At just 16 years old, Marie Wold started her business after her fitness Instagram account quickly grew to 10.000 followers.
Fast forward to the present day, Marie is still only 26 and has built a million dollar empire.
She’s had massive success as a fitness influencer, a YouTuber, an online fitness coach, and now as a business mentor. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Women's Health, Daily Mail, Shape Magazine, and more. A self-confessed ‘crazy horse girl’, she lives in Austin, Texas, with her fiancé, two dogs, a cat, and a horse.
Marie joined me on the podcast to discuss curating your vibe, following your passions and using her unique CLITS formula to build an engaged following and thriving business.
Let's dive in.
Turn your passion into a business
You’ve seen quotes about following your passion all over Instagram. We’d all love to follow our passions and make a living doing things we love, so let’s hear from someone who’s actually been there and done that.
Marie first remembers her vision from when she was young from a conversation with her mom.
Even as a young girl, I knew I wanted to be rich when I grew up,” says Marie. “I was a crazy horse girl – it was and still is my biggest passion. My mom told me: if you want to ride horses when you're older, you either need to get a good job or marry a man with a lot of money. And I remember thinking:
“fuck that, I'm not gonna wait for a man to like allow me to do what I want. I'm gonna have to figure this out myself.”
Through identifying how she wanted to live her life, Marie figured out that she’d need a job that would sustain her passion: horse riding.
When she started her anonymous fitness page on Instagram in 2012, it actually wasn’t with money in mind. “I started my Instagram and started growing my platform kind of by accident”, she reveals. Instead, she had just been following her newest passion: fitness. “I had recently started getting curious about healthy eating and fitness”, Marie explains. She used the account to follow health, fitness, and food recipe accounts. It was a different time on social media – maybe even the good old days?! People on Instagram posted a stream of consciousness, their workout, or what they ate that day – there were no perfectly curated posts or paid advertisements like we see today.
Slowly but surely, Marie started posting on her account about her own journey. “I figured okay, I have this account. I might as well post on it. I also really loved photography. I had just taken a photography class in school and it was really fun, and so I thought it would just be nice to use it kind of as my own accountability diary”.
Fast forward six months, and she’d grown her account to 10,000 followers – thanks to posting recipes with hashtags like #apple or #afternoonsnack, and a splash of the good old Valencia filter (wow, major throwback!).
During the summer that followed, Marie was nannying to earn some extra money and had a revelation.
She figured she might as well take the recipes that she had been sharing for free and turn them into something she could sell. “What if I could monetize this? My entrepreneurial gears were already turning…”, she recalls. Marie decided to make a recipe ebook – but like many online business owners, she had to figure out everything from scratch.
“There were literally no tutorials, no YouTube videos, and no podcasts about this. I just figured out how to make a PDF with photos of all the food and the recipes and the instructions. I also figured out how to make a sales page, collect money and deliver the eBook to people digitally.” She sold her recipe books for $10 and made somewhere between $3000 and $5000 – more than she made nannying for the whole summer.
The perfect lightbulb moment. “I was like, holy shit. I can actually make money having fun on the internet. I can actually make money doing this”, she says. She realized for the first time that there was something there.
“Obviously, you're not going to get rich selling $10 recipe ebooks for a summer – but I just realized the potential of the platform.”
Her newfound passion had turned into a business that would change her life forever.
Think like an entrepreneur
When Marie started out, there were no influencers on Instagram. Can you imagine?!
There were a handful of people doing the same thing as her, and a few bloggers around, but that was about it. “Brands started just sending me free stuff and that was really exciting. I was a high school kid like getting a package of Quest bars, which back then was the pinnacle of fitness”, Marie recalls. “Eventually, they started offering to pay me. In the process, I kept getting better at content creation and growing”. By the time Marie finished college, she was making more than she would have working full-time as an employee at one of those brands. Not bad, right?
Marie studied marketing and international business, and was flooded with job offers right out of college. She turned them down and decided instead to go all-in on content creation and building her profile as an influencer. A bold move – and it paid off!
Working with brands in this way also had its downsides. “I realized that I didn't really feel comfortable waiting for brands to decide how much they wanted to pay me or whether they wanted to work with me”, she says. After brainstorming her options, Marie landed on fitness coaching. “I saw other people doing it and people had been asking me if I could coach them – just from me sharing my own journey and what I was learning. So I started coaching”.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. When Marie started, there was hardly any information available on how to grow a coaching business. “I very much had to figure it out on my own. Trial and error. I struggled a lot, failed a lot, undercharged, and questioned myself. I had to build things up, tear them down and try again”, she explains. “The first couple of years of fitness coaching were rough. I was working a ton. But eventually, I hired my first business mentor, and pretty much ever since that point my business has doubled in revenue year after year”.
