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Episode 57: Evolution of the Entrepreneur Catherine Middlebrooks

by | Last updated: Apr 11, 2022 | Podcast

If this is the first episode you’ve ever listened to of the Uncomplicate Your Business Podcast, one, I hope you absolutely love it, and two, I hope you listen in to the previous three episodes because I have been talking with some incredible women entrepreneurs about their entrepreneurial journey.

What makes this summer series different is we are not talking about the highlight reel. We’re not talking about how they went from being bankrupt to being a millionaire seemingly overnight.

We are talking the real journey, the hard decisions, the sleepless nights, the frustrations when you want to just throw your laptop out the window, because this is the reality of being an entrepreneur.

I feel like so many entrepreneurs in those first few years would just hang in there and really figure it out for themselves if they knew that the hype that you hear, the highlight reel stories that are out there, those are the exception, not the rule.

For every 100 entrepreneurs, there might be one you have that zero to six figures overnight or zero to seven figures in a year story. For the vast majority of entrepreneurs, that’s just not the case. That doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. It means there is a lot that goes into being an entrepreneur.

It’s going to take some work. It’s going to take some clarity. It’s going to take being willing to show up even when it gets hard.

Today, we are wrapping up this entire interview series talking to Catherine Middlebrooks of brb yoga. There are so many nuggets that she is about to share that I really hope you catch as we go through this conversation. I’ll share with you this, Catherine has absolutely blown me away.

***

RC: To get started, can you tell everybody what is brb yoga, what is your business and what do you do?

brb yoga is an online yoga studio that is dedicated to helping moms restore their core strength and find a little bit of calm in the craziness of motherhood.

RC: What made you start thinking that you wanted to be an entrepreneur and that this was kind of the path you wanted to go on?

It’s funny, because now, at this point it’s like, “How could I have not picked this idea right off the bat?” It really started and stemmed from when my first daughter was born. She’s four and a half now, so about four and a half years ago. I was working full time. She was still very little. I’d always loved my job.

With her and being away from her all day, I just started to feel like, this really wasn’t the life that I wanted to be on for the rest of my life. My husband had a job. I had a job. We were putting our kid in day care. We were doing this crazy rush every night. It’s like, “Okay, I see this as like the next 30 to 40 years of my life. Is this what I really want?

My husband and I sat down and decided to be really intentional about our future. We have what we call life summits. We separately went and thought through what we wanted our life to look like in a couple of different areas, like where we would want to live, what we would want to be doing for our jobs, those sorts of things.

Then we came back together and they aligned, luckily. This could have gone pretty badly, but it didn’t. We were so aligned. Everything on both of our sheets was all about freedom, freedom of location, freedom of choosing to pursue the business interests that were most exciting to us at the time.

We both kind of have these varied interests. We just knew that the life we were living wasn’t going to get us there. We then, at that point, my daughter was probably six months old, started the process of building a business.

It was a lot of fumbling at the beginning. We started a podcast called Entrepreneurs In Training to document it. I don’t even think it’s out there available anymore.

I started a meal time, meal planning blog which was a disaster. Eventually, as I continued on this journey of motherhood and working and trying to build a business, I hadn’t had a yoga practice for 15 years and I had been a teacher for almost 10 years and my own practice was struggling.

Then it was like this moment where I was like, “Why don’t we just create an online yoga studio for moms who can’t get to a studio or who are feeling stressed out, but don’t have a lot of time to devote to it?”

It was in that moment that brb yoga was born. It was at that point conceived of as just an online yoga studio, membership site just for busy moms.

RC: Were you working on all of these projects together or was it divide and conquer?

Much of it was together. Our joint vision was always together. The thing that I think has been so crucial to our success is that we knew we had this joint vision and that we were always working towards it.

He definitely was more into the podcast. I was taking the lead on that meal planning blog. We were trying to see, will any of this catch on? Then when we shifted to the yoga idea, it’s like, “Okay, this is a real, viable idea. Let’s really start to put all of our resources into this idea.”

We let the other ideas go and really started putting all of our attention into that yoga idea. Although, it’s funny, because my husband still is like, “I know nothing about yoga.” He doesn’t do yoga. He’s so not into that.

All the technical pieces of it and the filming and the videoing, he has been hugely influential in helping get that part up and running.

RC: My husband Jameson’s behind the scenes in very much the same way. He does not know a thing about business, but he can edit a podcast episode.

It’s been great for us too. It’s twice the manpower. It really helps you get a lot accomplished when you’re not sitting there stuck on.

If I had to edit the podcast episode, I’d start to lose my mind. I’m glad I don’t have to sit there dealing with that stuff at all.

