Lady #2: Tea Thome
Occupation: Owner/Founder/Creator of TaycFitness, Team Tight n’ Curvy, Stacked Solid and Frsh Beauty
Claim to fame: Ditched her corporate job at age 25, against the advice of her dad, to start lifestyle coaching full-time. The result, TayC Fitness, Team Tight n Curvy and Stacked Solid are now made up of over 100 clients from all across Canada. Never one to rest on her (successful) laurels, Tea recently dived into a new venture head on, launching the beauty brand Frsh Beauty.
Life mantra: “You create the life of your dreams.”
What makes her different: Tea’s passion lies not in her ability to sculpt the bodies of her clients, but instead, in her capacity to transform their minds and ways of living. While a successful fitness training coach, leading numerous clients to 1st place finishes at various fitness competitions, Tea sees beyond those types of short-term goals and instead guides her clients to long-term wins – a healthy relationship with food, exercise and an understanding of the importance of a balanced lifestyle.
I walk into my second interview with Tea Thome, owner of TayCFitness, Team Tight n Curvy, Stacked Solid and Frsh Beauty, still slightly sore from the workout that followed my first interview on Saturday. Although I have been a client of Tea’s for almost five years, I don’t see her all that often (more on why later), so maybe that’s why I am still blissfully unaware of what I am in for. It is leg day at the TayC Fitness gym, and I am joined by four other Tight n’ Curvy teammates, all brimming with a strange energy mix of excitement and foreboding.
We traipse down to the gym and all turn to our “mama bear” coach, expectantly.
“Today,” Tea begins gleefully. “We are doing 500 reps of goblet squats, dead-lifts and curtsy squats.”
I blink at her, not quite understanding. The other girls, however, have clearly been through this before, and Tea’s announcement is met with groans and a chorus of “Noooo’s”.
And so, we begin. The first 100 are not bad, but by the time I am closing in on 200, I am soaked in sweat and glancing around the room, feverishly plotting my escape. Fifteen minutes later, and approaching the 400th rep, I fall on the ground, dramatically exclaiming, “I just can’t do anymore!”
On the other side of the room, another wet-looking Team Tight n Curvy member glances over at me and says simply, “Yes you can, come on, get up, you can do it!”
The girl next to me, also quite sweaty and looking as though the task of breathing isn’t going overly-well, manages to look over and nod at me encouragingly.
And then, although I am fairly certain I am dying, I have an “ah-ha” moment. Seeing these women, all of them at differing levels of physical fitness, push through and support each other through this hell-ish (I’m not dramatic at all, it was hell-ish 🙂 ) task, is inspiring. It literally inspired me to get up, and push through those last 100 reps.
This is the beauty of what Tea Cuk has built in the form of Team Tight n’ Curvy and Stacked Solid (the men’s team). Beyond just a business, Tea has built a unit, a community of women who support each other, a community that is rife with encouragement and positive attitudes.
“When I began the journey of being a health coach, that was an issue I heard time and tine again,” explains Tea. “That losing weight was hard in large part due to the fact that it can be so isolating. Changing your lifestyle, having weight loss goals kind of separates you from your family and friends, and I think a lot of the time, that’s why people quit. So I thought, what if there was a place where those people who are trying to reach these goals can go to talk about what’s happening with them, get support from others going through the same changes, find encouragement when their motivation is low.”
This idea of creating a community and becoming an architect designing custom-made, healthy lifestyles is a far cry from Tea’s beginnings.
When Tea’s parents arrived in Canada from Bosnia in 1995, they didn’t even have winter coats to face the Canadian winters they knew nothing about.
“My parents took huge risks, left everything they knew in Bosnia, in order for us to have a chance at a better life.”
Which is why, following the completion of her Bachelors degree in psychology, Tea was both pleased and proud to accept a parent-approved job in the corporate world, working for an immigration services company.
“I really did love it,” Tea tells me, her eyes lighting up. “Matching people new to Canada with jobs, getting to know them, making connections, it was awesome. But because I was excelling, they kept giving me more to do, which translated into me being able to spend less time forging those human connections.”
While kicking-ass and taking-names at her “real” job, on the side, Tea had started personal training in her spare time.
I had done a few fitness shows, completed the AFLCA personal training course and really just loved sharing my knowledge. I would be up until 2 am creating client programs, at the gym in the morning getting my own workout out of the way before work, so that I could train people at night. Al of this so that I could keep my “real job” on track.”
TayC Fitness picked up steam at an astonishing pace though, and soon Tea found herself at a crossroads.
