Monetize Your Fitness and Weightloss

Hi readers! Apologies for my recent absence. As of Wednesday I wrapped up the last of my two summer school courses for my MBA. It was a struggle to complete those classes while working full-time and helping a friend and fellow finance fanatic with a major project. Add in starting the second month of Insanity where workouts were 1 to 1.5 hours long plus moving apartments and I didn’t have a single free minute. I’m not sure I’ve ever worked so hard in my life before but the results have been amazing: extra income, 2 more classes completed towards my MBA, and tremendous fitness results.

Which is what I want to share with you today! I’m on the verge of launching a full fitness blog and the Insanity Workout is really what started it all. After 7 weeks, my cardio is amazing, my strength is killer, and my bod is looking pretty lean — and I still have 2 weeks to go!

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On Fridays, we flex =P me on 06/27/2014

Month 2 has totally wiped me out though and I’ll admit that I’m starting to have my fill of Shaun T and ready to move on to something else. Mostly I can’t wait to get back to yoga and keep working on advanced poses!

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me working on variations in shoulder stand!

imagesI’ve been tracking my food and workouts on My Fitness Pal. I love it for making sure I’m getting enough of each of the macronutrients while still staying within my calorie goal. It’s an app I’ve been loving since before I started Insanity, but I’ve found some others out there that I wish I’d gotten on board with at the start of my journey! One of the things I’ve found particularly cool combines my love of workout with my love of money:

Sites and apps that provide financial incentives to meet your fitness goals.

imgres-1The first one is DietBet, which I found through Blogilates. There are two kinds of diet “bets” you can take: a 4 week challenge to lose 4% of your body weight or a 6 month challenge to lose 10% of your body weight. You buy in with $20 to $30 with other users so that there’s a pot of money — the last Blogilates dietbet had over $100,000! Participants then keep track of their progress, and at the end of the challenge, the pot is divided amongst those that were successful. Since a few people fall off the wagon and don’t make it through, the successful ones end up getting back their contribution and a little extra. This probably won’t make you rich, but I think the risk of losing $25 to sheer laziness might be the motivation you need to reach your fitness goals. I never got on the Blogilates dietbet bandwagon because I don’t own a scale (I briefly considered buying one but it seemed silly to spend $25 on a scale so I could spend another $25 on a fitness challenge), so throughout my whole fitness binge I have NOT been tracking my weightloss!

imgresThe second one I recently found was Pact. Using this app, you make a pledge to track your workouts or food intake for a week to meet your goals. If you’re successful, you get a little bit of money (about $2 per week) but if you miss a day you lose a lot of money ($5 to $10 per missed day!). It doesn’t accept Canadian credit cards to play but I found my PayPal worked! Since Pact syncs to MyFitnessPal, I’m happy I don’t have to do any logging in another app. It also syncs to the FitBit and other workout gadgets if you want to log your workouts. It’s not much but $2/week is an extra $100 per year which can buy some more workout clothes so why not?

Other apps and sites that are useful but sadly don’t pay any cash are the Nike Run app, Fitocracy, Blogilates, and Tone It Up! I finally ordered myself a FitBit yesterday after Cait’s rave review and I can’t wait to use it to start tracking workouts.

Any others fitness apps, sites, or gadgets that I’m missing that are really awesome? Please share!

Life Update: My MBA Internship Hunt

I have been delaying this post for awhile because my job search ended up being a winding, twisty road through the land of Oz.

This was the first year my school was offering an “internship program” as part of the MBA, so expectedly, it wasn’t well established. Initially there were few internship positions (read: none) for MBAs, so my classmates and I were competing with undergrads for summer job postings. I don’t blame companies for wanting to hire undergrads over grad students (you can pay them less and they may already have some experience), but it was disheartening to never hear back. In the end only 6 of us (out of 60!) in the MBA program, myself included, managed to secure summer employment.