I will say though, there were challenging periods. When I was pregnant with my second child and you’re pregnant, so tired and you have no energy. He, the beauty about it, too, is we always kind of balance each other out.

If my enthusiasm wanes, his usually goes up, and vice versa. There were some times where he was like, “We got to record this podcast. We got to do this,” and all I wanted to do is curl up into my pregnant nest in the corner and not work on it.

RC: For anybody who doesn’t know what a virtual yoga studio means, could you explain what that would look like?

As it was originally conceived, it was a membership site. People would sign up for a monthly fee and they would have 24/7 access to online yoga videos. There are lots of those sites out there. A lot of them have a lot of variety. You can choose the level, the body focus.

Our site was very specifically designed to limit choices. We didn’t want you to be able to pick between eight different levels of a class. We wanted you to, because these were busy moms, we wanted them to come on and say, “I have this much time,” and press a button and take their class.

RC: What happened with that concept? Did your business change? How did it evolve since you launched that idea?

Tell me a little bit about that first step, that first concept and how things have gone since then?

It’s changed completely. In fact, there is actually not even a relic of that membership site anymore. That was just a year ago, basically. There were a couple challenges to that business model that we discovered pretty quickly off the bat.

The first was that it was a very low price point. It was like 9.99 for a month’s worth of access, which is pretty much the standard for a lot of the online yoga sites. I didn’t feel really comfortable going much beyond that at the beginning.

That meant that I would have to get so many people to sign up on a given month to have any sort of decent revenue coming in.

Especially when you’re starting out and you don’t have your marketing systems in place and kind of working for you. It was like, I mean, if you think about running ads or anything, the amount of work it would take to actually make it a viable business was very daunting.

The other challenge that I faced was because it was specifically designed to limit choices and all I wanted people to think about was the time that they had, I was having a really hard time getting really clear on who my ideal client was.

Yes, it’s a busy mom, but some busy moms want something that’s really relaxing. Some want something that’s like their workout in 20 minutes. When I would go to film these videos, I didn’t know who I was filming it for.

I tried to go through the exercises of completing my avatar and really thinking about who this woman was. I could picture her, but then I knew that then my ability to like attract that one person was still going to be very challenging because it was like I just couldn’t speak to her.

I just didn’t have a clear enough sense of her. For that reason, it felt like people would join and drop off really quickly because it wasn’t quite meeting their needs and I was struggling to show up and record the classes, because I didn’t feel good about them.

RC: Everybody’s so different. You had to niche down even more. Tell me about, once you realized those two things, the numbers didn’t work and you didn’t have the right person quite yet.

What happened after that? What was the process that got you to what you’re doing these days?

It was still really important to me to not have it be huge amounts of choice. One option could have been to really complicate the membership site and add in all sorts of different options that they could do. I didn’t want to do that because that’s what all the other yoga sites do.

As a busy mom, myself, using those sites, I would spend like 15 minutes picking a class and then my baby would wake up and I wouldn’t have any time to actually do the class. I really didn’t want to do that. Then the natural progression was like:

“Okay, how can we give? How can I create something for a specific person while still making it be a very easy customer experience?”

That is where the idea of product bundles came from. These were sets of yoga classes all designed around a specific theme, so like a beginner bundle and a power bundle.

These are going to be yoga products where it’d just have a couple of classes but it would be self-contained at a higher price point and I could really say, “This is what you get out of this and this is who this is for.” That was the next step.

Then, as we were creating those bundles, I felt really strongly about offering a bundle that was specifically for women who had abdominal separation during their pregnancy and after their pregnancy or diastasis recti.

The truth is that I also, I had a slight diastasis and when I returned back to yoga, without knowing it, I was doing more harm than good to my own body. It took me a long time to figure out how to modify my yoga practice to make it safe for my post partum body.

I knew that I wanted, if moms are my target audience, I want to make sure I’m giving them what they need. I was going to make a bundle about that.

Then I started to make the bundle and I was like, “Wait a second. This is not a bundle.” Bundles were also still a really low price point. They were probably like $59, $60. It was still the same issue.

I’m going to have to get a lot of people. When I started to get into that diastasis, I said, “No, this is a much bigger topic. I can’t really cover this in a couple yoga classes.” It really is. It’s a whole reeducation of the way you move your body and the way you practice yoga and all of that.

I was like, “This needs to be bigger. That was where the Heal Your Core With Yoga program came from, which is now the signature offering of brb and really the main focus of the whole business at this point.

RC: What was it like to start bringing diastasis recti up? What did that look like when you started these conversations and talking to real people?