Curate an authentic vibe
The obvious question for Marie is: what was your formula for growth?
“I didn’t consciously have a strategy,” she says. Instead, it’s a little more creative. “I've always been into looking good and curating a vibe”, she says. You don’t need to get caught up in making sure it’s 100% right (remember one of my favorite tag lines? Done is better than perfect!). “There's a difference between curating a vibe versus everything needing to be perfect. It's about the intention behind it. Things can still be in the moment and authentic.” Marie’s distinctive style and authenticity have consistently set her apart and helped her build such a big following.
Grow your business by hitting your CLITS
Two years ago, Marie made the pivot from fitness coaching to business coaching and now helps coaches and online service providers grow their business. “I realized that I was having more fun working on my business than working in it. Fitness was the way that my entrepreneurial passion first manifested, but I was always meant to help other people grow their businesses.” Marie’s fitness coaching was already a successful multiple six-figure business and that’s grown year on year as she made the transition into business coaching.
One of her main areas of expertise? Content creation (another favorite of mine. Where is my BFE™ crew at?!).
There are a bunch of tactics that have come and gone over the years, but at its core, the strategy as to what actually works on social media hasn’t changed much over the years. As always, it comes down to experimenting. “I've got almost 6000 Instagram posts out there, so I've had so many opportunities to experiment and see what works,” says Marie.
There are a lot of business coaches out there, and many have snazzy acronyms to help clients understand the core principles. Marie’s special acronym? CLITS… You hear everyone talk about content pillars for your business: having 4-5 themes or topics you talk about consistently. Instead, Marie focuses on 5 different content goals.
These are Connect, Lead, Inspire, Teach and Sell. “The acronym that I accidentally created was CLITS,” she laughs. “I see so many people lean way too hard into one of those goals and they don’t have a well-rounded strategy.”
An example? “Many of my clients teach all the time, and their Instagram becomes a place where they’re just regurgitating information. But they’re never connecting with their audience and being a human being”. In other words, it’s not only important that you talk about different kinds of topics, but also that you do so in different kinds of ways.
But don’t get too caught up in the difference between connecting and leading and inspiring – sometimes content can hit multiple content goals. “The point is that you’re varying the angle or lens through which you’re creating stuff,” explains Marie.
Being too rigid in terms of how you do content can affect your creativity, so don’t worry about planning in each form of content a specific number of times a week – it’s more about hitting all your bases regularly. Marie likes having a balance in terms of planning ahead and batching, outlining, and leaving room for creativity. As we all know, creativity and spontaneity are important factors in being authentic (if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know my random penguin content).
Let’s take a look at some examples of Marie’s CLITS content.
Connect – Sharing how you’re feeling about your business and normalizing entrepreneurship is hard sometimes. Making your audience feel seen, heard, and understood. Or talking about your passions, hobbies, or pets.
Lead – Speaking about how you walk the walk and have paved a path for your audience. Explaining how you manage to deal with challenges and how you’re still showing up as a CEO. Or showing your transformation through talking about how you would've handled a situation in the past versus how you handle it now.
Inspire – Focusing on your audience and helping them believe their goals are achievable. Encouraging them and motivating them. Or posting a motivational quote.
Teach – Explaining how to do things (instead of sharing what you’re doing yourself).
Sell – Pitching. Or converting people into your email list, etc.
Selling isn’t necessarily everyone’s favorite hobby, but Marie loves it. “I think if you genuinely love what you're selling, you believe in it, it’s aligned with your values, and you've done your mindset work, you should love selling”, she says. “If you don't love selling, it's one of two things: either you have mindset stuff holding you back – fear, failure, fear of judgment, money mindset, worthiness stuff – or you genuinely don't like your program and don't believe in it.” Just like people pick up on authenticity, they also pick up on confidence and belief in what you’re selling.
Your best bet? Ensure you love what you’re selling by zooming in on your passions.
Just like Marie, I love creating content and it’s been one of the biggest reasons for my multi-million dollar business growth. If you struggle with creating content, I have created the Content Brainstorm Training to help you easily come up with all kinds of content ideas. Watch it for FREE via this link: https://fastforwardamy.com/contentbrainstormtraining