Self described as a jill of all trades, Minna Lee is a a personal trainer, nutrition coach, and lifestyle blogger. She has recently launched her own product line of turmeric and collagen blends called ‘Live 24k’ and we are not only obsessed with her product, we are obsessed with her too! How can a single person do so many different things and still manage to stay balanced? We asked her to tell us a bit more about herself and how she built her career, and her brand:
1. How did you get into the wellness industry?
I was a competitive figure skater for 10 years, so I grew up with athletics. I then went to NYU and graduated into an unfulfilling job in an industry that made me miserable and it was the unhealthiest I had ever been. I left that job and committed to getting fit and healthy again, which led to me going back to my roots. I got certified as a trainer and fell in love with how I could use my experiences to help people lead healthier lives.
Mind you, this was also before fitness became “trendy,” so some of my friends thought I was nuts for throwing away my degree to become a trainer. They thought I was turning into a meathead gym rat, but little did they know what this industry would turn into… I certainly didn’t!
2. What was the motivation to start your blog Living Minnaly, and launch your Live 24k turmeric collagen blend? What has been most important to you throughout your growth and success?
I started Living Minnaly because I got sick of sending my clients these articles on fitness and nutrition with a million notes saying, “well that’s not true” or “ignore that, but that other part is great!” There was and honestly still is, a lot of BS in the health industry with flashy headlines winning over factual information far too often; so I wanted a place for my clients to be able to rely on for information, and also inspiration for behavioral + mindset change that is the root of progress towards better health.
Live 24k was born out of a personal need that I realized was a much bigger issue affecting so many others. I have Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease affecting my thyroid. I experienced horrible inflammation-based symptoms like weight fluctuation, bloating, join pain, extreme fatigue, leaky gut, and severe hormonal acne. I found that turmeric and collagen based golden mylks helped me manage my symptoms immensely, then a client of mine with adrenal fatigue asked me what brand of golden mylk I would recommend buying because she didn’t want to make it herself at home. I was extremely frustrated to find that there were no brands on the market that didn’t have counterproductive gums + sugars, or were missing the crucial ingredients of black pepper and fats to make turmeric bioavailable in your body. So I shared my homemade blend with her and she joked around saying I should start selling it. Then after realizing over 26 million Americans are affected by incurable autoimmune diseases and that inflammation is the root cause of most chronic diseases, I became determined to address this issue with a small daily habit that could genuinely support peoples health– thus, Live 24k’s Golden Fuel was born!
The absolute most important part of my continued growth and any success I achieve is maintaining integrity and humility in everything I do. I dislike superficial behavior and people who use dishonest or bullying tactics to get ahead. You can be firm and get stuff done without being a jerk. But I dislike people who think they’re more important than others, even more. I think we all have our unique values and talents we bring to this world, but we all have the same value as humans– no matter our race, economic status, titles, resumés, or whatever other societal norms.
3. What were you doing before you started Living Minnaly?
I was and still am a personal trainer and nutrition coach! At the time that I started Living Minnaly back in 2014, I was still working as a Tier III personal trainer at Equinox and I was just recovering from hip surgery. Those 6 weeks that were mandatory for me to take off from work gave me the time to be able to build the website for the blog and finally put all my ideas in one place.
Since launching, I still have never gone full-time in the blogging world because I enjoy working with my clients too much to fully stop coaching people directly. It’s definitely a new kind of balance now though, throwing Live 24k into the mix!
4. What is your favourite part about your job?
For coaching, it will always be helping a client reach a goal and mindset they didn’t think was possible before. This effect and building of confidence tend to reverberate beyond training into their personal and professional lives as well, and seeing my clients blossom like that is everything for me.
For blogging, I really view it as an extension of my coaching on a larger but more general scale. I love that I am able to connect with and help others with their health with my content. It also lets the creative side of my brain run wild with my writing and photography.
Then for Live 24k, it really is the culmination of it all. For me, it’s not just anti-inflammatory turmeric-collagen product– it’s a catalyst for making nourishment and healthy self-care habits easier. Success builds upon success: so when your body is feeling supported and happy, you are more likely to continue making choices that continue down that path. We encourage people to “live golden,” meaning to live their best life regardless of the cards they’ve been dealt. I’m a rather sensitive person, so hearing feedback from my customers that they’ve noticed decreased physical inflammation (like their rings fitting again, decreased joint pain) in as little as three days, or that their kid thinks our Golden Fuel tastes like gingerbread cookies, or that they don’t even need to add stevia to it to enjoy it daily? Those emails and messages make me cry in the best way, and it drives me to do more.
5. How do you balance freelancing and your own blog? How do you stay inspired?
What I’ve really learned is that balance is kind of BS and it’s the same thing as aiming for perfection. It doesn’t exist, and trying to achieve it will cause more stress than it’s worth. I used to drive myself insane trying to set all these boundaries and structure with my time for the sake of striking a “balance,” but I found myself getting so anxious then when I wasn’t able to stick with that structure which was almost always.
