Aspiring entrepreneurs, pay attention, because here’s how it works. There are no shortcuts, no overnight successes. Case in point: Henry Richardson, creator of DEFINE Mind & Body.
Born and raised in Houston, Richardson graduated from Memorial High School in 1998, where he was a state champion in diving. He accepted a scholarship to The University of Florida, became an All-American diver and graduated in 2002.
“The whole theme for DEFINE came from my MBA experience at Rice. My professor kept talking about defining your life, defining your purpose and the word 'define' just kind of stuck in my head."
“Diving was a huge part of my life. During my time in Florida, I broke my back and a doctor basically told me that to get back I needed to start doing yoga and Pilates. That’s how I got into this world.”
After college, Richardson joined Teach For America and taught sixth grade in the South Bronx for two years.
“I was still taking a lot of yoga and Pilates, but as a school teacher I really didn’t have the funds to support my practice. So I figured I should start teaching yoga and Pilates so I could get paid to do it instead of it costing me money. I started teaching for a company called Exhale and ultimately they had me moving to all different locations to teach and open studios. I was in Chicago for six months, Los Angeles for six months, Boston for three months.”
In 2007 he decided to move back to Houston. “I wanted to start my 'real' career and went back to school to get my MBA at Rice."
At Rice, Richardson developed the vision and plan for what is now DEFINE.
“The whole theme for DEFINE came from my MBA experience at Rice. I was actually taking a class and my professor kept talking about defining your life, defining your purpose and the word 'define' just kind of stuck in my head.
"It was an enterprise class and it was really geared towards entrepreneurs, so I decided to take my previous background and make this a career for myself. I knew what yoga and Pilates had done for my back and I felt there was a unique opportunity here in Houston because there was nothing like it and I could combine what I do into a program.”
Things have gone so well that the loans have been paid and DEFINE has since expanded to four locations in Houston.
In Houston Richardson saw a unique opportunity. “Houston’s workout arena is gyms, country club memberships or a few yoga and Pilates studios here and there. But it didn’t have necessarily this kind of full, dynamic community with the ability to buy single classes or packages of classes. It was just you’re either a member or you’re not. I felt like we needed something new, something that was a little fresher take on health and wellness.”
“I spent my entire second semester of business school focused on opening up DEFINE. I did an independent study so I was looking at different properties for rental, developing the logo and the brand; everything about the business process was taking place. The week before graduation I actually signed my first lease and we opened up our first location in Tanglewood in 2009."
In true entrepreneurial fashion Richardson acknowledges, “My thought process was that my student loans were due in November so if we start construction in May, maybe get open in August and have a few months under our belt, hopefully things will go well and I’ll have enough money to pay my student loans.”
Things have gone so well that the loans have been paid and DEFINE has expanded to four locations in Houston including Tanglewood, River Oaks, the Energy Corridor and West University, where the newest studio is located.
Through DEFINE, Richardson has also established DEFINE Your Inspiration (DYI), a non-profit organization dedicated to inspire young women and men in low-income areas to live healthier and more rewarding lives by encouraging them to define their health, education, and personal goals.
High school students will learn about nutrition and making healthy food choices, which, Richardson says, which will in turn foster greater self-esteem, positive body images, increased school attendance and productivity.
“It is all really about a lifestyle what we do here. It’s not just about looking amazing, which our classes will certainly help you to do; it’s really about combining everything you do; your diet, the form of movement that you do, your mind, giving back. That’s our take on health and wellness.”