“I was so torn. I truly never thought that coaching could be a career, and plus, I knew my parents would kill me for quitting my “real” job. My corporate job wanted me to advance in my career, and was planning on sending me to a conference in Ottawa and I just didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to do it, I knew my heart was now in something else. Marcus (Tea’s then boyfriend, now husband), told me to take a leap of faith. And that Ottawa trip was pretty much what led to my resignation, and my move to taking coaching full-time.”
Tea describes the next few months as fate.
“It was as if the stars aligned for me. Quitting my job, not having that confirmed paycheck coming in was terrifying, but it also provided the push to really give this my all. I remember Marcus telling me to not worry about my half of the bills for the first few months, and to just get my footing, and that same first month, I handed him a wad of cash and told him that I would always pull my own weight, that he would never have to pay for me.”
That first month of coaching full-time, Tea doubled the amount she was making at her corporate job and realized she had made the right decision. Focussing all of her energy on her passion, instead of just allowing it the dregs of energy leftover at the end of the day granted TayC Fitness the opportunity to flourish.
But, like most decisions in life, Tea’s wasn’t without some negative repercussions.
“My dad was furious, didn’t speak to me for six months. He didn’t understand how I could quit a promising career for something so unknown. They had moved here to provide us with stability, and in his eyes, I was throwing that out the window.”
So, with her dad’s disapproval providing even more fuel to Tea’s motivational fire, she immersed herself in growing her brand and creating something that surpassed what people automatically assumed when they heard the word “fitness coach”
“I never wanted to be only a personal trainer. I wanted to help people transform their minds, as much as they did their bodies. The fitness industry has major downfalls, but a healthy attitude toward food and balanced lifestyle is a major tool in combating that.
“My psychology degree and love for connecting, and nurturing people has been a huge factor in the success of TayC Fitness. I don’t just send my clients a plan, and then that’s it, that’s the only point of contact. I really get to know them, care about them, talk with them about so many things. I realized early on, when the girls started opening up to me about their mental health struggles and personal issues, that what I was meant to do was beyond teaching them how to squat properly.”
Once she realized and accepted that her responsibility to her clients was much bigger than she had intially anticipated, Tea recognized the importance of providing support.
“As my business grew, I became busier and couldn’t connect and support the girls in the same way I could at the beginning – there simply wasn’t enough time. I knew I needed to figure out another way for the girls to get the support they needed and deserved.”
And thus, Team Tight n Curvy and Stacked Solid were born. A private client chat on Facebook is the heart of Team Tight n’ Curvy members, a place for them to go when they have questions, need guidance or simply want to vent.
“It’s not even just fitness talk in there, the team supports each other through everything; breakups, personal issues, whatever. Whatever help they need, the team is there to back them up, uplift them.”
Thanks to her success, Tea is able to be choosy about her clients and there is typically a waiting list to become part of the team.
“I truly only want positive, happy people on the team, there is no room for negativity… we dont have time for that! If I need to, I don’t hesitate to “fire” a client who brings bad vibes to the team, and often have to turn away girls who don’t have their eye on the prize – a healthy lifestyle. If you just want a quick fix, or a skinny summer body, I am the LAST person you should be coming to. I’m not here to make you skinny, I’m here to make you healthy. And healthy comes in a million different packages.”
Tea’s passion for a balanced lifestyle is refreshing and her approach is authentic. She is not out to make an army of TayC Fitness femme-bots, with identically trained bodies and matching paranoid attitudes towards carbs. Tea is out to train you for life.
I mentioned at the beginning of this piece that I rarely see Tea, and that’s not because I don’t want to. I don’t see Tea because her training accomplished the goal she sets out for every single one of her clients: she set me up for life, not just for a summer season. After struggling with an eating disorder and an extremely unhealthy relationship with my body and food, Tea committed herself to just keep on me, keep pushing me to make “healthy” the goal, as opposed to “skinny. And I couldn’t be more grateful that she never gave up.
Tea Cuk is part of the #LadiesWhoLead series because she is constantly searching for new opportunities to expand her business and didn’t just settle for what was set out for her. She had the bravery to follow her dreams, despite push-back and disapproval from her family. And she shares in her success, encouraging others to do the same, offers mentor-ship to other entrepreneurs looking for a way to break into their dreams. Tea discovered the power of community and support-systems, and uses it not only to her business’ advantage, but to elevate the success of those around her.
“My clients are what inspire me, this team is what inspires me. Being able to watch the team evolve both mentally and physically on a weekly basis provides me with the drive to do the best I can, every single day. I really just want everyone to get on the path they are meant to be on and will do whatever I can to help them get there.”
Want motivation from a real-ass woman who doesn’t sugarcoat anything? Follow Tea on Instagram and subscribe to her Youtube channel @TayCFitness. For more information on her story and her services, visit her website http://www.teacuk.com/.