Irish Women in Business – Michelle Massey of Kettlebelle
The Irish health and fitness business is expanding quickly, and as well as having a passion for exercise, sometimes you need to know how to talk to potential customers.
When Michelle Massey started working out for the first time a year ago, she never thought she’d grow to love Crossfit. When she met business partner Jayne, they decided there was a space online for a community for workout videos, clean eating tutorials and friendly accessible, fitness advice.
In the latest of our Irish Women In Business series, Michelle took a few minutes to chat to Her.ie about her path to fitness entrepreneur, having passion to drive your idea and how Kettlebelle had a lucky break with some great support.
Tell us a bit about Kettlebelle and the community you’re hoping to build…
Myself and my friend Jayne, we met in Crossfit and we’re both mad into health and fitness. We found that for example, even in my case, I didn’t start getting into health and fitness until a year ago.
I only started on what I would call my fitness journey later in life, and what I found was that when we got talking, there was no one-stop-shop for anyone who was looking to juggle a career, real-life, their families and school with health and fitness goals. What we found was there was no online advice for that, there were no result based forum. There was loads out there for more experienced people. We just wanted to make health and fitness accessible to real women.
We know from our blog, that it’s not realistic for 90% of Irish women to stick to a really rigid diet and exercise regime twice a day. We really admire those people but we wanted to share our experience with people and maybe help those who have had our struggles to bring health and fitness to their lives but made easier.
So, having only started your journey a year ago, how did you become interested in fitness?
So I started working in Google, but I live in Sandyford, and the traffic was really, really bad so I would literally be stuck in traffic for an hour and a half every evening. So I kind of said to myself, I might get into going to the gym or something.
So I literally just decided one week to go to my local Crossfit gym, because it was near work and I’d miss the traffic. That was it. I was never, ever into fitness. I was naturally skinny and I just thought that meant I was naturally healthy but I wasn’t fit.
You’d see all these words bandied around like “strong is the new skinny” and you think if you’re skinny you’re doing ok, but I just happened to join the Crossfit around the corner to miss the traffic and within four weeks, there were so many changes.
It wasn’t even the changes in my body, it was the changes in my confidence and the way I felt about myself. Then I met Jayne there and the two of us said the same thing, how she had started her journey in fitness only four years ago.
We were just saying how it changed everything. For us, it’s everything but we also know it’s not like that for everyone. We both have jobs, we have families, we have social lives and we want to share with everyone else how you can absolutely do both.
So whether it’s at-home workouts, or Jayne is a real foodie, so she’s brilliant for doing healthy, clean eating meals. They’re burger and chips that your kids will actually eat, not chia seeds that cost a fortune from the health food shop and you’re not really sure how to cook. It’s basically a lot of tips for how we can work it out and then we share our own trials and tribulations for what we’re going through.
As people know Crossfit, people call it a cult, so you either love it or hate it. We might think it’s the best thing ever, but in reality there’s loads of different forms of exercises out there that are just as good. So from January, we’re asking people to challenge us try something new.
So in January we’ve been challenged to have a training session with the Irish women’s rugby team, in February we’ve been challenged to do a gymnastics class. Back in September I did an acrobatic yoga class – it was actually amazing but it was terrifying.
So we have challenges lined up, and then we’re opening it up to ask readers what they want to see us challenged to try.
What makes you stand out from the competitors in the health and fitness community?
We’re both level 1 Crossfit trainers, but we also know some amazing on-hand experts, who are going to guest blog and give advice once a month. Like this month we have a weight lifting champion, who has done a great piece for women who are scared that lifting weights will make them bulky. He did a great piece on how they won’t, but how they will if you want them to, ‘cause some women want that for their bodies.
We’ve a really great network around us, and we’ve only been up and running a short while and we’re getting great hits online and a real response from readers and other women on their fitness path. What we really want to do is build a community where people want to help each other out, and share their experience and expertise. It’s really, really aimed at people who just want to get the most out of it.
If you’re a bikini model or a fitness fanatic, you probably won’t get a lot from our community, but if you’re an average girl, who needs help balancing her actual everyday life with fitness, then we’d hope this would be the support you need to keep up with your own goals.
What gave you the last minute push to go ahead and start up the business with Jane?
