Gina

 

There are a few things I’m currently involved with – for one, I am the Senior Sales Director @Samba_TV, which is a smart TV tech company in Soho. I’ve been working within the digital advertising space for about twelve years now, but have been with Samba for the past 9 months or so really working to help grow our revenue streams for the east coast regions. That’s more of my direct day job. Outside of that I am also an adjunct professor at Fordham University teaching digital marketing. I wrote their program about eight years ago and am there between January and May. You can also find me there helping with a ton of mentorships. Lastly I am also a third owner of the @EKGProject, which is a Paleo pastry company that I started with my best friend Emily, and one other investor – her mom. We have a line of healthy pastries, which is slowly making its way to stores in NYC.

Before getting into all of this, my path really began as I was finishing up school. I was a college athlete playing division one softball for Fordham but decided to hang up my cleats. I wanted to focus more on enjoying college and being a normal student. I finished my masters there and moved right into the work force for Ogilvy & Mather, which is a huge ad agency. It seemed to all be going well but working for such a large company and working sometimes twelve hour days was beginning to take a toll on me mentally and physically. The next thing I knew, I was in the industry for about five years not paying attention to much outside of work and I ended up being thirty pounds overweight. This was new for me as I was always someone who was really athletic and in shape for sports. I even belonged to Equinox at the time but never used my membership. It didn’t help that any time sales reps were over, they would bring pizza or other junk food and honestly when you’re not making much money and putting in long hours, its just easier to reach for that slice you know you shouldn’t be having. I also was out partying with my friends every night because that’s what you do when you’re in your 20’s and in media. It was almost a part of the job; you’re either out entertaining or being entertained. These lifestyle decisions really left me in a bad place…to a point where I decided I needed to just leave. I quit my job and took a few months off to focus on me.

It was then when I really began getting back into fitness. Not just by going to the gym but also by learning how to cook since I was working with a tight budget. At the time I met my ex bf who was a trainer at Equinox. He tried the typical trainer ploy, pretending he was a new trainer and needing experience working with female clients. I saw right through it but he offered to train me for free so I said why not. I had nothing else to do and it also helped that he was incredibly handsome – life wasn’t so bad. He asked me out about a month later and things really began to change. I started working out twice a day now that I had the time, inspiration and support. I was learning a lot about how to eat healthy and essentially doing Paleo before Paleo became a buzzword. He taught me so much about health and wellness and the weight just began falling off. I guess it did help that I was only 27 at the time, which made things easier (just turned 34). Anyway, we dated for about a year and it led me to being in the best shape of my entire life but we eventually had a really bad break up. Six months later, he passed away. Even though we weren’t together, it really affected me and sent me down this spiral of negativity. I was just like “f-everything”. Forget working out, forget eating healthy… forget it all. I went back to drinking and partying hard at all hours of the night, I guess it was a coping mechanism for me. This lasted for about nine months before I picked myself back up. It’s funny because sometimes people see me and think, “oh wow you’re so in shape, you have it all together” when honestly I’ve been through a lot of lows where this wasn’t the case. Things really weren’t looking good – I could have lost my job, my tenure at Fordham, and I definitely had lost friends through that stretch.  

I decided if I went back into the healthy lifestyle, it had to be something that was engrained into all facets of my life – not just when it was convenient for me. So when I got back into the workforce, I decided I would be the one to take my clients to places like SoulCycle for meetings. It became my thing, I was the rep who helped clients get into shape and feel better in their own skin. It helped that I was on the other side of the fence and knew just how hard it was to get on track and be healthy when you’re in that type of work environment. I knew if I could make this my type of entertainment, I would not only help myself, but also help others in the process. It became so routine that SoulCycle even wrote an article about it via a Soul Story (hyperlink – see FB or lmytless.com for clickable link). This began when the industry was in its infancy, so I’ve expanded the places I take my clients to include Barry’s Bootcamp, The Fhitting Room, Flywheel, and so on. It’s through these unique meetings where I’ve built such amazing relationships that eventually really helped me with the EKG Project. I had so many friends, top fitness instructors and supporters who wanted to post pictures for me on their social media, or introduce me to magazines or bloggers, and even get me in touch with owners of fitness studios for partnerships. All of that helped snowball EKG into what it is today.

