Owner, Simply for Life Sussex
Avid Cyclist, Mom, Nature Lover and all around Lover of Life
Let’s cut straight to your “jump two feet in” moment: you left your stressful yet dependable marketing job to open your own Simply for Life franchise. This takes an enormous amount of guts! How long did you spend thinking about doing it and what finally made you take the plunge?
Well, the decision to quit my dependable job was sort of made for me as I was laid off in early 2012. I had a severance, my husband, Jeremy, and I were recently married and I knew this might be the only time to really just chill out and focus on what I wanted to do as a career. I skied, I took a personal training course, and really just relaxed. One day, about a month or so later, I went to a spin class at the gym and the owner of SFL Sussex at the time was teaching. She asked me why I wasn’t at work (it was a Wednesday) and I told her I had been laid off recently. The next day she called me to ask if I would be interested in teaching yoga and fitness classes at her studio. A few months after that, I got a call from her on a Sunday morning, asking if I knew anyone that would be interested in taking over their SFL franchise and I just blurted out - without even thinking - “ME! Oh my God me!!” That night Jeremy and I met with her and her husband to talk things over and less than a week later, we were business owners.
To be a successful entrepreneur, one has to dedicate a lot of time to grow their business. Do you find it hard to unplug and focus on your personal life? How do you destress at the end of an especially hard day?
Yes and no. This business is such a part of who I am. I live the lifestyle day in and day out (you know, walk the walk, talk the talk) so in a way, it’s never really off. I remember the first year or two being just “on” all the time. I would research so much and it was more stressful than fun (though it was still really fun). Now we’ve got a great client base and I usually leave my work at work during the week (I’ll take it home on the weekends and normally catch up a bit on Sundays). I’ll wake up during the night fairly often, but it’s never because I’m stressed, it’s usually because I have an idea or something I want to do at work…
What's a regular day like in your life?
5:30 - 6 a.m. Wake up, depending what time Bennett (my son) gets up. (I used to go to the gym at 5:30, but was getting really run down last year so I stopped, though I’m thinking about trying it again).
Make breakfast, relax before the day starts.
8:20 a.m. Leave the house, drop Bennett off. Arrive at work. Some days are back to back clients for big chunks of time and then I schedule a little breather for lunch, preparing clients’ meal plans, doing some research, etc.
5 p.m. Leave work, pick up Bennett and head home. In the evenings, after supper and once Bennett is in bed, I might go to the gym if I haven’t been able to go during the day, or go out for a run or bike ride.
8:30 - 9 p.m. I try to go to bed between 8:30 and 9 most nights.
Do you have a beauty secret you swear by and wouldn’t mind sharing?
GOAT’S MILK SOAP! I used to have absolutely terrible skin (which is, to this day, what I think brought me to nutrition [and working in the field]) and I tried pretty much everything out there, from prescription creams, drugstore brands, even Accutane. After graduation and having dealt with this for far too long I went to see a homeopath and he suggested I stop using all the harsh, oil-free cleansers (which in the end I came to discover were just causing my skin to produce more oil) and suggested goat’s milk soap. I’ve used it for about 10 years and swear by it. I’m not huge on makeup (I do wear a bit of blush, mascara and eyeliner) but I love my lipstick/coloured lip glosses. I think this goes back to my pimple days. Back then I felt that if I wore a bright colour on my lips it would take the focus off my terrible skin, so that’s one thing I never leave the house without.
[Regarding diet], I used to have pretty poor eating habits (Kit Kats for lunch then a sucker for dessert in high school; Fruit Loops and Jell-O for lunch in 1st year university). I was always sick and tired and of course, had some pretty nasty acne. When all these dermatologists told me that food didn’t have anything to do with my skin, I decided to test it out anyway. I started removing certain things from my diet for a week or more just to see (things like bread, dairy, etc). But it was when I removed sugar from my diet that I saw the biggest change. Not only did my skin start improving but so did my energy and my mood! It was then that I made the (slow) change into healthier eating.
When you have time to pamper yourself, what’s your go-to?
Oooh. My favourite way to pamper myself is to get my hair cut (I don’t dye it and won’t until I get a lot more grey). Though, I only get a haircut every 6 months or so. I’m not big on manis and pedis (I think they’re a waste of money personally), but I do love a good massage.
