Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms weekly Meet a Mom series where we feature one local mama, what they’re up to both personally and professionally. This week’s Meet a Mom feature is the lovely Pittsburgh native of three wee ones, yoga studio part-owner and the master of her own business domain, Cultivate Advisors, Maura Vella! You might get a bit dizzy following the timeline of this successful mama’s path but stay with us. You may just want her to be your next best friend! Oh, and do not miss her advice to entrepreneurs👇🏼 Welcome, Maura!
Hi Maura! Please introduce yourself.
Hi! My name is Maura Vella. I’m originally from Pittsburgh. I knew I wanted to be in Chicago after graduating from the University of Michigan, and have been here ever since.
Hey mama! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they?
Being a mama is the hardest job I ever loved the most! I have three beautiful girls: Sasha-7, Shira-5, and Summer-2
What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?
One of my favorite things about being a mom is seeing the world through my girls’ lens. Throughout every age, it’s refreshing to see how they learn, interact, and perceive their world.
Another favorite thing about being a mom is how I’ve found compassion for the way I treat myself. Most of us suffer from some form of negative self-talk–that inner dialogue we all have with ourselves that limit us from believing in our abilities or to reach our full potential. My babies are more precious than anything else I’ve ever cared for. Whenever I go down that negative self-chatter rabbit hole, I remind myself that I would never ever say these hurtful things to my children, so how can I and why would I say them to myself? Just watching my girls carry themselves has taught me more about myself than I could have ever learned in any course or self-help book.
Ultimately, the best thing about being a mom is that I didn’t know how much love I had in me until these beautiful beings chose me to be their mom. I am grateful!
Do you have any mom tips to make quarantine/COVID life a little easier?
Covid–woof! Lots of snuggles keep me and my bucket filled. I’m also embracing that I’m not in a unique situation. (We’re all living in this weird world together right now, right?) My advice is: remember that you don’t have to be perfect when you’re juggling a gazillion-and-one things around like people, work, remote-learning, emergency daycare closure due-to-covid, and all of the other crazy things we have to deal with in our lives these days. Give yourself compassion and allow yourself the flexibility to be your best you. Remind yourself that you’re not alone and that we are all just doing the best that we can!
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you…
I used to be painfully timid and shy. I would have my older sister order my meal when my family went out for dinner together. I would hide behind my mom in social gatherings. Nobody who I now meet believes this about me because I’m a pretty gregarious and social creature.
Any local favorite takeout restaurants?
Living in Wicker Park, we have a few favorite restaurants that we frequently order from: Parlor Pizza, Yuzu Sushi, Antique Taco.
You’re a mompreneur! Please introduce your endeavor(s) beginning with the Yoga studios and ending with your current business advisory endeavor.
It all started when I quit my 6-figure paying sales job in 2006 to go to yoga teacher training in pursuit of opening up a yoga studio. My business partners-to-be founded 105F in 2001 and I decided that joining forces and entering into a partnership with them would be an awesome opportunity. Together, we opened up a third yoga studio in the city under the same brand. Now, 20 years after our first studio’s doors opened, we are actually the longest continuously operated hot yoga and fitness brand in Chicago with our three locations around the city.
The picture wasn’t always that rosey, though. Hot yoga began to catch on with many other studios opening up all around the city and suburbs, as did other yoga and boutique fitness, in general. Seeing that micro-gyms and specialty fitness outfits were becoming more mainstream, we learned that offering an awesome experience, an amazing sweat, with a community like no-other, was not enough. We needed to operate more efficiently and more strategically. In 2017 (while I was pregnant with my third daughter), I navigated a team of over 40 employees through a reboot of brand, sales processes, and backend software, resulting in a dramatic growth within our revenues and profits. I joke around that I “worked myself out of a job” because the creation and execution of these sustainable systems not only helped move the needle on our business to substantial financial growth, but it also allowed me to eliminate myself out of the day-to-day operations and scale up my own personal freedom.
