How Halifax Mom Anna Townsend Turned Her Side Hustle into a Full-Time Business

Image by Steph MacKinnon, courtesy of Anna Townsend

Image by Steph MacKinnon, courtesy of Anna Townsend

Thanks to CUA who sponsored this post as a supporter of local entrepreneurs and small businesses. We only partner with companies that we believe bring value to Halifax families and, as always, all opinions are our own.

Being an entrepreneur is in Anna Townsend’s blood and it’s something she’s hoping to pass down to her two children when she opens her first health and wellness studio this spring.

Growing up in the family business of Schooner Books, Anna watched her parents be their own bosses and saw firsthand the struggles and rewards that came along with that lifestyle. She says she always knew it was what she wanted for herself.

“I’m an entrepreneur because I’m a control freak when it comes to my destiny,” she laughs.

When Anna had her first child she was a successful personal trainer at a local chain of gyms but she knew that she wouldn’t be able to easily continue that career with a young family because of its early morning and late evening hours. During her maternity leave, she began to explore other options, including taking a nutritional counselling course. When her maternity leave ended, she quit her day job and struck out on her own.

“Although I love working with other people, creating someone else’s thing always made me uncomfortable because it’s taking me away from what I’m trying to create for myself,” she explains.

Image by Steph MacKinnon, courtesy of Anna Townsend

Image by Steph MacKinnon, courtesy of Anna Townsend

Anna built her health and wellness business to include online nutritional counselling and exercise programs, as well as in-person fitness sessions. She juggled her responsibilities as an entrepreneur and a stay-at-home/work-at-home mother through hosting boot camps in her basement and travelling to personal training sessions at client’s homes, sometimes with a child tagging along. She also started working as a contract fitness specialist with gyms, helping them to develop a business strategy.

She didn’t use childcare until her kids (who are less than two years apart in age) were each eighteen months old and, even then, the childcare was only part-time. Her husband works long hours as a contractor which led to some creative childcare solutions when she needed to work and he wasn’t able to be home with the children either.

Image courtesy of Anna Townsend

Image courtesy of Anna Townsend

“When you have kids, every minute that is taken away to work, is being taken away from your kids,” she says. “When it came down to driving at night to meet clients all around the city I was losing so much time with my kids, or a lot of times I was bringing my kids with me and trying to juggle that, and that’s just not fair to them.”

Anna began to move more of her services online to minimize the amount of travel needed. She liked that she was able to reach many people at once and make her services more affordable and accessible, however, she sometimes struggled to make the best professional decisions for her business because of a desire to please everyone.

“You think you have to say yes to everything or you’re going to miss out on opportunities and kick yourself later,” she explains. “I spent a lot of time undercharging because I wanted everyone to be happy, and I didn’t want anyone to be put out, but, at the end of the day, if I’m making zero from that contract because of how I priced myself, it’s not helping my family.”

Image by Steph MacKinnon, courtesy of Anna Townsend

Image by Steph MacKinnon, courtesy of Anna Townsend

She began business forecasting and setting big goals. These goals guided how she priced her services, who she took on as clients, and how she budgeted her time. She says she was able to separate personal and professional by staying focused on those plans.

“Think ahead to what you want to accomplish long-term and what it needs to look like,” Anna advises. “Set the price you want and don’t undercut it because you can’t easily build the price back up.”

Her children are now eight and six-years-old and both are in school. She has decided the time is right to take that next step and merge all of the branches of her business under one brick-and-mortar roof. This spring she will be opening her own studio called The Fitness Room on Shoreham Lane, off Herring Cove Road, where she can teach classes and meet with clients in person, as well as run the online business.

She’s excited to create something of her own that her children can be a part of as they grow up, just as she did at her mom and dad’s family business.

Future entrepreneurs working on plans for the new studio ( Image courtesy of Anna Townsend)

Future entrepreneurs working on plans for the new studio (Image courtesy of Anna Townsend)

She credits the confidence gained in herself and her business over the years with giving her the courage to take this bold step. She’s been working with her contractor husband to build the space and her children are excitedly waiting to start their “jobs” when it opens in May, making her entrepreneurial venture into a true family business.

“I’m building my own legacy,” she says with a smile.

Learn more about Anna’s work on Facebook and Instagram, or visit her website here.

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