Demi Dee, a Canadian fitness trainer and holistic health coach, founded her lifestyle company The Knockout Room (“TKR”) while living and studying in Copenhagen, Denmark. TKR offers holistic coaching in fitness, nutrition, and wellness for tween and teen girls. Dee is in the pre-launch stage at the moment; her first online program will launch later this year.
Dee created TKR to provide coaching, resources, and support in fitness, nutrition, and wellness for tween and teen girls because pre-adolescence and adolescence are periods of transition; it is during this time that the seeds are planted regarding self-esteem, self-confidence, body image, eating habits, etc. Dee tells us that it’s important to model healthy habits and a strong sense of self, especially amidst the toxic effects of social media and the traditional media. Body confidence, self-esteem, and joie de vivre are the key elements of the TKR brand, online programs, and social media presence.
Tell us about your proudest moment
My proudest moment to date is the day I decided to move overseas. In the summer of 2014, I moved to Copenhagen to pursue the full-time Master of Business Administration program at Copenhagen Business School. The decision meant I was getting out of my comfort zone to live in a foreign country on my own, to pursue my passion, and to start living the life I really wanted rather than settling for the status quo. I was excited, anxious and curious. I didn’t know where I would go or what I would do following my MBA, but I knew that this was the right next step for me. I was impressed by the Scandinavian leadership style, the culture, and the focus on gender equality. Our intimate class of 37 people, with a female-male ratio of 40:60 approximately, rivaled the gender ratio of any North American business school. My MBA program was specialized with a focus on entrepreneurship, leadership and sustainability/corporate social responsibility. The knowledge base that I gained from my MBA, together with my other Danish experiences, helped shape my business strategy for The Knockout Room.
What is your favorite thing about becoming an entrepreneur?
I love the freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur – the freedom to create something that represents my values, passions, and skills. This freedom feeds my soul. The feeling is priceless.
Where did your passion for fitness and health come from?
My passion really grew when I was living in Denmark. Denmark has more bikes than cars. I adapted to the Danish lifestyle quickly and bought myself a second-hand bike that I rode everywhere – to school, to work, to the grocery store, etc. My bike was my means of transportation; I didn’t think of it as exercise. It was simply what I used to get from point A to point B. But of course, it is exercise; the daily exercise was so natural and effortless. I was cycling 14 km each day just travelling to and from campus. I noticed how refreshed I felt each morning, and after a couple of months, I also noticed a change in my physique.
It was a testament to the power of consistency. I knew that I wanted to learn more about nutrition and fitness when I returned to Canada after my MBA. I didn’t want to return to my sedentary lifestyle that I had in Toronto. It was time to make lifestyle changes. The infrastructure and lifestyle in Toronto are quite different from those in Copenhagen so I couldn’t simply continue my new daily routine in Toronto. I needed a plan to recreate the natural and effortless exercise lifestyle within the parameters of Toronto city life. I enrolled in the Fitness and Nutrition Expert program offered by Fit Chicks Academy, which is accredited by canfitpro. I was already familiar with the Fit Chicks brand, having participated in their signature bootcamp in previous years. I knew I was in good hands! And so began my deep dive into all things fitness and health.
What were the legal issues to consider when you started The Knockout Room?
When you start a company, it’s important to consult with an accountant and business lawyer as soon as possible – and that’s what I did. An accountant will advise you on bookkeeping best practices and tax considerations for your legal structure. A business lawyer will advise you on the best legal structure for your business (e.g. sole proprietorship, corporation, etc). It’s also important to discuss trademark, copyright, and/or any other applicable intellectual property (IP) rights protection; a sound IP strategy implemented at the outset could save you money and stress in the long run. I sought trademark protection at the outset because my trade name is integral to my brand. I also consulted with an accountant to inquire about how best to track my expenses and what to consider for the type of business I had selected.
The legal and accounting matters make up the foundation of your business. It’s important not to gloss over these matters when starting your business. If you were building a house, would you build it on a weak foundation? Of course not. Why would your business be any different?
Can you tell us what inspired you to come up with The Knockout Room? What was going through your mind on that day?
I founded The Knockout Room during my MBA program. I was in a business accelerator course. We were doing an opportunity recognition exercise, which is a creative process that involves word-association mapping in order to come up with a business idea. My most recent interest – kickboxing – was top of mind the day we did this exercise and so I word-mapped kickboxing. The word knockout stood out to me the most because of its multiple meanings. In my business name, the word knockout refers to “knocking out” toxic foods and substances from your lifestyle, and “knocking out” the noise in life that keeps you stuck – negative self-talk, other people’s opinions and criticisms, etc. The word knockout also refers to success (think knockout in boxing) and the slang word for “very attractive woman.”
Society associates a certain female image with the word knockout. It’s time that we redefine that image.