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I worried incessantly about whether or not my standards were too high, and thought I would eat my own words from my post: If you don’t want to work in dead-end jobs, stop applying for them. I had been blessed with good hours, good pay, and lots of autonomy in my last job, but was I asking too much expecting that again?

I wanted an internship where:

  • I worked regular daytime hours (8am or 9am until 5pm) and rarely or never on weekends
  • I could preferably walk or take the train to 
  • I would be paid at least $20 to $25 per hour
  • There would be opportunity to stay on into the school year part- or full-time 

With some jobs posting as low as $14 to $16 per hour and vaguely stating that you “must be willing to travel” or “available occasionally on evenings/weekends”, I carelessly wisely avoided these postings. My guess is if I had been more open to deviating from my list, I would have found an internship must quickly — though I probably wouldn’t have been as happy at it.

In total I applied to 28 jobs, interviewed at 5 companies, and was offered 2 positions.

Before I found the right fit, I wavered between what to do constantly. I thought seriously about going to China for an exchange. I enrolled in 2 summer school courses. I picked up a serving job for a summer just in case. At all times it felt like the right job was right around the corner… and simultaneously at all times it felt like I was doomed for unemployment forever.

My interviews were all over the place. In my journey, I interviewed for a supply chain manager role at an airline and then for a credit analyst position in the corporate finance division of a big bank. While I’m surprised and pleased at the doors that were open to me with an MBA, I found it ironic that I struggled to find jobs in Calgary’s main industry and the only one I really wanted to work in: oil & gas.

Every time I hit a low, I somehow managed to sink even lower.

I won’t go into how this was the most miserable professional experience I’ve ever had, because now that it’s ended there’s no point in wallowing, but it was pretty damn bad. In retrospect I was only unemployed for a short time but the funny thing is when you’re in that state you feel like you will NEVER find a job again. Thanks to the blog and freelance writing income, I had enough money to cover my immediate bills but without full-time studies, my days were long and empty and my finances were starting to suffer.

Summer school cost $3,500 for my two courses, and since I wasn’t working, I had to sell one of my stocks to afford it. Even though I had long ago pegged certain investments to cover the cost of my MBA, actually having to cash in was depressing, but I simply didn’t have any other choice.

Eventually I found a great position, but when it came down to it they could only offer me part-time. I decided to continue my job hunt, albeit with much less enthusiasm. At this point I was burnt out and figured the part-time job was the best I could get. Thankfully, I was called back, interviewed, and offered an internship at another company that met all the items on my list a week later! I don’t even have the words for the relief I felt. Not only am I glad to be earning money again, I feel productive and fulfilled.

I am the kind of person that needs to work in order to be happy.

While I definitely love to collect a paycheque, one of the things I really learned in my job hunt and 6 weeks of unemployment is that my self-esteem and self-worth is tightly entwined with my work. I love to be doing something that makes an organization more productive, profitable, efficient — and having nothing to do made me feel totally useless. I feel if my unemployment had lasted any longer, I would have had a total breakdown. 

Thankfully, I made out safe and I’m on a full-time contract for the next three months with possibility of extension into the academic year. Money-wise I am being paid hourly and, as expected, less than I made at my previous job though by no means poorly! Work wise I have a mid-level position in a small office, where I’m gaining experience relevant to my MBA. Having only worked in academia prior to this, I’m really happy to be gaining actual business experience.

I am thrilled! However, now I am also so busy. Because I had enrolled in summer classes thinking I’d be unemployed, I’m now working 5 days per week and then running to class for 3hrs each Monday & Wednesday night. Couple this with working on the blog and another personal finance project, and then my commitment to my insane Insanity workout, and I’m pushing my limits. Thankfully my courses end at the end of this month, but I’m expecting the next 3 weeks to be totally chaotic. If I’m absent from the blog/twitter or slow to reply to emails, I’m sorry, I gotta hustle ;)

Hustle Harder: How I made extra money to pay down my debts and save for the future

One of the reasons I was able to  get out of debt quickly and save so aggressively is I had good incomes. Notice that’s incomes, plural. I am highly doubtful I would have made the progress I did if I hadn’t cultivated multiple sources of income over the past few years. It’s for this reason that the single best advice I can give any twenty something is this:

Hustle harder. 