"...learning to say NO is likely the biggest factor in improving my overall health."
What are you favourite wellness products?
Ohh, I have so many! I LOVE essential oils. Love Love Love! I wear them, I diffuse them, I’m obsessed. Scent is such a powerful thing and it can really help if I need a mood boost, or if I’m feeling anxious or stressed. While this next one isn’t really a “product”, I do consider it a wellness tool: Reiki. I go for a monthly treatment and I really feel it helps clean out the bad energies/vibes from that month and helps keep me calm and focused. OH! And dry shampoo! I hate washing and doing my hair so the less I have to do it, the better. I found this really great brand at Shoppers that doesn’t have a bunch of harmful ingredients in it. I think it’s called “The Delectable – Cake”. It smells and works great! I sometimes only wash my hair twice a week ;)
Do you have any daily rituals you do to keep calm or focused?
Deep breathing. When I was teaching yoga, that’s one thing I really focused on with my students. A good sigh/deep breath is so calming because it snaps us out of that “merry-go-round-of-thinking” and brings us back to the present. I also think that not taking my work home with me during the week has really helped my mental state. When I’m at work, I’m focused on work, and when I’m at home, I’m focused on home.
What's the best beauty or overall wellness advice you've ever received?
The best wellness advice? Hmmm… Not sure if this would be advice that I received or if it’s just something I realized over the years, but learning to say NO is likely the biggest factor in improving my overall health. Learning to set this boundary and not feel guilty about it was very liberating. If I don’t feel like doing something, I don’t. No explanation needed. I always used to take on too much and feel anxious that I didn't have enough time to myself to recharge so now I’m very selective with my free time and it’s something I don’t apologize for (I think having a family definitely pushed me towards being that way too).
You recently lost a very dear friend, Ellen, in a tragic cycling accident. For anyone who hasn’t dealt with something this momentous, it’s hard to put yourself in their shoes and really feel the pain. Life goes on and you have to somehow figure out a way to continue putting one foot in front of the other. Has this experience taught you anything? Have you learned any coping skills that could help others dealing with loss?
I’ve lost people before – my grandfathers, the parents of some very close friends, but this was my first time losing not only a friend, but one of my nearest and dearest friends. The shock is still quite real and the emotions are still very raw. Keeping busy with work (I really had no choice as my coworker was going on mat leave a few weeks later) was a bit of a blessing in disguise I think. Not that it made me push grieving her death aside, but it was a welcome distraction and gave me time to put the events surrounding her death on the back burner so that when I did have quiet moments to process, I did.
Not being from Sussex, and this being Ellen's hometown, coming into work also helped as I got a chance to chat with clients about how they knew her and what she meant to them. Many clients told me she coached their children in swimming (she used to be a lifeguard) and many people knew her from her involvement in cycling from her early days racing locally.
I had a nice chat with a mutual friend this morning and I told her that I’m not really sure how I keep going [after her death]. It’s been, I think, a bit different losing a friend that was so high profile and well-known because basically every Canadian news site published a story about her injury and subsequent death, everyone was throwing fundraisers and events in her name. [It was hard to grieve because it was always in the spotlight.] [Finally} with the passing of Ellen's Law (here in New Brunswick, which mandates that drivers need to give at least 1 metre of space to cyclists), it provided [me, anyway] with the opportunity to grieve.
If this experience has taught me anything, aside from the super cliché “life is short, seize the day” stuff, is that when someone that close to you passes, you have two choices. You can dwell on the tragedy surrounding her death and place blame and point fingers at the driver, or at the police and court system for not laying charges, or you can focus on the type of person Ellen was and take a piece of her with you to keep her spirit alive. She was such a bubbly (AND LOUD!!!), hard-working person who was friendly with literally everyone. She talked to strangers, she adored children and loved to teach them things. She saw the beauty in little things, like a beautiful sunny day, her mother’s garden or a warm cup of coffee. She blasted the music in her car, sang loudly, danced and didn’t really care what other people thought. I’ve really tried my best to carry her spirit with me by doing those things and that has helped bring me peace, even though my heart aches for her every day.
We thank Mila for sharing her life so honestly with us, ups and downs and all.