Finding Your Entrepreneurship Fit: A Talk with Shana Schneider

February 27, 2017

Last Tuesday, Shana Schneider, Founder of ZoeFit and the “Fitstyle Your Life” approach spoke about her many entrepreneurial stints on the path to discovering her own style of entrepreneurship. Schneider, who has been featured in national magazines, websites and fitness blogs including The Huffington Post and Redbook, believes there are many kinds of entrepreneurial approaches, and emphasizes the importance of finding the style that is a good fit.

After graduating from Yale, Schneider worked in a small production company at TV guide and filled the role of an associate producer in New York City. But after 9/11, Schneider felt the need to work on something “more substantial, beyond entertainment.”

Her parents were living outside of Philadelphia, and found many young teenagers were having trouble with drugs, alcohol and substance abuse. This led to her idea for launching a nightclub aimed at teenagers to get them away from harmful substances and behavior.

But after relocating, Schneider found the process of starting a company more challenging than she’d expected. She faced pushback over the fact that her endeavor favored popular Christian music and excluded songs with misogynistic lyrics. “I did not know how to make this sustainable as a business,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I had the know-how, or had proven enough to see that it was a full-time thing.”

Schneider moved back to New Haven with her husband and volunteered at New Haven Reads, working closely with the founder of the volunteer-based tutoring program. Working at the Office of New Haven, Schneider pitched two roles to the office in the course of four years — creating a new role for herself focused on intrapreneurship.

She later worked as the Deputy Director of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, where she and Managing Director Jim Boyle brought year-round programming to YEI. They worked with student groups, created an incubator space, brought in speakers and formed more fruitful relationships with Yale students interested in entrepreneurship. But something was nagging Schneider. “I was seeing all these students coming in with great ideas, and I felt a lot like a poser. Who am I to give advice on this?”

Schneider wanted real entrepreneurship experience, so she joined a book startup with the founder of the independent bookstore, RJ Julia. “What I discovered through that experience is that you better be sure you want to eat, breathe, sleep and talk about this project,” she said. Schneider and her business partner would gather information from customers and choose books based on the information provided to tailor book recommendations to readers. But Schneider had a stressful holiday experience, focusing on retail more than her quality time with her family during Christmas, and realized that “this was not the startup for me.”

“You want to imagine that you’re going to make it, but the majority of companies don’t,” she said. “You have to be okay with spending all this time for the possibility of the company not existing anymore.”

Schneider then got involved in Fit Week: customers bought a pass and received access to fitness studios in Greater New Haven and Fairfield County. All of the proceeds of the card went to the Smilow Cancer Hospital, a difficult path in terms of business sustainability.

“I’d always been interested in fitness, and I thought one of the barriers to people working out is that they haven’t found what they wanted to do.”

She then realized she hadn’t even attended a single workout class, wasn’t seeing her husband, squeezing in Fit Week alongside a full-time job. “I need to figure this out for myself, fitting fitness into a busy schedule.”

This idea formed the beginning of ZoeFit, a company focused on innovative solutions for incorporating workouts into packed schedules. Schneider currently works at Technolutions in New Haven, a company started by a Yale alumnus that focuses on college admissions software. She emphasized that there is no one type of entrepreneur, and that pursuit of entrepreneurship can be a fulfilling career path—finding and exploring a business idea (or two, or three) that speaks to your passion.