Exercise is more than just that thing we humans do to lose a few pounds. It can also have incredible benefits for our mental health, which are just starting to be realised. Exercise and a focus on wellbeing is so important for every one of us, but as self-employed people who often spend long hours working at a desk, possibly alone, with mounting stress and significant challenges to face each day, exercise can have astonishing effects on our productivity, mental clarity, and ultimately our health.
This week’s Startup Story features Maria Bukley, founder of Little Wellbeing. Maria discusses her own mental health challenges, and how going from a busy career as a stage manager in the West End to running her own personal training business has helped her achieve the work life balance she needs. Here is her story:
Hi Maria! What’s your business called, and what is it all about?
My business is called Little Wellbeing (because I’m short and I work in wellbeing). I’m a personal trainer on a mission to help others change their life, both physically and mentally.
Tell us about your background before you began the business. What motivated you to change direction?
I’ve struggled with my mental health since I was 4 years old, when I was diagnosed with Selective Mutism (I didn’t speak to anyone apart from my parents until I was 14 years old). Once I got to uni I developed depression and generalised anxiety, which I still have to this day. I worked as a stage manager in West End, London, but the stress of the job wasn’t helping my mental health. At this point I was doing research and knew how beneficial exercise is to us, mentally as well as physically, so I quit my job and re-trained as a personal trainer. My aim is to be kind and bring something different, I’m hoping that I can help others take a life changing step.
What has been your proudest moment in business so far?
I left London about a month ago and was saying goodbye to one of my clients. She gave me a testimonial which said ‘Maria is amazing, she is so lovely and my husband says my body feels amazing, I feel confident and sexy in my skin thanks to you’.
What’s the biggest lesson you have learned since starting your business?
Learning about sales and managing relationships with other workers. I’ve had a lot of sexist comments made towards me and harsh things said about how people can’t start a business with mental health issues. I’ve had to really learn how to brush those comments off and just keep bossing what I’m doing.
I’ve had to really learn how to brush those comments off and just keep bossing what I’m doing.”
How do you stay organised? Any tips or tools?
My physical diary, I’m not a fan of my Google calendar. It’s good to have it as a reference and great because it’s connected to my app, so when clients book in their appointment is automatically added. However I feel a lot more organised writing dates/appointments down. Something I use technology for is Google, it’s great to have all my work in the Drive, emails and notes all in one place.
Would you say you have a healthy work life balance? If yes, what do you do to maintain this, and if no, what would you change?
I think now I’ve moved out of London I do, and especially in the past couple of months I have made a huge effort to take time out for myself. For me, the trick is on my days off take a book instead of my laptop to a coffee shop, that way I’m not tempted to do work.
What do you have planned for your business and what are the next steps toward your goal?
I would love to create a community both online and in Wales, of people who help and support each other in their goals (this is the current goal I’m working towards). I want to do more courses in mental health so I can gain a better understanding and maybe one day open my own studio which offers therapy, meditation, wellbeing workshops, yoga, fitness classes, etc.