If you had asked me ten years ago, I would have never thought I would be an owner of a company. My life has pretty much been a roller coaster ride full of twists and turns. On top of all of my personal turmoil, my best friend was also having issues. She called me up one day and said she was moving to Nashville. I was as heartbroken as can be for someone about to lose her best friend. It turned out nine months later she was also fed up with her job and was having regrets. She worked at a wine & spirits company and couldn’t continue pushing alcohol to kids on spring break as she herself was trying to get back to a healthy lifestyle – it just didn’t mesh well. She was freaking out about what she was going to do with her life so I literally ran to the nearest H&M – shoved a bunch of clothes into a duffel bag, and flew straight to Nashville to help her move back home to Mississippi. I followed her U-Haul for five hours back home and then another five hours back to Nashville to close up her apartment. It was during those long trips when something clicked. She said to me that we should really do something together, something that mattered. She knew I also wanted to do something more meaningful in life, so why not do it together. So soon after, we flew right back to NYC and decided to start the EKG Project.

Initially we wanted to do something more along the lines of a fitness studio. This was at the time when places like @SoulCycle and @Flywheel were just starting out and only had a few locations…now there’s like a million. We wanted to think of how we could redesign the indoor bike but after speaking to tons of engineers and attorneys, there were no ways around all the patents they had. They owned everything.

So we were back to square one. Ironically enough, we came up with our next idea on the way to a SoulCycle class. We walked into this local tea shop and started talking to the owner about his food and all the differences in things like grass-fed and grass finished, or organic and GMO foods and it sparked this idea for us to come up with a food company. We wanted to get into the business of healthy lifestyles and this was a different approach that we hadn’t initially considered. So we then came out with a line of pastries and started running them out of that very same teashop’s kitchen. Unfortunately the shop didn’t last too long after we made our way in so we faced another obstacle. But we used that time to redesign all of our products, made them even healthier, changed the ingredients, changed the packaging and then hit the market.

 

There’s a ton of things that have happened between now and then for us to get to where we currently stand but we always knew our plan was to never sell cookies or muffins just for profit, our mission was to do something with a social focus. The world needs better food, why don’t we help create it? Emily had family in Mississippi who were getting sick and dealt with obesity… on my side coming from an Italian household, we were always over-eating and the things in my parent’s kitchen would make me cringe. We wanted to change that and create better food for people and not just for people that could afford it. We wanted to create something where we could hopefully scale and make available to everyone regardless of his or her income bracket. We’re not quite there yet but it’s one of our goals. Another goal of ours includes giving back. We want to donate to charities we both believe in and help the community in any way we can. One of the organizations we support is a group called the Father’s Heart, which is a soup kitchen in the East Village where we both actively volunteer. Emily is actually always there supporting as a manager. Another interesting thing we are trying to do is shape the way we grow with the people we bring into the organization. The first employee we just recently hired is actually transitioning out of prison; a cook that couldn’t get hired anywhere else. We wanted to build this into our business model and provide a platform for people who really just need that second start in life and are struggling to get that opportunity.

It’s things like that that really make us different, having the community in mind in all that we do. When you think about it, we have such little time on this Earth, so it’s about how can you take that time and do something that moves the needle in positive way, even if it’s just a little bit to make the world a better place. In all my experience, I’ve learned that people focus far too much on linear paths. Your titles don’t matter. It’s about the ride you take and how you leverage all of the experiences and relationships you’ve built over time. Take whatever you do, and make it whatever you want it to be. We get too caught up wanting to know exactly where we are going when in reality, you are exactly where you need to be in this current moment. How you treat that moment will lead you to where you are destined to be. Find peace with that, and great things will happen.