you also have someone to share your success, adversity and experiences. The experience of a strong team, running beside you in the same direction is so much more powerful than the experience of running alone. It’s been tough building a strong and involved team culture, and of course we’ve had a few people leave us, either because it was too tough, because it didn’t meet their expectations, because we did not immediately achieve success, or simply because they found other opportunities elsewhere. But the trust of the matter is that we have a large group of people who have been with us from the early beginning. What these people share is a very unique personal and experiential development.

I believe that one of the success factors involved in building Team Corebar and making it what it is today is our innovative culture, which means that we welcome all ideas. And when we decide to implement an idea, the person who came up with the idea is given credit for it, and become responsible for it. Responsibility involves the authority to maintain responsibility. Furthermore, our basic attitude is that failure does not exist. Instead we call it a dead-end street. If you run into a dead-end street, you need to find a new route as soon as possible. We have a culture characterised by generosity, inclusion and the honest desire to look after one another and those around us.  

The Corebar journey has undoubtedly made me fearless, and has given me the rock solid belief that it IS possible to achieve what you want, with unwavering determination and the steadfast ability to carry out your mission. I have long since realised that the road to success is a rocky one, and sometimes you have to accept spending more time than you’d like outside your comfort zone. But then you also have far more progression, development and life experiences than most people get in a lifetime. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Many people contact me to ask for advice on establishing and building their own business, and what might be necessary for success. In my experience, the most important factors are the following:

·         You must be truly and genuinely interested in your users/customers. Only then will you be able to create something that they really want.  

·         Build a strong and loyal team – this is a continuous process! You must dare to let someone go in order to let someone else in.  

·         Each time you achieve a goal, dare to set a new goal that       terrifies you!  

·         Learn to deal with unpleasantness – push back the boundaries of your comfort zone!  

·         Each “no” means that you are closer to a “yes”!

·         Grasp hold of every opportunity. You never know what’s just around the corner…  

·         NO ONE has greater belief in your idea than you!  To succeed, you must develop an unwavering and deep-felt conviction in your success.  

·         “Walk the talk!”, or consistency between word and deed, is essential if you want to gain trust. You must LIVE the brand, fully and completely.   

I hope you find my story inspiring and interesting. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the stories of others, and find it remarkable that the challenges and processes appear to be the same, regardless of the entrepreneurial idea. It can be helpful to know that we’re not alone. Please feel free to comment or ask questions. I will reply to the best of my ability.  

Train Hard  -  Have Fun!