Sam Bossert is in business for exactly the right reasons.
With no prior experience in retail, she created a fitness apparel line inspired by the women she trains. P’tula, meaning Passion to Unite and Live Active, was started by Sam to supply the women in her personal training program with activewear that they feel comfortable and confident in. With only less than a year under their belt, P’tula has been met with success and support. Sam’s wholehearted approach to running both of her businesses is pretty kick-ass, but you can read that for yourself.
J: Tell a little about yourself. Where are you from and where did you go to school? What did you study?
S: I’m 29 and I have a degree in nursing, actually from OSU. Before I got into nursing school, I was actually a biology major, thinking I was going to go more the physician route. At the same time freshmen year, I ended up becoming a personal trainer at the RPAC.
I’ve always been active when I was younger, but I’m also not a petite girl. I love food. So much. So when I started personal training, I loved it. I felt so happy at the gym, I really found it was a passion. I started to question if nursing really was for me or if I wanted to go into the preventable side… A couple of years later I wanted to go back to training. All online. That blew up a couple of years ago. I just loved it. What I love about it is that we all have different lives and professions, but we all come together in a program that ultimately makes us better.
I used to never wear jeans… going into middle and high school, I’m trying to fit into these jeans and I feel very heavy, and I think, “Why am I not a size two? Why am I not a size zero?” And it’s frustrating. It definitely impacts how you look at yourself, how you feel about yourself. Last year I decided I wanted to create a brand women felt happy in, comfortable in, confident in. The girls are the inspiration. Every piece is inspired by a girl I’ve worked with. And more than anything I want to improve the quality of the clothes so the girls are proud to wear them, proud to support the brand.
J: I know you touched on this a little, but what really inspired you to get into fitness?
S: When I was a freshman and had the personal training position, the original plan was that was supposed to help pay for tuition. I did grow up athletic, but I didn’t want to play basketball in college and I really wanted to stay focused on my studies. I also really love food and because I wasn’t as active, the pounds did start to creep up on me.
When I originally got the training position, I would buy all of the fitness magazines… and the women on the covers and inside really inspired me. I wanted to be them, I wanted to be on the cover of those magazines. I wanted to try what I was reading and that’s when I began to experiment with my body and that truly was my therapy.
J: I think all of this is so important for girls because they grow up seeing these women with naturally tiny frames and think this is what’s attractive, this is how I’m supposed to look to feel beautiful. They don’t see representation of their own body.
S: That’s actually funny because I’ve done a few photoshoots with some well-known fitness photographers and they’ll take in the waist, smooth out all of the skin, they apparently can remove the face over to another photo. What exactly is real? And that’s what I was wanting to be. I was wanting to have that perfect cover model body and that wasn’t even real. And back then, it was really just magazines. Now, It’s everywhere.
I think who women surround themselves with, who their group of friends is, it’s all a huge game changer. And like I said with women, we’re so easily influenced. With like the magazine, there’s more of that positive influence with embracing your body, accept it, acknowledge your flaws, work on what you can, but know there’s things you cannot change and that’s okay, because that makes you different.
J: About P’tula, what does day to day business look like?
S: Well things are constantly changing. I have an assistant who manages the customer service side for the most part, she’s also the one who will get exchanges and returns, and pack all of the orders.
I feel vulnerable because I don’t have a fashion degree, I don’t have an entrepreneurial degree. I’m still learning as I go. It’s scary because I’m putting everything I have into this company and I want it to succeed. And I think it will if we continue to improve. I want this company to do well and we have a great foundation at this point. The sky’s the limit.
J: What are some goals you have for P’tula going forward?
S: Marketing is one of my big primary goals at this point. I want to get out of the social media bubble I’m already in. I want to branch out to where P’tula is a household name… I want to be competing with those tops brands. I want to narrow in on the grading scale and give them as much detail as popular.
J: A lot of good things going on! What are some of your biggest challenges as a business owner?
S: In terms of right now, my biggest challenge is my inexperience. The other hard part is relying on my manufacturers to product amazing quality for me. That’s out of my hands, the only part I can control is that I don’t sell it. For the price point, I want people to be like it’s so worth it. Those are the biggest challenges I need to push through.
The cool thing is that its Ohio designed and from someone who doesn’t have a fashion background. I think that can be inspiring to some people to say you do not need everything in order to start something, as long as you’re willing to learn and educate yourself. Having that passion and drive and wanting to learn, I think that ultimately what it’s about.
J: What accomplishments are you most proud of?
S: I’ve never been one to take risks, ever. The online training business, it was pretty gradual. I wouldn’t say I’m proud of that, I’m proud that I can offer a really good product to the girls, but I’m ultimately proud of P’tula. I’m so proud that I have come from such a different background but I have been able to create a brand and a retail company that has done so well in a year. Despite my lack of experience. I think it just goes to show that you don’t need five degrees to do it. It helps, but you need that passion and drive to do it.
I’m also proud because I don’t know much about it and I am so vulnerable, and very new and still very scared, it’s still not overcoming how much I’m pushing myself to move forward. I still have excitement about it every day.
J: What advice would you give to someone about starting their own business?
S: I really do think that dedication is huge. Whether that’s dedicating time to the business or learning what you need to do to succeed in the business, that huge.
Another is customer service. If you don’t have customers, you don’t have anything. I will thank my customers so much. We don’t even have five years under our belts yet, we’re still learning and still making mistakes. For these customers to still be loyal and proud of our products, I’m just forever grateful for it.
You really need to have a good work ethic to run a business. You need to constantly learn and improve, but know you can’t learn everything in a day. And you can’t learn everything from a book. There will be overwhelming times and there will be a lot of mistakes, but from there you’ll grow and learn.
J: Do you feel like you’ve faced more challenges being a woman in both the fitness world and the retail industry?
S: With fitness, no. I have a lot of confidence in myself in that. I feel like I can train smarter in the gym than a lot of men, but I’ve also done it for ten years. And I know what works for my body.
In terms of p’tula, yes. I think that’s there’s more opportunity for men to take advantage of me as a woman on the business side. It’s a really hard balance, because I feel like you almost have to be a witch to make it known that you mean business. With my personality, I do come across as a happy go lucky, kind hearted person. And I do think automatically, people think, “oh she’ll just go along with me.” It’s hard, I don’t want to come across as a bitch, I want to be a nice person, but in business that’s definitely hard. It is.
Keep up with Sam on social media: @ptulaactive and @leanmachine21
Checkout the inspiring fitness wear line at http://www.ptulaactive.com
Article by Jesse Tye