That’s a great question. It was really interesting. We’re in an interesting time, I think, for this topic. It’s like awareness of it is growing. People have babies and are like, “What’s this diastasis thing? I’ve heard of it and I know maybe it’s not good and I don’t want to have it.”

There’s not a lot of good information out there. The way I started broaching the topic like on my Facebook page and in my Facebook group was really just starting with education of core health.

The first thing, I think I remember when I had always, it’s so funny, because when we first began brb, I was like, “I wonder if these should all be diastasis safe yoga? If that should be the site?”

RC: Could have had that little nudge like little voice saying, “You should do this.

I couldn’t listen to it at that point. It was too specific. I was like, “There’s no way.”

As the bundles were being created and I was thinking about, “Okay, maybe this needs to be more,” I remember posting one article in particular onto my Facebook page about how crunches, how you don’t really want to do crunches after you have a baby.

It was like my little, bitty Facebook page at that point blew up in conversation. All of these people, people who had diastasis were like, “Thank you for putting this information out there.”

People who had had a baby were like, “Wow, this is so interesting. I didn’t realize this.” It was like, “Oh, wow. This is something that is really resonating with people.”

Then the questions obviously, after that, were like, “What do we do instead?” That’s the concern. I want to get my body back. I want to feel strong again.

I’ve been doing this stuff that now you’re telling me is actually causing more damage than good, because the reality is if you have just had a baby and you start doing crunches, you’re probably just continuing to strain that connective tissue that connects your abdominal muscles.

I started really by just testing it, throwing some information out there. I was so relieved by the way that people were reacting because it was like, “Not only is this something that people are finding really interesting and relevant to them, but they also really feel like they need more education on it.”

For me, it was really exciting too because as a yoga instructor, I have always been an anatomy and alignment geek. That’s the stuff that I love. It was interesting, too, in regular, like when brb was founded, I was just doing regular yoga videos.

There’s a ton of people that can teach a good yoga class. There’s not as many people who can really translate anatomy and alignment information in a way that people absorb it well. I know that that’s something I’m good at.

It was like, “Wow, not only is this interesting to them but it’s like I get to step into more of my expertise and the stuff that I love doing.”

RC: What’s interesting as you’re talking is there’s a couple of little like breadcrumbs you’re dropping here for everybody.

First, when you landed on the brb yoga, even though it wasn’t exactly what it was going to become, you did have people showing up. You did have some people pay you.

You were like, “Okay, busy moms need yoga. We have validated it. We’ve made our first dollar. Now we just need to figure out how the business is going to work and exactly what the offering is.

Then you started throwing it out there, as you said and for you it was putting out information on your Facebook and seeing the response, that was the validation. People are seeing this, they’re asking questions, way different response than anything you had posted before.

I think we often have those thoughts. Like, maybe we should do this, and it’s like a divine intervention here saying, “Hey, this is where you should go.”

Then our logical brain takes over and says, “No, no. That’s too specific”

You had that intuitive hit earlier on and six months into it you realized, “Okay, I should have listened to that guy.”

It’s so true. Although, I wonder, if had tried to implement it at that point, what would have happened. It was like in some way, I needed to kind of go through the journey to actually be able to execute on this idea in the way that I did.

RC: Tell me about how you created the course? What does it look like since you’ve created the course?

How many times have you run it? How did you launch it? How are you getting the word out about this thing?

It has grown every time. The first time I launched the beta, I think I had 28 people in it. Then this last round I got 87 people total, which was just mind boggling.

In terms of launching it, the beta round it was like, again, same thing, my email list, my tiny email list at the time and doing Facebook posts. I had a Facebook group and I got a lot of interest from that and then a couple of Facebook ads.

At that point it was a really low price point thing so it was easy, I think, for people to say yes to it. Since then, the push has really been to marketing.

I’m marketing it constantly like on podcasts and with my blog and everything. The focus for the launches has been a lot of Facebook ads and webinars, which I think because I am so very clear on who my person is and because their pain points are very, very clear to me now at this point, having run it a couple of times, that my ads, they convert very, very well, at low cost.

I think this last time, I think I spent something like, I don’t know, $15-1800 to get a $22,000 revenue from it. It was just insane.

This was a system that now is working. The launch process really now looks like, I grow my list through ads and other sources and then I have a wait list for the program. I run a webinar for the people who are on the list.

Then, the thank you to your help, Rachael, you helped my webinar become so much better and so much higher converting this last run. That converts well. Then, follow up with email. I guess, above that like 3% conversion rate for my list. I think it was like four or 5% this last time like total.

