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Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Mari Carmen

Mari Carmen is the founder of FIT MAMA App, an app aimed at pre and post-natal women to become the very best version of themselves, from sleeping tips, to nutrition guides and even targeted workouts for each stage of the parenting journey. As a former paediatric nurse at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and a mum of three, Mari brings a unique and well-informed background to the space. 

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

I am a mother of three and founder of Mari Carmen Fitness. My background is in paediatric intensive care nursing, I worked at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital for 6 years before having my first child. With a passion for health and fitness, whilst on maternity leave after witnessed firsthand my experiences when it came to training throughout pregnancy and how to return to exercise safely after having a baby. I found there was so much conflicting information when it came to what to do and what not to, so I decided to train in pre and postnatal fitness. I started my course when my baby was 4 months old and began training clients in my garage from home. My business grew very quickly, so decided not to return to my nursing job and put my full efforts into growing my business. I soon grew a great reputation throughout Leamington Spa for being the expert in pre and postnatal fitness. COVID hit which forced me to take my business online, I grew my skills to work with clients on an online basis. During this time, I was using a white-labelled app to deliver my online coaching programs, this led to me doing a lot of research in pre and postnatal fitness apps. I found a gap in the market, there were very few health and fitness apps specifically designed for busy mums. Many fitness apps are just stuck on a postnatal program at the end of their current offering.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

The idea of the company came to me after witnessing first-hand the lack of inconsistent information for mums during pregnancy and postpartum about health and fitness. The lack of health, fitness and wellness apps specifically designed for the mother to support throughout pregnancy and beyond, not just with fitness exercises. 

How did you achieve awareness?

My brand Mari Carmen Fitness grew organically throughout my local area via word of mouth. Since launching my business, I created my own Instagram account, where I provided value to my followers. This has now grown to just under 7k followers. I have a website which I have spent a lot of time building out and developing valuable reviews and SEO. I am now engaging with a PR agency to build brand awareness countrywide to support mothers/mother to be throughout the whole of the UK. 

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

FIT MAMA powered by Mari Carmen Fitness has self-funded through my investment and grants from the local councils. I was lucky to get awarded a grant from Focus Digital in April 2022 to support phase 1 of app development and a further grant from Coventry City Council in June 2023 to support phase 2 of the app. A further grant in December 2023 from Warwick County Council to support PR. These grants have helped the app development and working revenue to support the growth of the app from a marketing and PR point of view. 

What are the key successes?

My key success is growing such a successful business from scratch whilst on maternity leave with my first child. 7 years on and 3 children later, I had no idea how big my business would grow and what an impact I would have on women’s health, fitness, and wellness. Although COVID was such a stressful time for businesses, it was a turning point for my business and gave me the kick I needed to expand to online services. Growing my online platform has enabled me to reach more mothers across the UK and make a difference. The launch of my app was such a big achievement of mine, I was naive in the sense that I thought app development would be easy. I couldn’t have been further from the truth, the project experienced delays and bumps in the road.

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

There have been many challenges over the last few years during the app development. Balancing children and growing a business is a challenge but something I am very grateful for. My children are the reason why, this gives me more motivation and tenacity to achieve my long-term vision. Secondly, app development was something I had no idea about, finding the right resources and support to help me on this journey was a challenge. Delays in the project had an impact on the company’s revenue and required further investment from myself. The app was launched in January 2023. Marketing an app requires a hell of a lot of work and money in order to filter through the noise of other health and fitness apps. During this time, I had to change marketing strategy as what we was doing wasn’t working. As a business owner you must fail in order to grow. All these challenges have developed my resilience and have demonstrated grit and tenacity from me to achieve with my long-term vision. 

What are your plans now/for the future?

Since launching the app I have carried out further research and feedback from my customers. Currently the NHS spends 1.5 billion per year on maternal mental health support and 45,000,000 on pelvic floor dysfunction services. There is currently no comprehensive antenatal and postnatal program on an app which supports the mother right from pregnancy through to the first year of the baby’s life. I want to build my app to provide a free pre and postnatal program which offers the mother to be/mother support to help prevent pelvic floor and maternal mental health problems. This is just the start, I have so many other plans. For this part I need further support to grow and achieve this.

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

If you are in a career which doesn’t serve you any more or you have a burning desire in your stomach to start your own business. Then go for it. I have showed that you can absolutely build a new career, start a new business whilst also raising children. Spend time building your own self-belief and vision in order to carry you through these stressful times, when you may want to quit. You just gotta keep going!!!

i. Be crystal clear on your vision, what does this look like, what does this feel like, is this in alignment with your own values.

ii. Don’t listen to family and friends who haven’t been on this journey, listen to those mentors around you who are on the journey you are following.

iii. Work on your confidence. I have been seeing a therapist now for the last 2 years and it has had a significant impact on my growth, in order to develop a successful business, you have to have unlimited self-belief and confidence, you need to feel in deep down in your tummy.

iv. Set boundaries- being an entrepreneur and a mother requires so much from you, you do not have time to be spending it with those that don’t fill your cup. My children, my husband and my business are my three priorities. I have realised if I want to take my business to where I want it to go, I must look after myself, my physical and mental health. The only way I can do this is by keeping my weekends free to reset and spend the time with those that matter most. To go again on Monday. 

Who are the people who inspire you the most and why?

i. My children- I look at my children every day and they inspire me to be the best I can be.

ii. Fearne Cotton, I love how she is authentic and unapologetically herself, she has left a career which didn’t serve her and went on her own journey. Her podcast is amazing, she is never afraid to speak her own truth and share with her listeners who own demons she has overcome. We need more women like this, we are not perfect, everyone is different but we all have a purpose on this planet and are worthy to achieve all the success and happiness in the world.

What are your favourite inspirational/motivational quotes?

Comparison is the thief of joy. We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty. The question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me. If you’re in doubt, you’re right, trust your instincts. 

Website: https://www.maricarmenfitness.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maricarmenfitness

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mari-carmen-sanchez-morris-262665199/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maricarmenfitness/