Make as much money as you possibly can. Use it to pay your bills, kill your debt, and save for the future. 

I think twenty-somethings are way too short-sighted when it comes to generating income. They’re all looking for 1 job to launch their career and pay all their bills, when realistically the best choice might be to work some extra part-time hours even if you have landed that first career role. Here are some ways I hustled during university and after graduation:

I tutored Chemistry. 

I tutored chemistry for $20 to $30 per hour beginning in my third year of university and continuing through my first year of professional work. Seriously, I would schedule tutoring sessions on my lunch break or after work, and even on weekends — even though I was employed full-time at a salary of $50,000. I did this to kill my student loan debt. Obviously the income wasn’t consistent, but it often translated to an extra $300 to $500 per month during the academic year. Almost all of that income went to debt repayment. When I received my annual raise at the 1 year mark in my professional job, I gave up tutoring but I love knowing that if I need extra cash and have a few hours to spare, all I have to do is post an ad for tutoring on a college bulletin board.

I taught Chemistry labs.

Getting A’s can pay off financially in more than just scholarships. I taught the laboratory sections for two organic chemistry courses every spring and summer for 3 years — including the session after graduation! I could have packed up once I had my degree, but I was paid about $1,800 each session (10 days) and I taught 2 every year for a total of about $3,600 each summer. One year I even got a bit extra for helping write questions for the laboratory manuals. To accommodate TA-ing I simply booked vacation or got people to pick up shifts at whatever other job I was working (serving tables or fixing iPads) and dove in.

I did inventory for large department stores

To this day this remains one of the most random and most profitable short-term side hustles I’ve ever found. Looking for extra work, I found an inventory service advertising on Kijiji that they needed extra hands for a few contracts. I was hired and scanning barcodes within 1 week. The work was mind-numbingly boring and I had to wear a really ugly shirt, but I remember being paid $14 or $15 per hour and all I had to do was scan the price tags on pillows and comforter sets in The Bay. Once I had a few successful jobs under my belt, the company would email me whenever extra work came up. My schedule got too packed for this to become a regular source of income, but at the time it was great to help with the bills.

I worked part-time at the Apple store

There are few things as unglamorous as working a retail job at age 25 just like you did at age 15, but I did. I picked up this gig when my graduate student stipend ($24,000 per year, minus tuition!) proved insufficient for my financial plan. I’m not a fan of standing on concrete floors all day, but this job was so good for my bank account, I can’t even think where I’d be without it. When I decided to drop out of my MSc., the Apple store filled a gap giving me full-time hours until I found my first professional job.

I was a babysitter/nanny

One of the best jobs I ever had was nannying full-time in the summers and then part-time between classes during the school year. I organized my class schedule with that of the family I worked for, and this became a regular sources of extra money for me. In the evenings and weekends when I wasn’t babysitting, I served tables. Being a nanny gave me almost full-time income at great hours. Additionally there was a non-monetary pay off of becoming lifelong friends with a great family!

I wrote (and wrote, and wrote, and wrote)

Once Money After Graduation started to really grow, my Google AdSense and affiliate income started to become a regular thing. After I had been featured in MoneySense Magazine and a few newspapers, I started to get some freelance writing contracts. As many of you know, I’ve been writing for American Student Assistance on their SALT Money blog for two years. That’s a monthly paycheque that’s been helping out for a long time!

What about now?

I never stop hustling. Ever.

When my applications to internship positions were not delivering, Lululemon got my resume next.

When my friend suggested there was money to be made during Calgary’s main tourist event, Stampede, I found a serving gig for only those 2 weeks of the summer.