So I learned to surf. Metaphorically, that is. Learning to go with the waves and really understanding what is priority that day then tackling it has been key for me to managing it all. Of course I still have those days where I feel like an insane person that has no idea what she’s doing, but I think that feeling is important to experience too– because you learn to tap into new capabilities and mental strength you didn’t know you had.
Also, really learning how to value my time and saying NO is still one of the hardest things for me, because I tend to love biting off more than I can chew and drive myself crazy to get it done anyway. But sometimes you have to say no to the smaller things so you can funnel all that energy for something much more important– don’t fill yourself up on the bread basket and appetizers and miss out on the big meal!
As far as inspiration, I’m quite careful about what I put into my brain and what I surround myself with– just like how it’s important to be mindful about what we eat and put in our bodies, this is just as important. You can’t expect to put garbage in your brain and then suddenly spout out inspirational ideas that change the world. I only follow content that I truly find meaning in, I am always reading books on growth, management, and behavioral psychology, and I choose to surround myself with supportive people that are also driven and have a growth mindset. I also think travel, challenges, and novelty are so important for keeping your perspective fresh and to continue evolving your mindset. Gotta step out of that comfort zone to grow!
6. Tell us what a day in the life looks like, and first thing you do in the morning, and last thing you do at night.
As most entrepreneurs will say, no one day is quite the same. I usually get up at 6am, but sometimes 5am if I have an early AM training client. First thing I do in the morning is to not touch my phone, head into the kitchen to drink some water and either coffee or tea depending on what I’m feeling that day. I glance at my email to see if there are any urgent fires, but I like to tackle non-reactive tasks in the morning while my brain is still fresh– writing, strategizing, creating. Otherwise it’s way too easy to get sucked into the email hole until it’s suddenly 2pm and you don’t know what happened to your day!
Then depending on the day, it’s a mix of training client sessions, meetings for Live 24k and blogging, content creation, business strategy, packing + shipping boxes of Golden Fuel, deliveries, and so on. Right now I’m a team of one, with occasional support from friends, so I’m playing all roles from CEO, accountant, sales, marketing, fulfillment, and delivery woman, janitor, and I’ve become a pro at unpacking boxes. Somewhere in there I do my best to eat well and move my body in whatever it needs that day– lately I’ve been a lot more intuitive and forgiving with my body in terms of working out. While my body is underslept and stressed, it’s not the time for me to be doing HIIT and heavy lifting– I just don’t have the capacity to dedicate to the recovery that that requires.
I am HUGE on nightly rituals– that is the one consistent thing in my day that keeps me sane. I first have to organize my “desk” aka my kitchen island, and then I always diffuse a calming scent in my Saje diffuser like the tranquility blend or one of their treehouse blends. Then I light up some palo santo to smudge and keep my bedroom a sacred place for sleep. I refuse to bring work into that space- no laptop, no work stuff on my phone. I wash my face and sometimes do a mask, moisturize my hands and feet. Then I rub some stress-relieving essential oils on my temples, set my alarm, write in my nightly check-in journal, and I’m out like a hibernating bear. It’s so important to have a decompressing routine like this that signals to your body and brain that it’s time to chill out– it’s essentially sleep training for adults, and our society doesn’t do enough of it for how important it is for our health!
7. What does self care mean to you? What do you do to keep sane? What products do you enlist to help?
As an introvert who works in extremely extroverted and forward-facing industries, I always need a little solitude to recharge and stay sane. Then for self-care, I like to classify it as anything that feeds my mind, body, or soul. It could be a face mask while sipping on some Golden Fuel, taking an hour break to go play with my baby niece, acupuncture or myofascial work to show my body some love, cooking up an unplanned meal without rushing, reading a book in bed, meditation with essential oils, or a walk outside with no phone. Especially as someone with an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s, self-care is not a luxury for me– it’s a requirement.
8. 3 things you’re obsessing over right now.
Supporting small businesses, moving towards zero waste (in both food + life), and essential oils.
9. What is one piece of advice you would give someone who is just starting their professional career?
One of my biggest pet peeves is the advice, “do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I think that kind of disrespects and undermines how much hard work it takes to chase your passions and turn it into something real. I adore my work and honestly there is nothing I’d rather be doing in life right now, but I work my ass off and it is extremely challenging. We forget sometimes that work should be challenging and not easy- cruise control is for a job, not a career.
I also think there is major confusion in this generation that your hobbies and passions should automatically be the thing you do for a living. I believe some things should be preserved just for yourself and pure enjoyment. It’s like chocolate cake: it’s amazing in small doses but if you were to eat it for all three meals in a day every day, you’d feel so sick of it and never want to go near anything that smelled like chocolate ever again.
So when you’re evaluating career direction, take inspiration and notes from others, but ultimately own your power to make those big decisions about where and how you want your career to go. You’ll find yourself in the right place for you a whole lot faster!