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Melissa Farley


Washington, DC

[I] have finally embraced that just like my clients, CEOs and entrepreneurs come in all different shapes and sizes.

Just three short years ago, I lived in New York City and was chasing my dream of becoming a model and actor. I had anticipated living in the Big Apple my whole adolescence and couldn’t believe it was all coming true! While I wouldn’t change one moment of my New York City experience (I had many career highs, wonderful friends, and fell in love with my husband there), all in all, New York living was a daily grind. I worked dozens of jobs: personal trainer, health coach, bartender, waiter, babysitter, restaurant manager, actor, model, dog walker, bookkeeper, and wedding planner—all at the same time. New York really is the city that never sleeps.

Shortly after getting married, my husband and I decided to invest in his career (aka his MBA) and our future family by moving closer to our families in Washington, DC. This provided me with an opportunity to reassess. What is it that I really wanted to do? Before dreaming of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, I had wanted to be a dancer. As a child, the plan was to own a dance studio like my aunt. When I finally asked myself what made me truly happy, I realized I achieved the same high from exercise and yoga as when I was dancing. While I was tiring of cattle calls and the odd modeling and acting jobs here and there, I was becoming more and more driven by my yoga practice and helping my clients get healthy. So, with the move, I decided we weren’t just investing in my husband, but I was ready to fully commit to one path and launch my fitness and nutrition consulting company, FitTrition.

Like any new business, the first year was tough. After a few months of saying yes to everything (Yes I juice! Sure I would love to teach that yoga class! You need a trainer 20 miles outside of my usual location…why not?), I was able to identify my target market and develop a network of consistent clients. I also tapped into many of the wonderful resources available for women entrepreneurs in the area.  By my second year in business, I had a full schedule and was hitting my goal of weekly clients.

Then, I found out we were expecting. While this was incredibly blessed news, I was concerned about what this meant for my (finally) blooming business. It was a complete sink or swim moment.  My husband was flourishing in his job (while still working towards his MBA), which provided me with a choice: Do I take a step back in my career and stay home or lean in and grow my business? While I was grateful for the ability to have a choice, it also presented a dilemma. Will I feel guilty if I am not home all the time? Will my salary justify paying for child care? After going back and forth about it for months (thank goodness for long gestation periods), I realized my perception was off. Why do we value the worth or cost of child care solely on the woman’s salary and not as a household expense? Child care benefits both the mother and father so that we can provide for our family together. After changing my perspective and realizing the potential for growth in my business, I decided to commit to myself and start leaning in at every workout. I also started asking for help. I would ask clients to share how they handled work/life balance. I had been timid before, as though asking for help was showing some kind of weakness, but I found the opposite to be true. The responses were overwhelming and, frankly, it’s the reason why I’m where I am today.

Thankfully those early years in my 20s not only taught me the skill of functioning without a sleep (a skill that came in handy when my son decided not to sleep for eight months), but also time management, hustling, perseverance, and a strong work ethic.As the saying goes: “If you can make it [in New York], then you can make it anywhere.” Once I committed to leaning in, FitTrition became a real business. I wasn’t just a personal trainer anymore, but an entrepreneur with employees. I worried about marketing and growth. Now, in my third year in business, my FIT team includes myself and three other trainers, a brand manager and social media interns. We have acquired two large corporate wellness clients in the DC area, not to mention being featured through various forms of media. Living in NYC, I saw success as only being attainable with an Ivy League education or by having those "right" connections. I let this perception cloud my judgment but have finally embraced that just like my clients, CEOs and entrepreneurs come in all different shapes and sizes. It just so happens that my professional attire is a pair of Nike sneakers, Lululemon pants (not the see through ones!) and my hair in a ponytail.