RC: What I really love about watching you with this journey is you did your first beta round. It was kind of a soft launch. It wasn’t like going all out. You didn’t spend $1500 on ads that first time.

The next time you launched it, you threw in the webinar and you started doing some ads and you had some great questions around all of those things.

Then the most recent time it’s not like you were doing a whole new thing, changing up the way you were launching it, it was just like you were adding in some pieces and improving on what you already saw worked.

Because it’s those small improvements like those incremental upgrades that make such a massive difference and because you already knew a webinar worked once, it’s like, “No reason to create a whole new way to enroll this thing. Let’s just make the webinar better.”

Absolutely. It’s such an amazing shift in terms of the way the whole process feels from that first time to this third time because it was like, the first time we did it, we were like, “Wow, we just got people to sign up. Amazing, right?”

The second time was a pretty successful launch too. I think we had probably about 40 people sign up at that point, but it was at a higher price point. That was the first time we used that webinar. It was like, “Okay, now we’ve got this system. This seems to be working.

Then you like go to do it the third time and you’re like, “I think it’s going to work again.” Then, now that it actually has and you saw that this third time it worked again and we’re able to improve it, it’s like, “Okay, yeah, this is a legitimate system and now it is.”

The focus is not what am I making, it’s now, “How do I scale it? How do I improve it, how do I optimize it to make it even more, to get it into the hands of more people?”

RC: Tell me about the evolution of the program itself? What have you learned creating a program like this?

The program itself, all the pieces were there, but the guidance of the customer experience was not. I was like, “Here, here’s the stuff you need,” without saying, “Here’s where you should start and then go here and like all that.”

The second time around, I actually did rerecord almost every single piece of it, because I just needed too. I also then layered in all of the support pieces and I created, I added some accountability in and gave them a weekly schedule to help keep them on track.

The impact, for those students, it was just everyone had such a better experience and there were much better results.

Then this third round, it’s so funny because I keep being like, “I should probably rerecord this.” I’ve actually rerecorded videos and then gone to edit them and then like right before I switch one out, I’m like, “No, actually, I’m going to leave that old one.”

I realize, it is just a mindset thing. I’m like, it’s hard to realize you don’t have to work that hard every single time you’re running it.

I think I’m just trying to get to that mental state where I’m like, “It’s okay to now let it be a thing where I’m just supporting the people as they work through the content that I’ve created. I don’t have to be killing myself ever time.”

RC: That’s exactly what you wanted when you and your husband sat down for your life summit and you both came back with freedom, it’s not to be on this content treadmill where you’re constantly like behind a computer screen or recording something. It’s to have these assets that work for you. That’s something.

It took me awhile to get that one too. I would rerecord stuff and rerecord stuff. Now, it’s so different having these systems in place and having these assets that people can get so much value out of now.

Like, I’ve had people who ask me, “Rach, why are you doing weekly calls just for everybody who’s ever taken your program?” “Like, because this is fun. This is the fun stuff. This is the good stuff.”

It’s no longer feeling like you have to be creating stuff just for the sake of creating stuff. It’s now I can spend my energy where I can really offer extra value instead of rerecording something that was pretty darn good to begin with.

Actually, I stole that idea from you. I do that in my. I have a little Q&A in my Facebook group, too. I think, just recently the other day, I was like, “I had this realization, even if that content is in the course so often they’re still going to ask it in the group.”

In some ways you could add everything you know to the course and it’s not actually going to improve the experience as much just that one hour a week of access to you would.

RC: As you have gone through this roller coaster ride, what has the impact been for your business and your life?

From a business perspective, one, the clarity that I now have in who my customer is and how I serve them has made everything feel easier. My marketing, my speaking, my writing blog posts, everything feels easier because I know who I’m talking to and I know how I can help them.

Then, just like the personal fulfillment level, that shift from serving someone who I didn’t know who I was serving to now really like stepping into what my real skills are and seeing how I am helping women be able to run around and play with their kids without feeling pain. That’s amazing, just that feel what this impact that you are having on other people’s lives. It’s so wonderful.

Because my business has grown now, I’ve been able to bring some team members to help support me. I’ve been able to outsource some things so I’m starting to see this life of freedom that I’ve been working towards and really be able to not do everything all myself. It has been years of hustle, with two little kids, trying to do it all.

Now, that we have gotten the business to a point where it’s really, we see that it can sustain us, my husband is leaving his job in June and we are moving into an RV. We just sold our house. We will be traveling around the country, working from the road, letting our kids experience the world.

It is like finally, all of this stuff that we pictured. I mean our life summit, we said we want to walk out our door and see the mountains. We can do that now. That’s what we are going to be able to do. It’s just been an amazing journey.

