The interview below was conducted by Matt Weik of Weik Fitness, LLC with Mindy and Sean Harley. Mindy and Sean are business owners and fitness competitors. Both are able to manage the day to day operations of their businesses as well as their fitness. Below is their story.
Full Circle: An Interview with Mindy and Sean Harley
For the readers who might not know either of your backgrounds, can both of you give us a quick overview of your life, who you are, and what you’ve accomplished in the industry?
Mindy Harley- “My journey in the fitness industry began after my first competition in 2005. I didn’t have an athletic background, but I fell in love with the gym when I needed to change my unhealthy lifestyle around. I found myself wearing size 34 jeans because of years of emotional eating (I was bullied growing up as a kid and found solace in food). For fun I started doing bikini competitions like Miss Hawaiian Tropics and Miss Molson Indy, I made a small name for myself in Winnipeg as a model but soon I started to be told that I had “too much muscle”. So I decided to give it a go at a figure competition. I trained myself on my own, somehow didn’t come in last but it was enough for me to get hooked. I quickly caught traction in the fitness industry, winning my first Pro Card with an organization called FAME, and adding published model to my resume with a magazine cover and various magazine features, and some fun work on set for Smallville. The highlight of my career was making it as one of the five female finalists for the Bodybuilding.com Spokemodel Search in 2010. I went on to win my Pro Card with the WBFF, before taking a two year hiatus from the fitness industry. I returned to the stage in 2015, this time as an amateur to compete in bikini with the NPC. Now nationally qualified, I enjoyed my first time competing at the North American’s in 2016. Now I work side by side with Sean building Rock Solid Nutrition, and have taken a break from competing to focus on growing both of our businesses.”
Sean Harley- “For me it all started after I graduated college. I moved from the Midwest out to sunny San Diego where I managed a supplement store. This was my first introduction to the wonderful world of supplements. I enjoyed it so much that eventually I became a partner on a store after about 2 years. It was during this time that I was out enjoying the beach one day when a photographer tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I’d like to do a shoot, voila, 3 months later I was holding my first published work in a fitness magazine. That publishing company sent me up to LA a few times to shoot for some of their other magazines and that’s where a series of chance meetings propelled me into the industry. I then started heading up to LA once or twice a week for jobs, castings, and acting classes. Eventually I decided to make the move to LA where I got an agent who got me into commercial modeling and acting. I did very well during my time there. I had some great experiences working on movies, TV shows, and modeling but eventually I was ready for a change to pursue something with more purpose.
I decided that I was going to follow a path where I could actually have a true impact on people’s lives for the better. So I packed my bags, threw my surfboard on the roof, and headed East. Soon after I moved to Omaha, iThinkFit Gym was born, and shortly after that Rock Solid Nutrition was started to ensure that our clients were getting pure, high quality supplements at an affordable price. Surprisingly, my fitness career took off even more after I moved back to Omaha. I won the first ever bodybuilding.com Spokesmodel Search, landing a cover with Iron Man Magazine. I spent the next two years with bodybuilding.com working the major shows and shooting with them in Boise for their website. Since then I’ve been featured in various Fitness Magazines around the world have become a physique competitor. I first became a pro in the WBFF but quickly made the switch over to the NPC where I earned my IFBB pro card within a year. I was in Mens Physique but switched over to Classic Physique when that division came out last year. I placed in the top 2 at three shows last year and made it to the Olympia to be part of the first group of Classic Physique pros to compete there.”
Both of you have world class physiques. When did both of you get interested in health and fitness and how would you say it’s changed your life?
Mindy Harley- “Thank you for the kind words Matt. I started lifting seriously around 2000. I was determined to make healthy changes in my life, so I started working out at home, but I wanted more so I marched into a women’s only gym and signed up. I never looked back, and didn’t miss any training days either so the gym quickly became my second home. Taking a serious interest in health and fitness has changed my life on so many levels. I look back and shake my head to think what and where would I be right now if I was too afraid to try? It’s given me a profound appreciation for the human body and what we are truly capable of. I think we take our bodies for granted, and sometimes that means treating our cars better than we do ourselves. By being involved with the fitness industry I have a platform to share my story with those who are on their own path. I’ve been in their shoes, I know the struggles, and I hope that they see anything is possible once you decide so. I know that I have already put myself in an advantageous state by keeping healthy and lifting weights. My family deals with a lot of issues with their health, and I’ve been able to avoid those same issues. I have my lifestyle to thank for that. Because health and fitness changed my path in life, it also set me up on a course that would eventually lead me to my husband.”
