Inside The Story: Becoming a Mompreneur

  • Published on:
    May 8, 2019
  • Reading time by:
    9 minutes

A mother of one, a wife and a business owner of a Martial Arts school in Sunbury – An outer suburb of Melbourne. Australia. Megan Aitken is also a Qualified Personal Trainer, Nutritionist and hold an Accounting Diploma and Business Degree. 

”I have always been a hard worker and worked for everything I have. I understood young to get things in life; you have to apply yourself, set a plan and work consistently. My mum was a sole parent, so she indirectly instilled in me these traits and to rely on yourself to get things done. I think seeing her work full time and raise four kids on next to nothing, without complaining built resilience in me from a young age and also showed me I had nothing to complain about.”

Megan Aitken first thought she wanted a career as an Accountant, and set out on that path. She finished her Diploma, but ended up transitioning into University to do a three year Bachelor in Business Degree (Majoring in Marketing and Management) Megan Aitken noticed that every job wanted at least two years experience within the industry which was just something she didn’t have, so she looked for a role in an entry-level position.

In her final year of university, Megan Aitken started to shift her focus to the health and fitness industry. She wasn’t particularly enjoying the corporate world anymore, Megan and her husband would regularly discuss their future and the idea of opening a martial arts school kept coming up. Troy was advanced with his accomplishments in Jiu Jitsu and has an amazing passion for it. Megan Aitken obviously had extensive business experience behind her. But, although she had the business side down pat, she didn’t have much experience with fitness. So Megan Aitken looked into obtaining her part-time Training and Nutrition qualifications so she had something to offer people too.

It all started in a scrap book

Megan Aitken and her husband would write in it during our hour long drive home from our city jobs; all of the things they could think of that they would need to get started and it definitely helped them become clear on what they wanted from our business.

They jotted down our basic business plan, covering off possible business names, our ideal member, how many members they would like, what their timetable would look like, set up costs, stuff like that. They wrote a yearly plan in there of when they wanted to have a facility rented, how long fit-out would take, when they would open, how they would get members to join before they had even set up and worked backward on what they thought was achievable. They didn’t know everything.

”You can’t possibly think of everything at the start, but the scrapbook had everything for us to see our idea come to life on paper and start believing it already existed. We still use and refer to it to this day. It’s nice to look back on and to see how close we were to mimicking its content and to see how far we’ve come.”

Where did your passion for Martial Arts and health come from? 

I was sporty growing up. I’d play out the front of my house on rollerblades, up trees and played sports such as Netball, Basketball and Tennis competitively. I did the school sports and did aerobics with my mum at home (Denise Austin videos lol). 

My husband introduced me to martial arts when we were in the early stages of our relationship 12 years ago. It was his thing. I knew nothing of Jiu Jitsu before that. I never personally got into it until we opened our full time facility, but I started training BJJ for the understanding and after being involved in it, you obtain a level of respect for it. It’s like no other sport or physical activity I have ever done. It’s a true discipline and requires focus and effort – something I have always tried to replicate in business. I do also train consistently in Muay Thai which is a current focus for me. 

The health side I didn’t fully understand until my early twenties. My mum was diagnosed at about the age of 37 with a rare form of arthritis, so I knew it important to try and look after myself so I could avoid getting it. I did the usual drinking after university (and during) and adopting bad eating habits on a budget for a few years, but once I set myself into a healthy pattern, the momentum showed me how good being healthy, eating right and exercising makes you feel. You feel vibrant, energetic and accomplished and obtain a sense of self pride and I think that’s a couple of qualities us humans are always seeking.

Tell us what is the purpose of Limitless MMA

Our motto is constant and never ending improvement. To us, it means to always uphold an environment where everyone can grow and become the best version of themselves. Limitless MMA has an embedded culture of teaching our children to make them better people and training our adults to give them a better understanding of themselves in a respectful, encouraging and influential manner that filters from the top down. Martial arts is a discipline and demands discipline.

Limitless through our services, classes and expertise allows anyone become great in their own way. There are no scouts, or people seeking only the best talent, so Limitless MMA provides opportunity to different athletes to shine with their breakthroughs style and strengths. Anyone that trains with us knows if they put the time and effort in, they will get a real chance to meet and exceed their goals and desires with our support and guidance because determination to us is a much better quality than talent. 

On the surface Limitless MMA is about training and learning something new, being consistent and offering quality opportunities to our community. We want to see our members push their personal boundaries. 

But our deeper roots are about adding value to everyone. Some of our members have been through, or going through some really hard times personally, professionally and physically and we understand the importance of offering them an environment where they know they can come and be supported and enjoy their time in a safe and accepting environment. Watching these members realise their capabilities and self-worth is a privilege. 

