Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and fitness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Roderick McMullen, Co-Founder, of Alleviate, located in Boston, MA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I'm CEO and Co-Founder of Alleviate -- we make Self-Treatment solutions for chronic injuries as an alternative to physical therapy. Our customers are mostly people who suffer from plantar fasciitis (a gnarly, painful injury to the bottom of the foot), but a lot of them are also people who aren't "patients" per se but who demand a lot of their feet (athletes, military & fire, nurses, teachers, etc.). What makes our customers really special is that they don't accept "no" for an answer -- they have jobs to do, races to run, trails to hike -- and they're willing to take their recovery from pain into their own hands. We give them the tools and the roadmap, but the "product" is their dedication and drive.

Tell us about yourself

I got into this business as a frustrated consumer myself. I was a college athlete who couldn't load the dishwasher without pain by the time I was 25. I just refused to accept that I was "permanently broken" and tried thing after thing, PT after PT, doc after doc, until I found something that worked. The "thing that worked" was the unique therapy approach of a guy named Luke with a thick New Zealand accent. He and I shared a common passion for helping people help themselves get better, and we started Alleviate together, along with Sean McDowell, a world-class product designer.

The spark that started the business was this intense drive to help people who, like me, felt stuck behind a wall of pain that kept them from the activities that make them happy. Deep in their gut, they know they can get better, but it's extremely difficult to know what's going to help them. A lot of people give up before they find their answer, and it's incredibly motivating to me to let that happen as rarely as possible.

And now that we've been at this for a while, what really gets me up every day is the team we have around us. If I serve the team, the team serves the customer, and we get to say we made things a little better.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

To be honest, I don't feel accomplished yet. But I feel proud -- really proud -- of the products we've built, the team we've assembled, and the customers we've helped. It makes my week when we get a customer who writes in a tells us we're a great company, or tells us about how they never thought they'd play tennis again, or that they can finally do a shift at the fire station without feeling like they're walking on a railroad spike. Those moments make me proud. But there is a deep feeling that we're just getting started ... ask me in 2 years!

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

I think it's different for everyone, and in my own experience, there's a new "hardest thing" every month or two. Like every month or so, I come to a realization that sounds like, "oh my gosh, I just realized I'm trying to control everything, and I need to stop." Or "oh my gosh, I just realized that I'm not taking care of my health, and I have to do that." I never know in advance what it's going to be, but every time I encounter the "hard thing du jour," I admit to myself that it's there and solve it -- I grow a little bit, and it feels really good.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

I'm so bad at generic advice. Everyone is different. But if I had to pick three tips that probably apply to everyone, it's three different flavors of "Know Your Why."

  1. Know your "Why." If you want to be your own boss, do it. If you want to get rich, do it. If you want to help people, do that. But know it.
  2. Know your "Why" and don't apologize for it. Everyone out there, usually with good intent, is going to subconsciously steer you towards THEIR why. The better you know yours, the more quickly you can identify who's a good partner and who may be leading you astray.
  3. Know your "why" and let go of the other ones. If you want to be boss, accept that you won't be as rich as you could be. If you want to help people, accept that you might not be able to grow as quickly as you want. Get the thing you want. Wanting everything, in my experience, is a recipe for not getting anything at all.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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