I love puns and word play. I wanted a business name that is clever, memorable, and meaningful; a name that represents the essence of my brand. By the end of this mapping exercise, I had a business idea in the health and wellness industry and a business name. While the scope and services of my business have changed and developed since then, the essence of The Knockout Room was born that day in May 2015.
What is unique about The Knockout Room from all other health and wellness companies?
Me! As the founder and face of my company, I bring my knowledge, experiences, personality, creativity and spirit to my business and programs. Nowadays, we have information at our fingertips thanks to the Internet. However, we are inundated with information that is often misleading, contradictory, and inaccurate. This information overload can leave us feeling overwhelmed and lost. When it comes to a health transformation, we want guidance and a step-by-step method that works. We choose to follow and learn from people we know, like and trust – especially when faced with a transformational journey that can be very emotional. My goal is to approach health topics with creativity and to present the information in a fun, unique, memorable way that encourages my audience to take that first step in their own journey. I incorporate Feminine Power principles into my methodology and utilize Kangoo Jumps rebound boots as an effective, fun, intense, full-body workout that will get you results. TKR is a lifestyle brand because holistic health is a lifestyle, not a diet. This lifestyle mindset and fun approach are fundamental elements of the TKR philosophy.
What would you like to share with other women who are mid building their own company?
- Don’t give up! If you try something and it doesn’t work, review what you did to see which elements did work and which ones did not. It’s important to have performance metrics in place in order to do this analysis effectively. Your analysis will indicate whether you need to pivot or iterate.
- Join entrepreneur groups. This could be Facebook groups, mastermind groups or any other peer-to-peer mentoring groups that give you the support and encouragement you need as you build your business. You need to surround yourself with people who encourage you to keep going, have similar entrepreneurial goals, and who give you honest, constructive feedback. If a group doesn’t exist in your area, create one yourself and invite people to join!
- Invest in yourself. Perform an honest self-assessment of your skills. If there’s a skill set that you lack, where can you learn this skill set? The online education market is alive and well. Most courses also come with a Facebook support group, which means you will have direct access to your instructor and virtual classmates. Many courses also offer payment plans to make it easier to budget and maintain your cash flow. I opted for self-paced courses so that I could fit them into my busy schedule and take as much time as I needed to get through the material. Free webinars are also helpful because you will learn valuable information from the presenter that would have otherwise taken you a lot of trial and error to learn firsthand.
- Create your own customized business accelerator. This piece of advice is actually a combination of b) and c) above. There are many accelerators around the world for start-ups that provide support, resources, and mentorship. Rather than joining an established accelerator, I performed an honest assessment of my skills and then turned to the online education market to help me “fill in the blanks.” I sought online courses in various subjects including social media marketing, branding, and list building. The courses gave me access to Facebook support groups and thereby expanded my list of mentors and peers in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. This set of courses and my corresponding support network were carefully selected to suit my specific needs and support my business venture; they became my customized accelerator.
- Don’t quit your day job. Unless you are independently wealthy, you likely need income to fund your start-up, to pay for online courses, to pay a lawyer, etc. It takes time to create and automate a system that works. Having a steady paycheck coming in while you build your business will give you peace of mind that your bills will be paid. I’ve been following the Corporate Rescue Plan by Classy Career Girl International, LLC; this program provides guidance through each phase of the transition from 9-to-5 job to full-time entrepreneurship.
- Keep a journal to track your progress and milestones. Your journal serves as a gratitude journal, a record of your journey, and an outlet to express yourself throughout the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial journey. When things get tough, remember why you started. Read a couple of entries from your journal to reset your mindset, to remind yourself of how far you’ve come and where you’re going. Your mission will be your compass.
- Reward yourself when you reach milestones in your business. These rewards could be bucket list items. Celebrate your progress and recognize each win along the way. The journey is more important than the destination. This self-recognition is important for your mindset, motivation, discipline, and accountability.
What investment did/do you need to start The Knockout Room?
I needed funds for a trademark lawyer, exercise equipment, health certifications and memberships, entrepreneurship courses, networking events, and website-related expenses. I paid for these items slowly and kept a full-time day job as I developed my business idea, business model, and strategy. The four years following my MBA were spent becoming certified in the areas of expertise that form the basis of my service offerings. I have also been and continue to be on my own health journey. My investment in my business and myself has been gradual as I grow into the person I am meant to be.
What sacrifices are you making while building the company?
When you work a full-time job and build a business on the side, you don’t have too much free time. This is why it’s so important to choose something that you love and that gives you a sense of deep, meaningful purpose – especially in this phase of the entrepreneurship journey. There are many moments when you may feel like throwing in the towel. My business incorporates many of my passions and interests, so when I’m working on my business, it doesn’t feel like work. I’m interested, inspired, and curious. I’m building something from the ground up and enjoying each stage of this journey. I learn something new every day and I have the ability to put my signature style on every aspect of the business.
Sometimes I will forego a leisure activity in order to catch up on business tasks. However, I make sure that I take breaks regularly and plan fun leisure activities often in order to rest and recharge.