Our members call Limitless their “Home away from home”. It’s grown to be a special place that our members can be a part of, something bigger and more than just a training centre. Especially for our kids’ group. It’s so important to teach real lessons on/off the mats to our kids including dealing with emotions, wins, defeats and struggle, to help them become better prepared for adulthood.

The other purpose was for my husband and I to work in something we were passionate about and could give back. Something that would provide balance to our life and the family we have created. We are just so fortunate to be able to share the journey with like-minded people who inspire us equally as much as we hope we do them. To us real wealth is creating joy, surrounding yourself with people that make you better and always find a way to give back.

What is unique about Limitless MMA from all the other Martial Arts schools?

I am not sure if you would say it is unique, but we are proud to know each of our members by name and be able to interact and have open communication with them. We often have conversations with our members daily, they don’t fade into the background. I greet them all, ask them how their day is and they know who we are, what we stand for and that we practice what we preach. You need to have an honest invested interest in your members and I think a lot of martial arts school are great in that way that they can offer that service over normal gyms.

Everyone has hard times that they go through and you pick up on that. I want our members to know that we care and that their mental health is just as important as their physical health to us. Being able to have a relationship with our members and check in once in a while, particularly with our kids shows them that they are deeply and genuinely valued. Plus, we train alongside our members. They help us become better, it’s not all one sided, which is fantastic. 

Tell us about your first entrepreneurial experience as a kid?

It was selling mice to pet shops. Yep, Mice. I bred and sold mice to the local pet shops at eight years old.

I had them as pets and then, as mice do, they bred exponentially. My mum and I took a bunch of 10 mice to the pet shop near our house which I was sad about and said we had no room and offered the mice over. In return they gave my mum $5, so she bought me an ice cream. Then my mind made the connection, if I do this again, I’ll get another ice cream… That’s the moment I started my first business. I made a plan in my head, pitched the idea to my mum on how it would work and began.

I had three pairs of breeding mice, I requested two new cages for my birthday so I didn’t have to invest my earnings and off I went. I cleaned them, grew them to when they could walk, called pet shops and developed a relationship with them and sold each mouse for 50 cents. I did this until I was 15. It wasn’t a big money earner, but the lessons it provided me about organisation, discipline, business relationships and determination have served me well.

What would you like to share to other women who are mid building their own company? 

So Much!! Believe in yourself and your aspirations and trust the process. It is a grind, but nothing worth doing is ever easy. Be prepared to put in the hard work, but reward yourself when you meet your objectives. Break it down in to small sections to avoid it being overwhelming. I made a to-do list every day and just aimed at getting those 3-4 things completed. By the end of a week, that’s up to 28 tasks done. (Depending on their time commitment) 

Constantly invest in yourself as much as you can – do webinars, seminars, research and become really clear on your direction. Do things that scare you because that’s how you will grow. Don’t wait for things to be perfect, or just right, they rarely ever will be. There will always be obstacles and less than perfect conditions. Each day you’ll get stronger, more skilled, more confident and will be successful because of it.

Treat your business, no matter how far into it you are, even if you are literally just starting your idea like it already exists.

Running a business is a lot like your health and fitness. It takes effort, constant investment of time and money, focus, belief and a positive outlook that anything you want, you can achieve but you have to be prepared to put in the work. If you’re not happy, make a change. Don’t expect great results from excuses, or feeling sorry for yourself and shifting blame, they won’t get you anywhere, only taking action will. I was miserable in my city corporate job. Spending 8+ hours of my day there was way more than I was willing to give. My time is valuable. So, I declared that I would never again work at a job that made me feel so small and uninspired. Although it did provide me plenty of valuable lessons in business, I just had to believe there was more for me to accomplish and I set out a plan to get me out of there and onto an inspiring and fulfilling path. 

How do you make sure anyone can find Limitless MMA? 

We’re on social media (Facebook: Limitless Mixed Martial Arts & Fitness) and Instagram (@limitlessmma) We have Google search and our website people can go to for all of our information. We have signs out the front of our facility on the main streets and we painted our building blue; our main colour. We also get recognised as we created pretty loud t-shirts. They are blue also and cannot be missed. They come in handy when we are at competitions looking for our crew in a sea of people and act as a walking advertising tool.

What is your favorite daily activity when working at Limitless MMA?

I work partly on Reception in our facility so I interact and listen to my members needs constantly. They range from enquiries and memberships, how to register for a competition, purchases of apparel a whole bunch of different stuff, to assisting them in more intimate issues; if kids have been bullied at school or have low confidence, adults who want to train and are losing focus, or are finding things in life hard. I also have my consultations with Nutrition and building a Personal Training plan for clients to execute. It is so vast. But the favourite thing about all of this is, in all those queries and activities, I can assist in a way that makes my members lives easier and happier. I want my members to know they can come to me, ask me anything and I will have a response. To be approached for guidance and be trusted to lay a foundation for my members to show we understand their needs is by far my most favourite and invaluable daily activity.

