The best thing about living in the San Francisco Bay Area is that it’s home to so many dreamers, risk-takers, spiritual seekers and believers in personal growth. Too much media focus has been placed lately on escalating rents (yes, it is beyond crazy and disheartening) but not enough on the brave souls who continue to seek their destinies here against all odds. Recently I was surprised to learn of a growing and thriving community of self-employed personal coaches, particularly women, who focus on not only fitness but managing all aspects of our increasingly hectic urban lifestyle. There is a quiet revolution of health, spiritual awareness and positive change going on here, y’all! Over the next few weeks I will be posting interviews with five different but equally amazing women who are establishing themselves in this relatively new field (in 1990 there were only business or executive coaches. By 2008, 16 professional associations and 273 training schools for lifestyle coaches were established. Recently several prestigious universities such as Harvard, Yale and our own UC Berkeley have added personal coaching programs to the curriculum.) We will be discussing the profoundly personal reasons why they got into this career, what challenges they face as entrepreneurs and how the Bay Area is great place for coaching businesses to thrive. I first met Jill Shapiro at a “sisterhood” workshop conducted by Becca Piastrelli of The Dabblist and Paula Orozco (both coaches themselves who are also dedicated to fostering strong bonds among women in this community). 2 years ago Jill came to San Francisco from New York, where she had a corporate career that came with the usual lifestyle of high stress, hard work and harder play. When it started to affect her health, she went looking for answers on getting better and finding a sense of fulfillment that was missing. Not one to do anything halfheartedly, Jill became a certified by The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and board certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. She also got certification in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University and became a Certified Raw Food Chef (in Bali!). In addition to being a lifestyle coach, Jill also sells doTerra essential oils and works weekends as a Colon Hygienist at Project Detox in Marin. Although the economy hasn’t affected her coaching practice, Jill recently returned to a full-time job (San Francisco expenses being what they are). However, because she has found fulfillment and passion elsewhere, it’s a more pleasant experience this time around. To find out more about Jill Shapiro, please check out her website Why is coaching is a prevalent and successful field in the Bay Area? Jill: I think people come here from other parts of the country because they are looking for ways to get in touch with themselves, get healthy in many different ways- mentally, physically and emotionally. I feel like there is a huge shift going on, especially here. There is a big yoga community and the weather is nicer! The Bay Area especially is very, very open to other methods of healing. They’re more open here than the East Coast, in my experience, where people won’t allow themselves to feel or just take a moment to breathe. It’s been pretty easy to find clients here. How do clients find you? By referrals, blogging and Yelp advertisements. Just through word of mouth and social media. I am an entrepreneur but recently got a job to support me while I build my own business. Just knowing that I have my bills taken care of has been such a blessing that this came into my life. It puts me in a better place financially. I don’t want to do my business out of scarcity. Are there any challenges to balancing a full-time job with your coaching practice? Yes, my health! I was like my best client. It was an adjustment with my schedule. My eating habits started slipping because of the temptations at work. They say what you teach is actually what you need to learn yourself. I actually started getting a really bad caffeine addiction. I couldn’t function in the morning without my coffee. For the past month I feel so much better because I stopped with the caffeine. I’ve just been eating cleaner and juicing a lot so I feel much better! Maybe that experience helps you to understand and ultimately better serve your clients. Definitely! Are your clients primarily from the corporate and tech worlds? Yes. A new client of mine works at Facebook. Even though it’s a really fun environment, they work them really hard. She’s really exhausted and doesn’t know how to take care of herself. It’s ironic because we are in the Bay Area. You would think people out here would just know what to do, but unfortunately it’s everywhere. They all seek me out because they want to make a change, they aren’t happy in their careers. When I coach people it’s on their lifestyle too, it’s not just about the food they are eating. It’s also about decisions, like why they feel they have to be in a job they are so stressed out about. It’s not about the money, I want to make sure that they are happy and fulfilled. People feel that they can’t make money doing what they love. They should be enjoying their jobs and taking better care of themselves. When you feel better you are calling in more opportunities that will make you feel good and that’s the ultimate goal. Money is something on the minds of everyone in the Bay Area, with our increasing rent and frequent layoffs. How, if at all, has the economy affected your business? There are a few different aspects of my business. I’m obviously a health and lifestyle coach (and a colon hygienist). I also do essential oil/wellness education. It actually hasn’t affected my business. What I’m doing is building a network with my essential oil business. I find network marketing is becoming more and more popular because it’s like using your community to share. Because the economy is not doing so well, this is a great solution for people who were just laid off. Its very heart centered! I think this is where the economy is going, more community based. For example, I’m also sharing my car using a company called Getaround. It’s helping the economy and the environment because there are fewer cars on the road. My car is just sitting there because I only use it once or twice a week at this point. So it’s giving people the opportunity to save money and not invest in their own cars. Do you think these opportunities for share economy have come about because it is so expensive in the Bay Area or is it because we are just more open to new ideas? It’s a combination of both. I’ve noticed that lots of people want to live together, have roommates and share costs but there is also a lot of money in the Bay Area. A lot of people work in tech. The company goes public and they just make like a few million dollars in one day! I’ve known people who have done that. You are right, there is a lot of wealth here. But there are also a lot of homeless people. Do you offer any options for those who can’t afford your coaching help but still need it? I did Landmark Education a few years ago and I really wanted to help the homeless. They are mostly mentally distraught. They need help, the need healing and nutrition and a warm place to sleep. They shouldn’t be out on the streets. I think the volunteerism that is going on in this area is definitely prevalent. I feel like there is enough for everyone! My client base is focused on people who are able to afford their own personal wellness coach. Do you see yourself staying in the Bay Area long term and is there a future for your business here? Definitely! I work at a small clinic in Marin and see myself moving to Mill Valley and working out of the clinic there while still doing my oil and coaching businesses. There is only me and one or two other people in the whole Bay Area that do the specific type of colon hydrotherapy (Woods Gravity). So there is definitely a lot of opportunity there. Are you pursuing these other sources of revenue just because you are so passionate about many things? Yeah, I just love to do different things. I think it’s pretty important to diversify your offerings and not just focus on one thing.