Eating Cupcakes & Kale for Health with Laura Cipullo
Conversation with Laura Cipullo, Founder of Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services & L’ifestyle Lounge
Eating Cupcakes & Kale for Health
April 3, 2019
1. What is your business?
I have two businesses. In 2000, I founded a private nutrition practice, Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services in New York City. In 2017, I opened my second and most recent business endeavor, the L’ifestyle Lounge, in Closter, NJ. The Lounge is a yoga, mindfulness, and nutrition self-care center.
My career is centered around nutrition and lifestyle–whether working with nutrition clients, volunteering, writing or teaching yoga. I am a registered dietitian, a certified eating disorder dietitian, a certified diabetes educator, and a registered yoga teacher. I provide nutrition consultations and meal support therapy. I have two dietitians, Lisa Mikus, and Elizabeth Adler, who work with me in both my NYC practice and at the L’ifestyle Lounge. The nutrition sessions are generally one-on-one unless the session is for a family, a couple, or parents coming for their child’s health.
Because real life situations and modeling are two important aspects for learning, we take our clients to restaurants for meal support therapy. We literally eat with them in session or at a restaurant to role model and teach the clients how to mindfully eat all foods. Most of our nutrition clients consult us for the purpose of changing their relationship with food and their body. A large majority of our clients specifically seek us out to heal from the struggles of an eating disorder or disordered eating.
We offer group yoga and mindfulness classes in New York and New Jersey, but New Jersey is the only location where we offer the private 1:1 sessions. My motto “Eat Kale and Cupcakes” is all about balance. The L’ifestyle Lounge is a physical extension of this motto – a center where people can experience the full range of happy, healthy and healing experiences.
2. What made you decide to start your business and/or switch careers?
When my family moved to the suburbs, I decided to get my yoga teaching certificate with the goal of opening a yoga and mindfulness center. I had practiced yoga since 1994, and I loved the Manhattan studios such as Kula where I had practiced. However, it felt like every yoga center and fitness center near my house in the suburbs were focused on the appearance of body rather than the full spectrum of healthy living. I wanted to create a place that was healing for everybody and literally everybody. I wanted a yoga studio where I could practice yoga AND not be subjected to the latest diet talk, someone trying to sell me a cleanse or telling me to change my body. Since I could not find this place, I created it.
3. Was there one moment that gave you the confidence that this was a good idea?
When I looked at the financials and feasibility for starting the L’ifestyle Lounge, I wasn’t sure how I was going to make the math work, pay the monthly rent or even run two businesses while being a mom of two boys.
Initially, I used revenue from my NYC practice to start the L’ifestyle Lounge. I added nutrition consulting to the yoga and mindfulness concept to increase my success rate. I knew how to run a successful nutrition practice in NYC, so I felt confident I could do it again in NJ. The income from the nutrition practice would serve to initially support the yoga and mindfulness services.
Other than that, I tried not to think about the logistics. It was blind faith. Just setting the intention and literally manifesting it by working seven days a week.
Opening your own business is a risk. The one thing that I know and that I can control is my work ethic and what I give. I have good business sense. I will work 24/7 and put my heart and soul into every aspect of the business to achieve success.
I wanted to try and see what would happen despite the fact that I wasn’t sure how I would manage my time or two businesses. I just had this feeling guiding me to open the Lounge. If the Lounge didn’t work out, I would be okay using the experience to learn and the opportunity to grow.
4. Was there ever a particularly tough time that in retrospect was a priceless learning moment?
Raising picky eaters tests me daily. Upon having children of my own, it quickly became evident that preventing eating disorders and having a healthy relationship to food and body comes from neutral food language and self-care habits instilled at an early age. Rather than focusing on treating disease and disorders, prevention became key. These lessons led me to self-publish a book for parents and children called Healthy Habits and to create a web site formerly known as Mom Dishes It Out.
Before moving to the suburbs, my husband was temporarily unemployed. The lack of financial security changed my relationship to my career and the value of my time. It was now my responsibility to provide financially. I made two big changes: I moved my nutrition practice to a more expensive space, and I increased my fees.
