Lara Fatica is qualified as an osteopath from the University College of Osteopathy, London in 2013. Following a successful period working for a leading UK smoothie company in the sales department, while also building up a property portfolio in England and Wales, Lara and her husband Michael – also a trained osteopath – set up The Mayfair Clinic in London in 2017, providing expert help and support for those living with back pain.
During the Covid pandemic and with patients unable to seek expert help face-to-face, they worked to develop Back In Shape Program, an online, rehabilitation program for back pain, enabling them to offer their expertise and support to patients around the globe.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and the Back in Shape programme.
After graduating as an osteopath from the University College of Osteopathy in 2013 (where my husband Michael and I also first met), I went into the world of start-up working for Savse Smoothies. At the time I was in charge of growing accounts, which initially involved ‘door to door’ business calls to small independent shops across London trying to get the drinks listed. In the space of 6-12 months, this developed into meetings with senior buyers with high-profile brands including Asda and Sainsbury’s, where I helped secure deals worth in excess of £1.3 million. During this time, Michael and I also set up a property investment company. Our success in this area resulted in me leaving my job, so I could focus full-time on acquiring a small property portfolio in England and Wales. During this time, an exciting opportunity arose for us to set up a clinic in central London.
In 2017 after two years of ‘building’ The Mayfair Clinic, we were in business, with Michael as Lead Osteopath and myself taking on the role of Business Development and Operations Manager. Such was our success that we expanded in November 2019, hiring staff and providing comprehensive back health services to patients. Needless to say, 2020 dealt quite the curve ball. After being awarded the ‘Queens Award For Enterprise’ just before the lockdowns of 2020, what started out as an amazing year quickly changed to a very challenging one. Ultimately the clinic did not survive and we had to cease business in December that same year.
However, recognising a real lack of online support and provision in the area of back health, I made the move to set up Back In Shape in late 2020. Building another business from scratch was daunting and a huge learning curve. Looking back I can now appreciate the freedom it has offered Michael and I to put our expertise to full use and focus on helping those living with back pain. The pandemic enabled us to consider new, innovative ways of reaching patients virtually, providing them with the all help and encouragement they need to alleviate back pain.
To say the last three years have been challenging would be an understatement, but Back In Shape is going from strength to strength. We have amazing members all over the world and we’ve just made the step to secure a new HQ premises in Cheltenham, so we really feel exciting times are ahead.
Did you always want to become an osteopath?
When I was a child I had a very positive experience with osteopathy as my mother used to take me to help with my occasional headaches as she didn’t like the idea of giving me medication. The holistic approach that osteopathy embraces – which also forms the very foundations of the Back in Shape Program – is something that was a real attraction to me and continues to influence the way I live my life today. I prefer to take a more natural and holistic approach to my lifestyle, workouts, diet and even the way I choose to raise my young daughter.
My diversion away from the profession post-university is more one of chance than anything else, but has led me down a more business/startup route which I have fully embraced.
Do you think there is equal representation of women in this area of the healthcare sector?
In my experience, we have always hired with fairly equal representation and really this is less about gender, but more about skill. I will say that the profession is great for women as many osteopaths are able to choose their working hours, so for those women wishing to work and raise a family, it can be a great flexible option.
What challenges did you face developing the Back in Shape program and how did you overcome them?
Firstly, starting any business is seriously hard work. In our circumstances, having to create something new during such unprecedented times was an incredibly unique experience. I think anyone else who went through similar struggles during the pandemic can easily relate to this.
Other challenges seemed pretty simple in comparison and involved the usual issues. Such as building the infrastructure for our service online, marketing a completely different kind of service than before, spreading the word, getting attention from a marketing point of view, and converting leads to customers. These are all the usual challenges any business faces.
As an online business, the tech side of things was also completely new to me and probably the most challenging. From building a website to building out the framework for a membership platform and getting everything to integrate and work seamlessly, was a lot to take on initially. Even something as simple as buying a camera and lens for live streaming gets complicated when you think about your set. Creating the set, considering the lighting and other small touches can all make such a big difference, yet takes time and lots of patience. The tech aspect has all been self-taught. You sort of muddle your way through it all, leaning while you go. I didn’t attend specific courses, but plenty of YouTube tutorials!
But, no matter what, we overcame most challenges by, quite frankly, not giving up. Truly believing in our service and knowing that we are really making a difference in our members’ lives really gave us the gusto to keep going. Ultimately, while testing and finding lots and lots of things that didn’t work, you eventually find some that do!
You’ve recently given birth to your first child, what’s the secret to success in terms of running a business and being a working mum?
Becoming a mother is life-changing, yet completely wonderful and should be celebrated more! Juggling the two is very difficult, but you can do it, especially if you have a little bit of support.
I was very much in baby mode for a good few months, taking it all in. It’s very easy to feel a little guilty and frustrated, especially if prior to children your business was everything, but I’m so glad I did it this way. The first few months are so precious and that’s time you simply cannot get back.
Once I felt ready, I slowly got back into things professionally. One strategy I found particularly helpful, but appreciate this might not work for everyone, was waking up extra early (4am) a few nights a week. This was to incorporate three hours of work before my baby would wake up for the day. Now I’m a mum, I’m still shocked at how much work I can get done in such a short amount of time. Staying focused and setting yourself daily, achievable targets, particularly when you first return to work, is key.
Time is precious so organisation matters. For example, I keep a log of my daily tasks, some of which I try to do while feeding my baby or while she is sleeping. Being able to adapt to new circumstances is crucial.
How do you find working as a ‘husband and wife’ team? (Do you both have clearly defined roles? Is it a help or a hindrance? etc)
It works really well for us, I don’t think we would have it any other way. We both really enjoy the process of creating and cultivating a business, and Michael and I have worked together for a long time and know what makes the other tick. But, like any other couple, we have disagreements on things which we work out together and we have probably gone through the process of figuring out who’s best at what over the years and now are very much aware of our strengths and weaknesses. Although we tend to work on the majority of tasks together, Michael is very much the ‘face’ of Back In Shape, whereas my work is focused on operations and business growth.
What would be your advice to other working mums thinking about setting up and running their own business?
Get organised! You often only have a few windows during the day where you can be productive, so make the most of these opportunities as best you can. Also, don’t be afraid to call on family members for support – just a few hours a week can make all the difference.
Importantly, ensure you get set up as much as possible prior to your baby’s arrival. Many things can be scheduled months in advance, for example, social media projects, postings and outreach. If you have a business partner or life partner you are working with, create a flexible plan for when the baby comes and, first and foremost, dedicate time to those tasks that you absolutely must do and that no one else can cover.
It’s also really important to make time to enjoy your baby! Try not to feel too guilty if you don’t manage to tick off everything on your ‘to-do’ list. It’s important to recognise how each day will be different – some will go swimmingly, others will go out the window, but as working mums, we don’t need to beat ourselves up about it. Be patient with yourself. Keep the wheels on the business turning slowly before you can really ramp things up when the baby gets older.
Looking forward, what are you hoping to achieve in the next five years?
We’ve got some very exciting plans over the coming years. Our focus is to continue to raise awareness of Back In Shape and create dedicated regional hubs across the UK to support our members even more.
Who is/has been your biggest inspiration?
My job at Savse really set me on my way. It got me into reading books all about business development, personal development, mindset and entrepreneurship. It was hugely beneficial to be exposed to such books at a relatively early age. For example, Grant & Elena Cardone in the USA, are a great husband and wife team, and many of their books shaped our earlier entrepreneurial development.
Read more interviews with our other inspirational women here.