RC: What is your biggest number one piece of advice you would give to somebody who’s about to sit down with their husband and have the life summit?

The life summit is key. Having that big picture vision that you’re working towards is so important to keep you going when you’re in the valley of misery, because it will happen. It will totally happen.

RC: The trap of sorrow, that’s what they call it in the startup world. It’s a trap of sorrow, and it totally can be.

It really can. Having that vision, that joint vision was huge, just to keep you going. I think also, for my journey and something that has been really, really important is, because everyone’s like just start, just start.

You have to just start. You also have to strategically invest to fill in your gaps. Click To Tweet

When we started brb yoga, we had a product, we had this membership site but like no vision, no strategy for how it was going to happen. That’s when I joined Sweet Spot Strategy, because I was like, “I need to have a plan. I don’t have a plan right now.”

That was huge, because I then came out with a amazing understanding of the plan that I need to have and the journey that I should be taking in my business, and I met all these people that were going through it to which was hugely helpful.

Then, as it grew, it was like, okay, now I’ve got this Heal Your Core program. I need to figure out how to get it in front of more eyes quickly because I want to do this fast.

It was like, “I need to figure out Facebook ads, take a Facebook ads course, accelerate that.” Now at this point it’s like okay, now I’m getting in front of people, I’m getting people on my list.

I just signed up for a copywriting course, because now I want to be able to convert them, as many of them as I can. It’s this sense of just starting is good.

You do have to do that, but then really just thinking about what’s the one piece you need right now to take the big step forward. I think that’s been really helpful, because when I signed up for your course, I was making like $60 a month.

It was terrifying, but absolutely the best investment I could have made at that point. I’ve always found that to be the case if I’m very smart about what I am signing up for. Investing strategically to move yourself to the next step has been very valuable.

RC: Tell everybody about your brbyoga.com and where can people come find you online? Where’s your favorite place to hang out?

Yeah, so I spend the most time, well, actually the only place I spend time, is on Facebook. You can go to facebook.com/brbyoga. That is my, I don’t do any of the others yet.

RC: Thank you so much, Catherine, for coming on and chatting with me and hopefully inspiring everybody with your incredible story.

***

Don’t you just love Catherine? She really makes me, as the teacher, look pretty darn good. I have to say that this was 100% her. I really want to share with you the most important thing I think Catherine really did in this entire journey was sitting down with her husband and creating that life plan. That is such a genius idea.

After working literally hundreds of people, I can tell you that her having that clarity about where they want to go and what they want to do and what they want to experience and what they want to have makes all the difference.

Whether you have a partner or you’re on your own, you need that level of clarity for why you’re creating this business and what is this business going to do for you?

What does this business allow you to do, be, have, feel, experience, that you couldn't have before?Click To Tweet

She was able to design this business very intentionally, because she knew that something they wanted to do was have a business that supported their entire family. She knew that she wanted to have freedom to travel. She knew that she didn’t want her time dictated by a bunch of appointments.

Suddenly, by putting those parameters in place, she was able to create the right business. I think that is just incredible.

I’m going to encourage you, if you’ve never sat down to not write a business plan, not create a vision board, but create that life plan for what you want to do in maybe the next two or three years, and what you want this business to do for you. That could make such a huge difference and give you so much focus.

If you have a significant other, sit down together and go through that process because this is how you enroll your support team. This is how you get your husband or your wife or your boyfriend or your girlfriend or whoever is in your world, your best friend, like sit down and say, “Hey, what are we wanting to create together and how are we going to do this?” I think that makes such a huge difference.

I can tell you when my husband and I sit down and have these big conversations about what we want to create in our life, it actually makes me think bigger than I would have completely on my own. It gives me confidence that we can do these things, even if they are hard things.

Thank you so much, Katherine and to everyone, Casey, Veronica, Hannah, everyone that I had the opportunity to catch up with and share the entrepreneurial journey, the messy middle, these hard decisions and these big changes that you had to go through in order to get to where you are in your business.

I’m so incredibly proud of each and every one of you, and I know that this is just the beginning, you have so much further to go and I can’t wait to see the next chapter unfold in your businesses.

I hope you loved this interview series. If you did, make sure you let me know by leaving a review here on iTunes. When you do, it’ll help me to reach and serve more amazing entrepreneurs like yourself who are ready to work less and live more.

If you like hearing these types of stories, these types of interviews, let me know. Usually this is a solo show, but I really, really enjoy these conversations. Make sure you let me know if you love them and I’ll plan another series soon. Okay, take care. I’ll talk to you in the next episode of Uncomplicate Your Business.