It actually started by some family members asking for some advice and help on how to lose some weight but also increase their fitness. What I did was tell them to cut sugar and dairy from their diet and some home workouts to do, and they dropped a dress-size straight away. And when I started talking to Jayne, we found we could really help people, even just to get talking and be inspired.
So we originally aimed to establish the community in January, but we decided to first test if there was an audience by putting the Facebook page out there first. But there was actually so much interest, and it grew so quickly, so we thought “let’s just get the blog and workout videos up and see how it goes”.
What has been your biggest challenge so far? Obviously you’re also balancing this alongside a 9-5 job too…
Yeah, so I’ve two jobs now!
We both have two jobs now, so the biggest challenge is definitely time! But it’s quite good for us too. Before all this, if I wasn’t in work I might skip the gym and go see friends! I definitely can’t be writing about health and fitness and not be exercising.
But I think it’s especially hard for Jayne, as she does majority of the food reviews and the cooking so she has to cook everything and then write about it.
But we’ve been really very lucky in terms of the financial side. We really do have some great people around us that really want to help us out. The web design was done for us by one of the coaches in our gym, who told us “don’t worry about it, I think it’s a great idea” and same as the logo – it was designed for us by our yoga teacher.
So, so far we haven’t had to pay a penny. It feels like a lot of people have faith in the project, and that people want to be a part of a community where people can come on, get advice and ask questions. The support we’ve had has been great and it’s made a huge difference to us.
So what’s a normal working day like for you?
So I have my day job in Google, so I go to work from 8-6 and then I’m in Crossfit from 6.30-7.30pm and then I’ll head home.
What Jane and I have decided is that we meet purely for business, ‘cause obviously as friends we meet all the time. So we meet once every two weeks, where we have a kind of blogger evening. We basically set ourselves up for the week ahead and we plan our content so that we’re not online every night working and that we’re not constantly trying to juggle our lives.
Weekends we’re out reviewing and looking up new foods, workouts and we’re keeping a tab on things that are helping us.
What would you say to women who might want to get into fitness but don’t know where to start?
I’d suggest you really make sure you’re doing something you love. I was never into fitness and the idea of going into a gym terrified me. I remember going onto a treadmill once and tried running, and I hated it.
What I loved about Crossfit was that it was a group of people around me that I got to know really well and we had fun while we were working out.
If you don’t know what you want to do, but you’re a real people person, why not try a class out? Or if you’re really not sure what suits you, why not get a personal trainer to take you around and see what you like. You’re really not going to stick to it unless you enjoy it.
I think people try to completely flip 360 their lives, and then when people don’t see instant results they become disheartened. People go from eating whatever they want and drinking every weekend to living off chicken and broccoli and exercising. They just get tired or injured, where if you put just take a bit of it into your life and enjoy it, that’s a lot more sustainable.
What’s been the best piece of fitness advice you’ve been given?
Ooh, that’s a hard one, but for me it’s to have patience. Like when I started Crossfit I wanted to compete straight away, lift massive weights. I wanted my body to change instantly.
Everyone was saying to me to be patient and consistent, ‘cause if you’re patient and consistent you’ll see results. The difference I’ve seen by just being patience and looking after myself one week at a time has been brilliant. I’ve been able to lift weights I never would have before and now I’m starting to see the benefits.
What’s been the best piece of business advice you’ve been given so far?
Ok, wow, I’ve been given a lot of business advice! The best would probably be to feel passionate about what you do, and I’d really have to agree with that.
As passionate as I am about Kettlebelle, I’m also really passionate about my day job, so it means you don’t mind juggling.
Also, I think you have to accept and take the knock backs as well but to keep on going. Whether it’s a setback in work, or someone is doing something better than you, you just need to pick yourself back up and make sure that it’s worth it.
If you’re going into work and there’s a bad day, but you know there’s a good day coming up, your passion will see you through. Then you know you’re doing the right thing.
Where do you see yourselves in a year’s time?
I think in a year’s time we’d love to open a café in Dublin city, as part of the food section on our blog, where people could stop in and get really good food and coffee and tea.
Also, to be more active, even out and meeting and talking to groups of people.
Personally though, I’d love to be a coach and help people who might not be confident enough to go into a gym yet, to start working out at home and get them to the confidence level they need to reach so they can go out and do it alone.