Grit rewarded me and gave me a new calling. I love helping other small business owners grow and scale their businesses, while giving them the freedom to enjoy their best lives. As a business advisor with Cultivate Advisors, I enjoy great satisfaction when I get to help other business owners identify their unique strengths to propel their thriving business plan. Together, we create the path to achieve their visions by setting up financial goals, structured systems, while layering in the soft skills needed to transition them from mere business owners into business leaders.
What are your clients looking for when they hire you?
Most of my clients have already found some success in their business and are already proven industry leaders. They are coachable and are hungry for massive change or growth. They know that they need help getting to the next level and are not just looking for not a service provider, but a business “partner” (without the equity, of course) to roll up her sleeves and get to work side-by-side with them!
Who are your mentors?
I love self-development: Esther Hicks, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson.
What advice can you give other mamas out there who are looking to start a new business in the current climate?
Know that there are always opportunities, no matter what climate, to start and thrive within a business. While some industries were hit hard over the past 10 months, others have successfully taken off and have grown exponentially. This past year has proven that those who are adaptable to change, and are able to present a solution to a perceived problem, are able to not only survive but thrive. Embrace knowing that you can’t possibly know everything, nor should you be expected to. Align yourself with a mentor, advisor, or anyone who has successfully run a business, whose vibes resonate with yours, and who you trust to help you achieve your vision while holding tension to your core values.
What are the 2 most common questions that people reach out to ask you?
Many people ask me, “How do you do it all?” My answer is that I have a LOT of trusted help and I am not afraid to ask for it when I need it. As humans, we are wired to connect and interact–know that it is a strength (not a weakness) to get the advice and support you need for expansion and growth. Asking for help is not only empowering, but it’s also liberating. I love knowing that I’m supported and do not have to do everything by myself. I ask, A LOT, for help.
Another common question is, “How can a business advisor help me and when is the best time to hire one?” The first thing I do with my clients is slow them down. I help them understand how to make sense of their financials. I educate them that their financials are truly the engine to any thriving business. Then we identify the vision. We want to connect the dots to get to this vision. How do we do it? We fuel that financial engine with the sustainable skills and systems to create sales and marketing processes, while leaning into softer skills like leadership and recruiting. Ultimately, we bring everything together to not only fuel that financial engine, but to make data-driven decisions in order to grow it, sustain it, and create every efficiency to result in its maximum productivity. If a business owner wants to save themself from a lot of wasted money and time–like I unfortunately lost throughout my own entrepreneurial journey–the best time to learn these hard and soft skills is before they find themself struggling, or before they are too overwhelmed with their “busyness,” or even before they are already drowning in their own success.
Current lipstick brand/color: I’m not a huge makeup gal but I’m cool with cheap drugstore lipgloss most of the time.
Undergrad college/major: University of Michigan; Music and Organizational Studies
Favorite candy: Sour Patch Kids
Strangest thing in your purse right now: a plastic insert for my mask (for easier breathing when I participate in a yoga class)
Last book you read: The Seat of the Soul, by Gary Zukav (but…I don’t read, I listen!)
Your binge shows: Cobra Kai (Of course! I grew up in the 80’s!)
Have you thought about how you and your family are going to stay sane this winter with shutdowns and such?
We are lucky to have a close-knit group of kids and friends in our “pod” for remote learning. This group has since turned into our social network so our kids can be kids with one another and the parents can be adults with one another.
We also plan to visit the grandparents in Florida once they’ve received their vaccines.
What’s next for 105F and Cultivate Advisors?
At 105F, we know that the demand is there for our classes and we are hoping to continue to serve our clients for many many more years. This last year has proven to have been a challenge for all of the service industry, including ourselves and other fitness studios. Because we had already built up a strong business foundation, we’ve been able to weather this crazy storm.
As for my business advising role at Cultivate Advisors, I’m excited to personally engage and share more skill-building tutorials and interactive webinars to inspire small business owners. I’m also always looking to partner with talented and dedicated business owners who are ready to skill up and scale up! Let’s connect on LinkedIn.
Wonderful! How can we connect with you for more information about getting started?
I love chatting with all-things business and mamas. If you’d like to reach out for a complimentary advising session, or just want to say hi, let’s start by having a 30-minute virtual coffee and together we will plan out the next steps.