Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and fitness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with MJ Shaw, Founder of SOUL FUEL Fitness, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

SOUL FUEL is a boutique fitness studio in Bloor West Toronto that offers 40 weekly fitness, yoga, and dance Group Classes, Small Group training sessions, Personal Training, and Private Party classes. We offer these services InStudio, Online and onsite for private groups. We have a diverse clientele of mostly women looking for a warm, welcoming, and fun place to have an exceptional movement experience!

Tell us about yourself

SOUL FUEL was born out of the desire to create a space where fitness is an act of EMPOWERMENT, of STRENGTHENING from the inside out, of finding JOY in moving your body.

I've been teaching fitness, yoga, and dance across North America for over 25 years. Since childhood, I've been entrenched in environments and industries that were aesthetically driven, body-dysmorphic, and even abusive. Years of therapy, recovery, fertility treatments, and motherhood have helped me surrender to the real beauty and power my body holds. My mission is to share a body-positive approach to fitness, welcoming in some 67% of North Americans who do not feel comfortable or confident at the gym.

SOUL FUEL welcomes both fitness gurus and novices alike, where participants feel challenged but not intimated, no matter where they are in their fitness journey. More than a gym, SOUL FUEL is a place we promise kindness, community, and lots of fun! We also promise fantastic and varied workouts that will motivate you from a place of improving physical, mental, and spiritual health.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Creating the brand from the ground up and watching it manifest and grow. Surviving the pandemic in a city with the longest lockdowns in the world (over 300 days) without compromising my integrity or ethics. Providing a positive place for my staff and clients to make their lives better.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Managing people, both staff and clients. I have 20 staff and 500 clients, and I am 100% owner and boss - it's all on me, and I have to filter a lot of energy and feedback. My leadership growth in the last three years measures what I've learned in the last 23, but some of those lessons have been hard-won.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Dig deep and be clear on what you want your business to give to the world. Often we think about how our business is self-serving, but once you flip the focus, customers can feel that good energy and desire to help being directed at them. That is what draws people into your product or service.
  2. Start small with what you can afford to do and build from there.
    Sometimes ambitious eyes are bigger than our stomachs. Focus on making your top products the best they can be, narrow in on what's working, and diversify slowly.
  3. Once you find good people, hold them close. This goes for staff and customers. We are often so focused on acquisition that we forget about retention. Creating a tight and loyal community is your best chance at surviving and thriving. Their word of mouth is also your best marketing.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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