I felt comfortable making these changes because I believed in myself and my work ethic. I already stepped out of my comfort zone with authoring my first book, the Diabetes Comfort Food Diet Cookbook and with several television appearances. This was just one more experience with discomfort.
As one learns on the yoga mat or even in our offices, discomfort becomes comfort when using your breath and feeling the feelings. With breath work and hard work, I was able to push through this time and make it to the other side.
I invested in new branding, a new website and accepted offers for my third book, the Women’s Health Body Clock Diet and my fourth book, Everyday Diabetes Meals Cooking for One or Two all simultaneously. Recognizing my value was the best thing for my career and my income. It more than doubled my business immediately.
5. Were your family and friends helpful or obstacles in launching your business? How so?
My family and friends are my rocks. They motivate me, guide me and help take care of my children. I am forever grateful to all of them. I learned first-hand how much I needed my parents and in-laws when I began to author books. The tight deadlines meant working as a Registered Dietitian during the day and writing in the evening and sometimes even through the night. Everyone pitched in to help me with my children.
When considering opening a yoga studio in 2016, I first sat down with my parents and husband and told them, “I want to open a mindfulness and yoga center here in Bergen County.” Normally I just do things. I don’t discuss them. I move forward slowly waiting for things to unravel, revealing the organic progression of opportunity, the steps I should or shouldn’t take. I believe for me to be a changemaker I have had to go with my gut, as many opportunities don’t make sense on paper.
However, this time I did discuss the concept of opening the L’ifestyle Lounge with my family. My husband, parents and I discussed how much money the Lounge launch would cost and made an Excel spreadsheet. It was obviously very overwhelming. They kept advising me, “You need some kind of edge. You need to speak to a different population. There are too many yoga studios in close proximity.”
I took their advice and opened the L’ifestyle Lounge based on the theme of my books and nutrition philosophy. I also made the space a place for families and not just the typical adult yogi. We offer adult and children classes alike and even simultaneously. I intentionally added nutrition by offering the services of Registered Dietitians.
6. Was outside funding/cost a challenge to getting your business off the ground?
My NYC consulting practice, Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition, and my career grew at a slow and steady rate. I was and remain optimistic that the L’ifestyle Lounge will follow suit. I have witnessed the benefits of “word of mouth” referrals and know this takes time.
7. What are some successes you have had with your business that make you proud?
Everything is meaningful to me. I am over the moon when L’ifestyle Lounge clients text me to say how much the place and the community have changed their lives.
And in the nutrition parts of my practices, witnessing clients recover from eating disorders and change their relationships with food and body is truly rewarding.
The more intimate, personal growth of my clients and myself keeps me going, allowing me to love every day of my life. I get to change the lives of my clients but they change mine. They challenge me to be strategic, smart and compassionate. I am constantly learning and evolving so I can be the best RD and yoga instructor for my clients and of course, for my children.
In addition to the day to day rewards, I am truly honored that the charity Project Heal licensed my tagline “Eat Kale and Cupcakes!” for their fundraising apparel. Funds raised from these tanks, tees, and hoodies sold at the L’ifestyle Lounge in Closter, NJ and on the Project Heal website store support treatment scholarships for individuals with eating disorders.
8. What are some challenges?
Managing staff and knowing how to advertise the yoga and mindfulness classes are new challenges. Having a staff of independent contractors is especially hard when I cannot behave like the “typical” CEO. I need to practice compassion and kindness in “yoga fashion” while earning an income. This is a delicate balance. I need my yoga team to understand there’s a community at the Lounge and all actions have reactions and repercussions on the financial side. And, the advertising world is completely new to me – I never advertised in NYC.
9. What would be your biggest piece of advice you would give to yourself ten years ago?
I honestly would not have done anything differently so my advice to myself would be, “You’ve got this!” The mistakes I made were learning opportunities, and I continue to figure things out daily.
10. What are your hopes for your business in the next five years?
In the back of my head and deep in my heart I do have some intentions. But my intentions are flexible, and I always keep them to myself. I try to let things grow and evolve as organically as possible. I am open to all opportunities as they present themselves to me.
Conversation Date: September 7, 2018