I help brides get in shape for their weddings with an online-only business — here’s how I set it up and keep raking in clients

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Stephanie Thomas, a certified personal trainer and the owner of Stephanie Thomas Fitness, who’s in her late 20s and lives in Maryland. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I’m a bridal personal trainer, certified health coach, and the owner of Stephanie Thomas Fitness, which I officially launched in 2019. I rebranded and redesigned my website to focus on bridal parties in 2021. Prior to my rebrand, I was a general women’s fitness coach and helped women through personal training and yoga classes.

After competing in Miss Teen USA in 2012 and looking for a way to destress, I fell in love with yoga and started to practice daily. I started my career in fitness in 2014, when I became a certified yoga teacher and taught yoga classes to women at my college, local yoga studios, and gyms.

I now offer online personal training and nutrition-coaching plans for brides, bridesmaids, and mothers of the bride. Training online can actually be a lot more work than just training at a gym, but it gives me the ability to help more brides that I wouldn’t have otherwise. My fitness program helps my clients look and feel their best for the special day and show off their hard work in the wedding photos. I’ve helped hundreds of brides with my programs so far in 2022.

The plans are tailored to each bride, so they can feel confident they’re following a fitness and/or nutrition plan that fits their specific goals and lifestyle

All my offerings are online, so clients have the flexibility to complete their workouts on their own time. They connect with me directly through the app Trainerize, where they can message me with any questions or whenever they need extra motivation or support.

My most popular offering is a 90-day wedding-workout program called Bridal Body Fitness. It costs $247 total for three months of access to the program and includes a fitness plan, nutrition advice, and the support of 10 other brides in a group chat. Additionally, I offer digital PDF guides. The most popular digital plan is The Bridal Arms Workout Guide, which I sell for $19 and includes a four-week arm-sculpting workout plan designed specifically for brides.

I also run a “Sweating for the Wedding” Facebook community that I’ve grown to almost 7,000 members and a weekly wellness newsletter called the “Sunday Sweat” which has tens of thousands of subscribers. The Facebook group is getting refined right now, but in the past it’s included monthly workout challenges in a calendar format. I’ll be moving brides to a separate group soon who want weekly fitness and nutrition tips in addition to the challenges.

The newsletter includes a motivational message, a weekly blog post feature, a recipe of the week, and a feature of one of my favorite wedding, fitness, or lifestyle products.

Some brides have unrealistic expectations, which isn’t their fault at all. It’s simply what we’re marketed to as women. We’re sold quick fixes and fad diets, and we expect to get results quickly. I help educate brides and explain how to get results in a healthy and realistic way.

The first few months of business consisted of learning and trying new things

My startup costs were only a few thousand dollars. I didn’t know if I should focus my time on Pinterest, Instagram, building my email list, or creating a good website, and I didn’t know how to begin to market my services to my ideal client. To address this challenge, I started by posting regularly across platforms, and clients started signing up for my different offerings. Many of them also said they found me through a Google search.

Facebook and Instagram have been the most helpful for my business, and I’ll be focusing on short-form video in 2023, which is something I haven’t had much time for. I’ve been consistent with posting on social media, posting blogs on my website, sending email newsletters, and learning more about business and marketing. These small daily actions have contributed to my business growth.

After working with many brides I completely rebranded my business to focus on wedding fitness

I worked with a fantastic designer, Kailynn Summer, whom I met through a small-business-support group we were in together, to rebrand my business and create my dream website. Once I focused on this niche, I started bringing in more revenue.

One of my favorite resources is Jasmine Star’s Social Curator, which gives you customizable social-media-caption templates, group-coaching sessions, a social-media action plan, and more for $49 a month. I’ve been a member for more than three years now.

I was also lucky enough to meet my business coach, Rebecca Kelly, through an online course we took together. Rebecca runs an online-coaching community for women in business called Badass Business Co, and signing up was one of the best decisions I’ve made. She’s been one of the biggest supporters of my business. Getting feedback on marketing campaigns and systems from other business owners and having an extra set of eyes to look at things has been very helpful. Plus the overall accountability and support has helped me stay positive and excited about my business.

I would advise new business owners to start growing their email list from the beginning

It’s one of the best ways to connect with your audience regularly and build trust with them. I would also recommend finding a business-accountability partner. Through the Social Curator community, I found my accountability partner and friend, Michele. Knowing you have someone to share your business highs and lows with is so encouraging. We check in with each other, and when I set a goal, she asks me how it went.

On social media, engage with your audience, ask them questions, and simply talk to them. The fact that I was in my clients’ positions getting in shape for my own wedding a few years ago really helps me make authentic connections with brides.

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A hedonist with a great passion for food. I baked my first biscuit at the age of five, since then I cook every day and get real pleasure from it. I am fond of intellectual games, with great interest I study scientific works on history and medicine and at the same time I follow pop culture, fashion and beauty trends.

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