We had the good fortune of connecting with Allison & Mike McCurdy and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Allison & Mike, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Our entire life has incorporated risk. We are both self-employed (by choice), owned and sold a successful franchise that we opened during the worst recession in modern history, and designed our life around not sitting in an office.
We perceive risk as opportunities that we may have missed if we hadn’t stopped to take a closer look. For instance, Mike took the risk of switching career industries in his late twenties and it brought us from Denver to San Diego where we have thrived ever since. We wouldn’t be raising our kids in our amazing community and neighborhood without having taken the risk of opening up the first Bar Method fitness studio in San Diego during the 2008 recession. We chose Liberty Station and met so many amazing people, we decided to raise a family in Point Loma.
When the recession hit, Mike’s employer (Pulte Homes) closed its San Diego offices, so he took the risk of going on his own in residential real estate. After selling the studio in 2019, I joined Mike as his marketing manager and am still finding my way. Is it the best long term option for me? I am not sure yet, but it’s working so I have room to figure it out.
Though some risks may not turn out to be positive experiences, you learn a lot and it helps you hone your risk assessment skills.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My career has taken many twists and turns, but I always come back to entrepreneurship. My first professional job out of college was in London for a big media company. I was a complete fish out of water not only because I had never been there before, but never had an office job with a title and lots of responsibility. It set the tone for the rest of my life, however.
I was so excited about international business that I went back to get my MBA in International Business and Marketing. From there I worked in all facets of marketing in Silicon Valley for start ups and established companies like Black & Decker. I traveled a lot throughout those 12 years and it was getting in the way of starting a family. So, I decided to open my own fitness studio!! What?!
I felt like I had the experience and guts to merge my passion for fitness with business, so I wrote a business plan, we downsized our life into our friends’ garage apartment, and Mike and I invested our life savings. Then the market crashed. We were tied into a seven year lease and on the hook for $1 million dollars if we failed…so failure was just not an option. We worked really hard and ended up running one of the most popular boutique fitness studios in the area.
There are a couple of really great lessons I learned from the past 25 years. First, is you see an opportunity, make sure you do your homework. Ask others for help. Find a mentor. Second, follow your passions. I am 47 and my generation was (seemingly) always told growing up that you can’t do your hobby as your profession. I completely disagree. I think it’s what makes you excited to get out of bed everyday and also you care so much about it that you will make it successful! Third, building a client community and serving them is essential to a small business’s success. The community you build helps align you, your staff and your business’s direction. You cannot be successful without serving the people that pay your bills. They are also loyal, help you build the business by referring it to their tribe, and pick you up when you need some lifting.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
San Diego is so dynamic. It’s definitely a beach town, so I have to say the beach first. Each beach has a different feel, but I think Coronado is so beautiful and open. I also love hiking Torrey Pines down onto the beach…how many places can say that! In the Fall, La Jolla Cove is so cool because you can swim, paddle board or kayak with the leopard sharks.
Hitting a game or event at Petco Park is a blast, but one of the coolest things to do is the stadium tour!! I tell everyone that comes to town to tour Petco Park and the Midway. Taking a tour of You & Yours Distillery or Cutwater is always a fun change up if you are not a huge beer drinker (since we are the country’s largest microbrewery city).
We have lived all over the county but several times next to Balboa Park, so I have a sweet spot for the urban neighborhoods that surround it like Hillcrest, University Heights, Banker’s Hill, North Park and South Park. Little Italy is the best for leisurely meal and I still love The Waterfront as an old school dive bar.
Head over to Point Loma and definitely hit Mitch’s for fish tacos, Surfside Deli, Sushi Lounge, The Little Lion, Ketch, and Sunnie’s after a walk along or surfing Sunset Cliffs. My favorite coffee and sweets spots are Banyan Kitchen & Cafe which includes Chi Chocolate Shop (I don’t like fancy coffee drinks, but you have to order the mocha made with fancy chocolate). Con Pane has the best baked breads – sourdough is my jam having grown up in San Francisco, but they have chocolate bread on weekends which is a special treat. Get there early though it sells out fast.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Wow, that’s a tough question. I would have to say three people come to mind.
First is my Dad. He is an entrepreneur by nature. He grew up very poor on the South Side of Chicago. He was the first in his family to go to college. He put himself through school with the help of the GI Bill. He had an opportunity in his early twenties to move to Silicon Valley, California and work in technology sales. The rest is history. He went on to own his own advertising company, work at many start ups, and create a very comfortable life for us. He has an insatiable appetite for learning and growing (even at 83) and I admire his dedication.
Second is my unpaid internship in college. Five other college kids and I worked for a stock broker and spent hours making cold calls. It was boring and humiliating when people yelled at you – I preferred when they just hung up. At the end of the internship he took us all out for pizza and beers and made us write down five things we were going to do in the next five years. Mine were: 1) travel outside the U.S., 2) live abroad, 3) work at a ski resort, 4) buy a car and 5) get my MBA. Once I wrote it down, I started telling people (because everyone asks you what your plan is after you graduate and it gave me something to say!). By human nature though, I had to now complete my list because I wanted to be able to say “yes!” if they asked!! It was the best life exercise ever and I now do the same with anyone I mentor or manage.
Lastly, I would say Burr Leonard. She is the founder of The Bar Method which is now an international franchise. She started a small fitness studio and it turned into a franchise. There were only a few studios when I opened mine in Liberty Station. Burr is so inspiring, always humble and taught me the value of the path to mastery. The premise is that you always find challenge in the things you do, but the path to mastery is all about improvement and not perfection – in other words it’s the journey that is fulfilling and not the destination. This aligns with me as an entrepreneur and risk taker because I always feel confident that I can figure things out and grow, but I know it’s not always going to be perfect.
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