Meet Erin Schirack, co-founder of CHI-SOCIETY, whose mission is to bring tough Chicago-style workouts to your living room
Erin Schirack, co-founder of CHI-SOCIETY, sits down with us to talk about the importance of remaining flexible, how to balance being a mom and business owner, and the benefits of an at-home workout – Chicago style.
Describe your business in a few words?
CHI-SOCIETY is an on-demand streaming platform featuring 30-minute workouts from Chicago’s TOP fitness instructors.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I have always wanted to own my own business. Shortly after having my twins I lost my job and knew that it was my opportunity to make that dream a reality, so I went for it!
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I have been in the fitness industry for close to 20 years. It started as a side hustle while I was working as a sales and marketing manager in the hospitality industry and then it became my full-time career about 9 years ago.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
YES! I knew from a very long time ago when I was in high school that I was going to own my own company. My friends used to tell me that they could envision me rolling around in a black car in NYC wearing a business suit! Little did they know I would be working from home living in athleisure wear.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
Ha—Tell as many people as possible! My business partner Bobby and I had zero marketing strategy when we started our first business. We relied on word of mouth and social media. It was the pandemic that helped build our brand recognition by offering free classes on Instagram live.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
Don’t feel that you have to do everything yourself. I spread myself way too thin and wanted to micromanage and do everything on my own that I eventually burnt out and had to take a break, which resulted in the momentum of my business slowing. I quickly learned to delegate and ask for help.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Hands down starting my businesses. I learned so much in the process, learned a lot about myself and also learned how to pivot when times changed.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience? My tip—don’t have one! I really prefer my interview process to be more conversational. I feel you can get to learn a lot about someone by just letting them talk and by watching how they react while learning about your business. I also rely a lot on recommendations. I trust my team and their suggestions so if they bring someone to me that means a lot.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
TREMENDOUSLY! The fitness industry was hit HARD by the pandemic. Studios were forced to shut down, instructors were left to fend for themselves and develop their own brand and business. It totally changed the industry. I feel it also changed for the general population. People started working out at home, they invested in home gym equipment, established a new routine and started realizing that they don’t need a gym to stay fit and that there are a lot of resources out there (like CHI-SOCIETY) that can keep them moving from the comforts of their own home.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
What can we expect to see over the next few years? My BIG dream is to make CHI-SOCIETY a national name. We really want Chicago fitness to be highlighted in the on-demand world so we can showcase the incredible talent that is here.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Learn how to be more flexible and to adapt to what is going around. That was a hard one for my very type A personality. The plan doesn’t always go as planned, but you can always adapt and make a new plan.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Consistency is key and sometimes you need to delegate in order to stay consistent and protect your own energy.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
HAVE I?! Ha! I have to thank my husband and my business partners for that. They definitely have been my sounding boards and have helped talk me off the ledge a lot when I’ve wanted to give up.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
What are some of your best tips? YES! As someone who is a self-proclaimed workaholic, I can say first hand burnout is REAL! You have to set boundaries and make time for you and family. Leaving your phone at home while you go for a walk or establishing a “no work/ light work” day is crucial. You have to rest and recharge so you can be the best for you, your family and your business.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I have 2-year-old twin girls and am working on a 3rd company idea.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
Wake up early to take time before the day starts (or the kids wake up) to take care of you, workout, make the bed, make your to-do list, whatever it is but take that time for you. Make Lists- I live by daily lists and it feels so good to check things off. Take breaks- take a walk, a nap, sit down away from your computer to eat lunch but take a break throughout the day to recharge.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Reading that made me smile—It means that my dream has come true.