I’m still blogging, with some more projects ready to roll out.

I never stop hustling. I can’t — I like money too much! Thankfully, an internship came through so you won’t find me folding yoga pants or serving beer in a cowboy hat, but my side hustles were at the ready. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, pay off your debt, or save for a particular goal, you might just be one side hustle away from making it happen.

Adulthood Truth: Finding a Job is Like Dating

I would like to dedicate this post to Mikhaila, who has been waiting for me to write it for over a year.

Online job boards are barely distinguishable from personal ads. Your resume is your dating profile summary, make it count.

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Just like you wouldn’t tell eHarmony subscribers you like long walks on the beach, don’t tell potential employers you’re “detail oriented”. Likewise, you might be tempted to share why a certain job/relationship will be so good for you, but this is about selling yourself to someone else. Tell your future employer (or love of your life) what you bring to the table in terms of skills and talent, and why they can’t let you get away.

Every interview is a blind date, and has the opportunity to lead to fulfillment of all your dreams… or end in disaster.

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Usually we go into job interviews and first dates with nothing but optimism — what if this is the one? Reality: it’s probably not. As any seasoned dater or interviewee knows, sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince charming. I have an outrageous collection of bad date stories (like the time a guy told me all women should get breast implants) and now I have some bad interviews to add to the list (like when a potential employer suggested I pursue an accounting designation. LOL no. Just no.)

It’s about compatibility.

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Often people are so hung up on making a date or interviewer like them, they forget that this is also your chance to determine if they like the date or employer! It might seem like the goal of an interview is to get hired, but it’s really about finding the right fit: somewhere where you want to work AND wants you to work there. Acing an interview for a job you don’t want at a company you don’t want to work for is not an accomplishment and wastes everybody’s time. If you know something isn’t going to work out, gently let the other party down and move on. Quitting or breaking up months down the road when you knew it was headed nowhere from the start is messy and best avoided.

And it’s about timing.

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You might be the right candidate at the wrong time. One of the most discouragingly encouraging things about my MBA internship hunt was seeing how few internships there were, but how many opportunities there were for new graduates. I realized that as much as I was struggling to find a position now, there would be tons of jobs for me at graduation. It was reassuring while at the same time being the most frustrating thing in my young professional life.

“We’ll let you know” is the “I’ll text you later” — it’s not happening.

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Three interviewers told me (and my other classmates who interviewed for the same positions) that they’d let us know either way. They didn’t. Waiting to hear back from a job is the equivalent of waiting for a text back after a date: the worst. Every single time I would have preferred even a curt email that said, “we selected another candidate #sorrynotsorry” over the excruciating radio silence that ensued in its stead. I know to give up on hearing back from a job after 1 week just like I know to give up on hearing back from a date after 48 hours, but a little part of you just holds on. It’s excruciating.

Likewise, asking you about salary expectations or talking about you in the context of having the position is equivalent to “can I see you again?”

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One of my questions at every interview is “who will I report to?” or “how will my performance be measured?”. Firstly, because those are just good things to know, and secondly because I can immediately gauge how the interview is going by how the interviewer answers. If they start off by saying, “the candidate will…” I know I haven’t succeeded at the interview and might be at risk of not hearing back at all. On the other hand, if they say “you will be…” I know they’re already picturing me in the role, which means I’m at least partly (or even fully!) hired in their mind. Another clue is if they ask you about salary expectations. This might seem like a standard interview question, but I find it usually only comes out if the interview is going well and they’re planning to follow up.

When you find The One, nothing else matters.

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When you find it you’ll know. Everything about it feels right, and you feel unbelievably lucky that an opportunity so good even came a long. Suddenly every failed attempt to get any other job makes sense, and you know everything happened exactly as it should have to lead you to this moment.

More posts on my winding job hunt to follow!

