Combining Meals and Motivation

Jan 01, 2004


Subject: Donna Mintz

Location: New York City

Position and Company: Owner of Basil & Barbells, a company that combines home-based personal training and personal chef services featuring nutritionally balanced, healthy, customized meals

Why She Started the Company: Mintz has always been interested in fitness and cooking, and started personal training part-time while working as a computer programmer. When she was laid off 2 years ago, she went full-time as a trainer. “I would see results with clients but they would plateau. I knew there was a connection among food, health and nutrition but I didn’t understand it deeply so I wanted to learn more. I went to culinary school and then supplemented this training with education about healthy cooking techniques from The New School and The Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health. I became a personal chef and a member of the United States Personal Chef Association and my business concept fell into place.”

What She Offers:

“I bring the ‘whole health’ package to my clients by not only customizing one-on-one exercise programs and acting as an exercise partner but also teaching them proper nutrition.” (She has a sports nutrition certification from the International Fitness Association as well as her home chef training/experience.) Mintz has observed that combining nutrition with exercise helps her clients feel better, inspires them to take control of their health, and makes them more inclined to exercise and eat right on a regular basis.

Client Demographics: Some clients take advantage of both her personal chef and personal training services; others work with her in just one area. Her client load varies. She can work with only a limited number of personal chef clients a week because it takes a lot of time to shop for and prepare several meals a week for them. While she says that her personal chef service is expensive (excluding the cost of food, $100 to $350 per week, depending on the number of people per household and number of meals cooked) she offers her personal chef clients a discount on personal training. Training-only clients pay $80 an hour for training; personal chef clients pay $50 per hour.

Her training clients are primarily women in their 20s to 40s. Her personal chef clients are mainly women too—usually part of dual-income families who may have children. Client Successes: She’s helped people lose weight and lower cholesterol, but is most proud of the impact she’s had on children of clients. “I started preparing fun, nutritious meals for these two kids to take to school. They were overweight and had never participated in sports. Now they’ve lost weight and are getting more involved in life. The mother called me and told me how thrilled she was that one child had made the basketball team after eating my food for 2 months.”

The Fitness Fix: Mintz wants to reach people who need her services, even the ones who can’t afford the personal training/chef work. That’s why she created the 6-month Fitness Fix. It includes body composition testing; calorie guidelines; customized home workouts with illustrations of exercises; one personal training session; a 12-week journal; one half-hour meeting per week with her to track progress; and an updated exercise program after 3 months. For this program, she lets clients pay per week to make it affordable and manageable. “They still get to say, ‘My personal trainer comes to my house,’ which they love!”

Why She Likes Her Work: “I absolutely love what I do,” she says. “It’s amazing what this work can do to my clients’ psyches. They crave this information. It’s like I give them the ammunition to fight for their good health.”

Mintz works long hours for her company, but she doesn’t mind. “I’m a widow. My husband died of a heart attack when he was 36. I couldn’t help my husband but I can help my clients.”

IDEA Personal Trainer, Volume 2005, Issue 1

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