She describes herself as a mother, wife, yogi, entrepreneur, CEO and business leader. In over 20 years of working in health and fitness, there isn’t a part of the industry Maria Turco hasn’t been a part of, worked in, mentored or impacted. Here is a glimpse into Maria’s journey to success…
From the front desk to industry trailblazer
At 16 years old and 60 pounds overweight, Maria Turco began her start in the industry at the front desk of what was then the Living Well gym in Hopewell Valley, New Jersey. At one point the owner told her that she had to teach a class. She instructed Slide and Step aerobics classes to what she calls, “crazy choreography.” The club was the first - yes, the first in the U.S. - to offer Les Mills Body Pump classes. Maria was one of the first instructors to teach off of “Tape 1” of the very first Body Pump workout release… a fun fact about which she is quite nostalgic.
After spending time in different roles, she started managing clubs in Chelsea Piers, New York City. By her early 30s, she realized she had gained valuable experience in all parts of the fitness industry, she was self-taught on how to make a business profitable and started to get a lot of questions from club owners. Ninety percent of the industry at that time were still mom-and-pop gyms and they were seeking help as the industry began to shift towards consolidation.
By 2001, she became a co-founder and senior partner of New Paradigm Partners, a brokerage, management and consulting firm specific to the health and fitness industry. In 2003, she purchased the Eclipse fitness club in Green Brook, New Jersey and subsequently partnered in four Crunch Fitness franchises in New Jersey and New York. As if this resume isn’t impressive enough, she then founded fitRewards in 2005 seeing the need to offer health and fitness facilities a reward and loyalty program that has helped hundreds of fitness businesses increase referrals, improve attrition and create more revenue.
A determined dharma
Though Maria shifted much of her professional time from Step Aerobics and Body Pump classes to consulting and managing her businesses, the common thread is that teaching is at the heart of all she does in each of her roles. She is driven by a strong desire to help and give back by applying all she has learned over her years of experience.
Her current focus is perhaps the perfect culmination of her desire, strengths, gifts and what she believes is her dharma, or mission. Eight weeks after her best friend died of cancer she received her yoga teacher training. She was approached by a friend who asked her to help her open a yoga studio. She proposed to Maria that she would focus on the yoga part, but it would be Maria’s gift of business and experience that would make it a success. And so, Honor Yoga was born in Hamilton, New Jersey in 2013. Flash forward less than three years and there are now 10 Honor Yoga locations and a working focus in motion to open franchises nationally.
Maria’s dharma is not driven by financial gain as a first objective. She has created a business model that helps yogis run a fulfilling and sustainable business, one that also supports the growth of strong communities. “With the creation of Honor,” Maria explains, “I have taken my experience and applied it to a network of community-based yoga studios where people can come to care for their bodies, their minds and their spirits through a holistic and fulfilling yoga practice.”
In a world where fitness has become so often too retail and transactional, Maria’s approach with Honor Yoga exemplifies the perfect combination of heart, compassion and the necessary keen business sense to become successful and perhaps more importantly, remain sustainable; a challenge many well-intentioned yoga practitioners and fitness professionals are all too familiar with. With Maria’s insight and expertise, just as she’s achieved with some of the most influential fitness clubs, she has worked with yogis and studio owners to triple and even quadruple their business and successfully brand and market to drive more traffic, creating thriving businesses for themselves and by extension their communities.
Advice from the inside
As is evident with her breadth of experience, Maria has been closely involved in nearly every aspect of the industry. With the evolution of health clubs increasingly consolidating, and the independent, middle-market clubs diminishing, the market seems to be splitting into two categories: the low price/high-volume clubs and the high value/boutique facilities. She attests this is a great time for independent trainers since the market is ready and willing to pay for higher-value services. The key, she says, is to develop a strong brand that will stand up against consolidated, middle-market brands like Crossfit and Orange Theory. This is especially important if one doesn’t have strong business, sales and marketing experience.
The most important thing
When asked how she balances her drive and sustainability with her roles as mom, wife, CEO, volunteer and leader, she says the key for her is to answer the question, “what is the most important thing I can do in each role this week.” By being purposeful about accomplishing this weekly, it keeps her balanced and ensuring that she’s not looking back years later and saying she wishes she did this or that. The most important thing is to never feel like a victim; take charge of your life and don’t let it take charge of you.
The gift that keeps on giving
Maria’s resume of experience over the last 20-plus years is without question impressive. Multiple successful businesses and a quickly growing yoga studio franchise is undoubtedly proof of her business savvy, love of the industry and keen sense of our industry. However, perhaps the less obvious accomplishment, one that can’t always be quantified on a resume, is her impact. Her genuine commitment to giving is evident in the success of the business owners she’s helped elevate, the clubs and studios she’s helped grow that in turn serve their communities and create meaningful change in people’s lives. Maria Turco is certainly a gift to our industry that keeps on giving.
President and founder of Honor Yoga, fitness industry entrepreneur, consultant and speaker
Certifications: ERYT, NASM, AFAA
Education: Rider University
Favorite piece of equipment: my yoga mat
Favorite quote: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Contact information: email@example.com
Social Media: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mariaparrellaturco