Turning a $2 T-Shirt into a $2 Million Dollar Business

Who would have thought that the ordinary T-shirt could turn into such a universal item? Now, no matter where you are in the world, just take a look into any wardrobe and you’ll be hard-pressed not to find a white or printed T-shirt hanging around in a corner. It is this universal appeal that has made T-shirt manufacturers into millionaires all over the world.

Why Are T-shirts Popular?

We don’t know but the T-shirt forums state that T-shirts (apart from jeans) are probably the only item of clothing that can be worn at formal and informal gatherings. Combine a funky printed T-shirt with the classic blue or white jeans and you are good to go anywhere, to any function, or event, and you won’t be underdressed.  This has contributed to its universal appeal and frankly, T-shirts make both men and women look good.  Add designs, memes, captions, jokes and other prints to the basic T-shirt and you have a walking talking advertisement for your company, your product, your design, an artist, a band; the choices are endless. This is probably what will ensure the versatility and popularity of the T-shirt

Business-Wise, How Do I Set Up and Make A T- Shirt Business Successful?

The demand for printed unique T-shirts is high, and if your designs and ideas catch public interest, there is no looking back. However, this also means that you have to know the basics of the trade. Here are a few things that should make a difference and tell you how to make a shirt.  This will help you succeed in your venture.

Be Creative – T-shirts with funny slogans are very popular but sometimes, even colorful, text-less T-shirts may appeal to customers. The website Launch, Grow, Joy states that this actually comes down to current trends and market requirements. For example, founder Pat Wood of Truffle Shuffle set up his retro T-shirt website because friends would frequently appreciate his collection of retro T-shirts. Wood immediately realized the gap in the market and he set up Truffle Shuffle with barely $100. The business now sells two million T-shirts sourced by a 10-member team and makes more than three million in profits. The same goes for Indian T-shirt website Tantra. The funky website started by selling T-shirts emblazoned with classic Indian yogis and elephants and combined it with naughty but funny slogans. Within two years, the company was selling all over India and has now established an international base with a niche product. The clue here is to come up with a marketable idea that fills a niche requirement or to find a product that appeals to a mass market.

Set Up Manufacturing – The business website T-shirt Magazine online states that finding financing for your company may be tough in the beginning but you can simplify the process. Most newbie companies start by purchasing T-shirt blanks and then custom printing their images and slogans on the blanks. This keeps costs to a minimum and you have the convenience to print only as much as you require. However, as you expand, you may require financing to tie up with a T-shirt manufacturer who will also print the designs on to the products. You can then tag and bag products for shipment to customers. Both business models are quite effective and make an informed decision after researching both options.

Build Local First Then Go Global – Never underestimate the value of local business and local customers. Yes, having your own website is critical to online global success but nothing beats having local customers walking around your city wearing your T-shirts. Print postcards with your designs, ask local retailers to display your wares for a percentage of the proceeds, hold T-shirt contests, sell at local flea markets, fund raisers and street fairs, contact magazines and publications to advertise or review your products. If possible, advertise your products locally by handing out freebies to local businesses or provide T-shirts at a discounted rate to college students. This is particularly useful as young customers are always on the lookout for trendy simple clothing. Having your T-shirts develop into campus fashion trends can easily give your business an immediate boost.

Pricing – Industry watcher The Perfect Biz Finder encourages you to keep your pricing as affordable as possible. Make sure you include the actual price of the T-shirt, printing costs, shipping costs, tag and packing costs, etc. in the sale price. Don’t be afraid to price your product higher if it has a unique feature. However, make sure you stress the feature to the customer at the time of purchase. Adding coupons, deals and discounts to your website will also encourage customers to shop more and it will increase product popularity.

Turning your basement T-shirt business into a success is a completely feasible idea but it will mean hard work and a lot of effort. Remember, your business will succeed only if you can ensure customer satisfaction in price, product and sales. If you have a good product, rest assured that customers will start coming to your website or retail store to buy T-shirts.