Do you focus only on a specific group?

Our members are all different and train for different reasons. They range in age from 3 years right up to 70 (I have a 70 year old PT client who is incredible!) Some do it for fitness, self-defence, for their line of work being paramedics and police officers. Others want to make a career out of martial arts, become personal trainers and just become healthier and receive that education and mentoring to do so.

Although they are different in these ways, what makes them similar is their focus, outlook on life, wanting more for themselves and putting themselves out there to get it. 

Some are mums and dads, who train for fitness, some are athletes doing amateur and professional fights, and kids starting out wanting to build body mechanics, confidence and a love of martial arts early on. Our members in a nutshell are people who share our vision.

What sacrifices have you had to make while building Limitless MMA? 

The obvious ones, social life, financial, sleep deprivation, no holidays, split days, long hours, time away from my husband. You name it we’ve done it. But we also kept focused and understood why the sacrifice was necessary. 

There were many times along the way that I wanted to give up in the process, but I was working 7 days a week, so I usually felt overwhelmed once a month, feelings that I couldn’t do it, I wasn’t ready and that it wouldn’t work, so I had to change that inner voice, refocus and get back on the horse.

We always tried to just see the positive in such sacrifices and reminded ourselves that it wasn’t forever. I also knew that I signed up for this, and its part and parcel of owning your own business. The sacrifices aren’t just a part of the set up, its continuous. In my situation, you miss out on your own training, become mentally and emotionally fatigued, work on your weekends because you can’t fit in all your work for the week, there’s plenty of versions of sacrifice. But we chose to change the way we looked at sacrifice, because it just makes you resentful, or bitter and stressed out. A sacrifice is just a mindset of “I am missing out”, but we started to see it as “By doing this activity, we are gaining so much”.

Sacrifices are hard at the time, but when you look back at where you’ve come from, the rewards are far more satisfying. It wasn’t easy, enduring hours and hours of research, study, work and lack of sleep, but I kept my eye on my future. I always wanted to make an impact and always knew I would have my own business in some way. My mum always said work hard when you’re young so you don’t have to when you get older. I always pictured ‘older’ to be 30 years old, so that was my benchmark. We opened our business Limitless Mixed Martial Arts in March 2014, just before my 31st birthday in April.

How do you want to improve yourselves in the next year? 

My husband and I have always set goals for the New Year. They used to be just personal, but now with the business, we do both. We don’t overcomplicate them and we aim for about four so that it is achievable. We will sit down and do a year in review of Limitless MMA. We go over each month and understand the trends and set process improvements, reminders and targets for the next year, so we are prepared for busy periods. We will also reflect on what really worked and what wasn’t very successful and discuss how to tweak or improve our approach. There is always room for improvement.

2019 is going to be a big year. It will be out fifth year of operation and we plan to keep our momentum and streamline our processes. We have a few ideas up our sleeve that we are still working through and it involves strengthening our kids program and revamping our website and looking into utilising YouTube a little more as a new tool.

What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

In business, when we started, we we’re probably a little too trusting and a lot of the time, through inexperience, we got burned. We were pretty lenient with some people who trialled and attended our facility and it just meant we left ourselves open and had to set harder parameters. We were going home, and spending hours agonising over our approaches and would sometimes argue. We took our work home and it stayed with us until 3am and it felt like a massive failure. It was unhealthy. But we grew from it and it strengthened our product and service because we were forced to analyse what we wouldn’t stand for. We ensured we remained a strong unit. Once we treated Limitless as a business in some respects and as its own entity and what it required to flourish and grow, that’s when we started getting our time back, and the work stopped following us home. It was a learning curve, but the regulations we created because of our upsets made us and the business stronger.

A lot of the time failure is spoken like it’s a bad thing, but so many successful people have had their biggest breakthrough right off the back of major failure. I haven’t viewed things that haven’t gone my way as failures. I’ve always tried to be very aware of my decisions and I have always tried to be more observant, less talk and more listening. I learnt that if you do your research, don’t rush through things and do more than others are willing to do, then you can’t fail. An interesting analogy is that many people come to the gym and work their muscles to failure. It’s a positive thing – why? Because as your muscle is exhausted and torn, it has to recover and when it recovers it gets stronger. Same as failure or disappointment from business, it’s hard to take, but it makes you grow and makes you stronger. You learn from everything, you ask the right questions and you have break throughs and overcome challenges – Nothing can buy that.

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