If there is one thing that my Smart Hustle interview series proves, it’s that entrepreneurs can come from all walks of life. Can an artist be an entrepreneur? Yes! Can a personal finance expert be an entrepreneur? Yes! Can a nurse be an entrepreneur? Yes! For proof on that last point, let me introduce you to my latest interview guest, Julie Tupler, the owner of Diastasis Rehab and the creator of the Tupler Technique treatment for diastasis recti.
Putting Your Skills to Work
As a nurse, Julie has a lot of job possibilities, and business owner isn’t the first one that comes to mind. She could work in a hospital, or a doctor’s office, or provide individual home care, or even become an educator, teaching the future generations of nurses. Julie’s story actually starts back in California where she worked providing vocational rehabilitation services to people with back injuries.
As a vocational rehabilitator, she helped patients to find alternative careers when their back injuries prevented them from going back to their regular job. She helped them evaluate their skills and identify their passions so they could choose new professions.
One day, Julie decided that she should apply the same concept to her own life and career. “I took my own advice. I looked at all the skills that I had and all the things that I loved to do, and I created this business because I felt that I could contribute something that no one else was doing, creating a niche.”
As a registered nurse, a certified personal trainer, and a certified childbirth educator, Julie decided to focus on maternal fitness. From her experience as a childbirth educator, she realized that current programs only prepare an expecting mother’s mind for childbirth. However, to prepare for “the marathon of labor” you also have to train your body. She started her business, Maternal Fitness, in 1990, and she visited client’s homes to train them in exercises that would help them through labor. In 1996, she also shared her knowledge in a book of the same name.
In 2006, she decided to narrow her focus even more – but by doing so, she was actually able to expand her market. Let me explain.
One pregnancy-related problem that caught her attention was diastasis recti. Diastasis means separation, and the word recti refers to the outermost abdominal muscles. These muscles are what we know as the “six pack” muscles – two sets of muscles that are held together in the middle by connective tissue. The purpose of these muscles is to support your back and organs, so when they separate (which can happen during pregnancy), you can experience a range of problems including back issues, pelvic issues, and GI issues.
Science aside, Julie knew her Maternal Fitness program could help diastasis recti – but the condition is NOT restricted to pregnancy. In fact, men and children can experience it too. By focusing on diastasis recti specifically, she could further carve her niche AND expand her market.
In 2006 she began to pivot to this narrower focus, and in 2009 her program officially became Diastasis Rehab.
The Importance of Content
Julie has been able to build an “empire” out of this specialized niche – and you can do the same, regardless of what your niche is. She has products (such as special tapes and splints) and even a licensing program, but a lot of her focus is on content.
- Two bestselling books, with a third coming out at the end of 2016.
- Diastasis exercise DVDs that can be purchased or even streamed online.
- Additional guidebooks that work with the DVDs.
So how does Julie do it? With help, of course! When the idea of writing a book was first brought to her attention, she thought she couldn’t do it because she wasn’t a writer. But then she realized that there was help everywhere.
For book writing, you can get a co-writer to help you. You have to bring the knowledge to the table, but you can work with a writer who will help you share that knowledge in your own voice. To find a cowriter, just start searching online.
Then, when it's publishing time, you can always call on the help of a literary agent. Or, go the self-publishing route. Tools like Amazon make it very easy.
Julie actually found her graphic designer while standing in line at Trader Joes. The designer ended up working on her guides, the covers of her DVDs, brochures, and other branding elements. “You have to keep your eyes open,” she says. You never know who you’ll find, online or in person, who can help you.
In terms of fulfillment, when she got started, Julie would package and ship orders herself – but as business picked up, she found help from a fulfillment center.
Let Your Customers Guide Your Ventures
Another theme I noticed from my interview with Julie is that she really takes a customer-focused approach to building her business. For example, her book Maternal Fitness was a way to share her knowledge with other expecting mothers who couldn’t access her local training sessions, and her move to Diastasis Rehab was driven by the fact that many people, not just pregnant women, experience this painful condition.
Many of her products have also been driven by customers. For example, when she made the DVDs, customers asked for a “CliffsNotes” version to help them process all the information, so she created guide books that would help. And when a customer mentioned the difficulty of going through airport security with her splint product, which contained metal safety pins, she created a Velcro version.
There’s much more awaiting you in the full audio interview, where Julie talks about marketing, branding, and the importance of targeted networking. Julie may have a very specific niche, but her information- and customer-focused method of growing her business can be used by all. “Any business can help people,” Julie says. “That’s the thing. You have to think of ‘how can I support my clients best’?”