Sean Harley- “For me, the fitness aspect goes back to almost as along as I can remember. I grew up and doing hard work with my Dad and exploring the fields and tree’s of rural Nebraska with my brother, who is a year older. I’d also put on miles on top of miles on my bike riding around the country side. I fell in love with the feeling of physically exerting myself at a very young age. The 6th grade is probably when I actually started “exercising”. We went to a small school out in the country that didn’t have a weight room, or even a football team, but once we got to 7th grade we could drive to town and play on the local Jr. High’s football team. When my brother came of age, my parents bought him a set of those old-school sand filled weights and one of those sketchy home benches with the narrow brackets. I thought they where the coolest thing in the world. I immediately began bench pressing and curling every chance that I had. Joining the football team my self the next year only fueled that fire and that would follow me throughout my collegiate career. Though, It was in high school where I had a great strength coach, who happened to be a bodybuilder and football coach, actually teach me how to lift to grow and gain strength.
I started becoming more familiar with the nutrition and health aspect after college when I was working at the nutrition store. I wanted to know what every single ingredient in the store was and this lead me through a lot of books and lot of studying various aspects to health and learning about the body. This was a job with a lot of downtime waiting for customers and I used that time to learn as much as I could. And, since I began to do photoshoots around that time, I had to learn how to eat to get lean and muscular as well.
This is why I am truly thankful that I get to work in the health and fitness industry. It is something that I have been passionate about for all of my life.”
It seems like not too long ago that I had the opportunity to interview both of you, individually—Sean for Bodybuilding.com and Mindy for Fit Treasures Magazine. Now all of a sudden, here we are and the both of you are now married. Can you paint the picture of how all of this came about? I’d like to think our interviews were the reason, but that isn’t the case. Please share your story.
Mindy Harley- “Haha! In some mysterious way I’m sure your separate interviews with both Sean and I have been intertwined in the larger scale of things! Sean and I first crossed paths in 2010 when I was one of the five female finalists for the Bodybuilding.com Spokesmodel Search. Sean had won the contest the year prior and was brought back to be a guest judge (yes he voted for me). We worked the booth together, I remember looking at him and not being able to make eye contact (his eyes were so intense haha). We both had our own lives though so no hanky panky, but there were some sparks. We briefly crossed paths again when we competed in Toronto at WBFF Worlds, and other than some photo likes and comments on social media we didn’t have a lot of interaction because we were both in relationships. It wasn’t until 2015 that we reconnected. I was living in Mexico at the time, and I had posted a pizza meme on my instagram. I commented that it was a good thing there wasn’t a Papa John’s where I lived otherwise my diet might be out the window. Well, Sean decided to leave me a comment asking if I wanted him to deliver me one. Talk about an ice breaker and way to a woman’s heart! We started texting through Facebook messenger, which lead to texting and facetiming. Then I basically told him to put his money where his mouth is and buy a ticket to come hang out in Mexico with me. Three weeks later he was on a plane, and the connection was instant when I picked him up from the airport. I went back to Omaha a couple of times after that, and then moved to Omaha two months after his first visit. We got married in September that year during the Olympia weekend surrounded by our family and friends. When you know you know!!”
Mindy, you are one heck of a marketing guru. Not only are you the head of marketing for Rock Solid Nutrition, but you also recently started your own business, Social Empire. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do, what services fall under the Social Empire umbrella, and how things are going thus far with your new endeavor?
Mindy Harley- “Thank you Matt, as much as it is an honor to be called a “Guru” I take even more pride in always “being the student”. I started doing Social Media Management back in 2010 for businesses in the fitness industry. It was a great tool to have to negotiate my sponsorships, because social media marketing was still very new and no one really knew or understood the power of it at that time. It became my full time job in 2013, and I was quickly sought after for consulting for Macro Influencers in the industry. Things changed since 2010 and business owners started to recognize the power of what social media can do for B2B and B2C. But many new businesses out there struggled with being able to afford someone to handle their social media management and marketing. I took note of that and just this year in January Social Empire was launched. I took my education in the field, plus my seven years experience and developed four consulting/coaching programs. There are two for personal “Become The Master” and “Become The Apprentice” and two for businesses “Become The Master Business Edition” and “Become The Apprentice Business Edition”. I provide training on proper use, strategy, algorithms, brand development and marketing for all social media platforms. But as I said earlier, I am always the student and recognize that the landscape of social media is always changing. That’s why all of my clients have the added benefit of entering my private Facebook group upon completion of their training. That’s where I share all of my new techniques and strategies as I learn them. Social Empire also provides social media management services and we currently have nine clients on the roster. I still do strictly consulting as well for any companies that do want to have a better understanding of the platforms they are on, and how they could be doing better to engage their audience and have a much stronger ROI. The first three and a half months have been great and the response was huge. I now have an assistant, so I can continue to give my clients the best service possible, and I am currently working on phase two for Social Empire which I am planning to launch end of May early June.”
Business tips! What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own business or who are in the early stages of their start-up?
Mindy Harley- “Don’t wait for absolute perfection before you start, just get the business out there asap. We tend to do this all the time, always waiting for the “perfect moment”. But you can adjust and learn as you go. Brands evolve. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and just go for it.”
Sean Harley- “As a business owner you have to wear a lot of hats and you’ll have to learn a lot of different skills. However it’s important to know when to take some of those hats off and delegate tasks to others who are more proficient in those areas. This could mean contracting that work out if you are a one person team. Focus on what you’re good at and what’s important to the business, and spend less time trying to become an expert in everything.”
Here is a two-part question for each of you. If you would give us one motto to live by, what would it be? And the second question is, if you could give one piece of advice to everyone reading this regarding health and fitness, what would it be?
Mindy Harley- “Just one? Alright, if I had to pick one I’ll go with one that has served me well in my life, and that’s, “If you don’t ask the answer is always no.” Fear holds us back all the time, fear of rejection, fear of looking stupid, fear of failing. What will happen if you get a “no”? Will you still wake up tomorrow? Will life go on? Yes! Now you don’t have to listen to the “what ifs” in your head and replay “worst case scenarios” until you choke up and miss your opportunity. Just ASK!
My one piece of advice regarding health and fitness, is don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone’s chapter 20. Everyone has different goals, genetics, starting points, etc. Just focus on you!”
Sean Harley- “One quote that I have always loved throughout my life is “Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself and you are always creating.”
I am a firm believer that we are in control of our own lives and destinies, and this quote is a constant reminder for me to just take action to become the best version of myself!
Don’t expect perfection off the hop. Changing your lifestyle after years of old habits can be challenging. What’s important is that when you screw up don’t let that make you throw away your whole day or week. Get back on track the next day, strive for one perfect day at a time and eventually those days will add up. That’s when real change happens.”
If there’s one person who you credit for helping shape you into the person you are today, who would it be and why?
Mindy Harley- “I believe my parents really shaped me as far as instilling good values and championing anything I set out to do. But I feel one of my early mentors would be my dear friend Johnny Mean. He encouraged me to move when I was being pulled back with opinions of others (we’ve all heard of the crab bucket theory). He also really inspired that out-of-box thinking, and thinking bigger in general. We’d spend many afternoons with our groups of friends discussing ideas and encouraging each-other when one of us had an idea we were thinking about. I believe being surrounded with that kind of larger than life thinking, and risk embracing attitude is what really helped me grow into the person I am now. It was through him that I learned my second favorite motto ‘The bigger the risk, the greater the reward.'”
Sean Harley- “One of the great mentors in my life would have to be Lewis Peyton. I don’t think I would have the level of self awareness and mental tenacity if not for him showing me the power of meditation, and how it’s an amazing tool to detach from ego. This has paid off in all aspects in my life, from personal, to business and even bodybuilding. I still meditate to this day and I recommend it to many of my clients who are struggling with their own mental game.”
Where on social media can everyone find you? Please feel free to list all of your social media handles and websites.
Mindy Harley- “I’ve met some of my dearest friends through social media so I always look forward to connecting! You can say hi here:”
Facebook Page: Mindy Harley
LinkedIn: Mindy Harley
Pinterest: Mindy Harley
Facebook: Sean Harley Fan Page
YouTube: Rock Solid Nutrition
*On behalf of Weik Fitness, LLC, I would like to thank Mindy and Sean Harley for taking time out of their insanely busy schedules to conduct this interview.