Cancer prompted start of Libertyville's Pinnacle Fitness

  • Nancy Hildebrandt, owner of Pinnacle Fitness in Libertyville

    Nancy Hildebrandt, owner of Pinnacle Fitness in Libertyville Courtesy of Tony Wasemann

Updated 1/25/2016 7:13 AM

An interview with Nancy Hildebrandt, owner of Pinnacle Fitness in Libertyville.

Q: Describe your business. What do you do?


A: Pinnacle Fitness is a private personal training facility in Libertyville. Our programs encompass all aspects of fitness and wellness from muscular strength to your heart, your nutritional habits, self-confidence and everything in between.

Q: Tell us about your background and how that helped mold the business.

A: I've been in the fitness industry for more than 9 years and worked in a variety of environments -- corporate gyms, big box gyms and a few private studios. Those experiences reinforced the type of place I wanted to create in Pinnacle: a welcoming space where it feels more like hanging out with good friends versus the anonymity of a larger facility. We specialize in small group training, up to four people max. Sessions are just 30 minutes long, making it easy for even the busiest people to fit in a workout. But don't be fooled by the short time -- each session may only last 30 minutes but they are highly productive.

Q: What made you start your business?

A: During the spring of 2006, I was in a job where I traveled 90 percent of the time when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. When I heard the news I knew my role was to be her health advocate and immediately got myself reassigned to local work so I could be there for her and to support my dad. My mom fared pretty well during her battle against cancer, largely -- according to her oncologist -- due to the fact that she had been very active and fit before her illness. Witnessing my mom's physical and mental strength, I finally got serious about my own health and decided to get back into shape. I earned my group fitness instructor certification and started teaching Zumba classes evenings and weekends while continuing my former "day job."

My goal was initially to become more fit myself, but my journey had an amazing side story. I started to witness other people's bodies changing, their abilities increasing, their lives improving. I started hearing from clients that they had never exercised before but now that they were experiencing these benefits, they knew they would never go back. And I knew I had to make a career change. Q: What has been the most difficult obstacle in running a small business?

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A. When you start a small business, you often start with a very small staff, and sometimes it's just you maybe one other person. As the business grows, there's always that time when it demands more of you, but you're not yet able to add more staff or outsource jobs. Those are the humps that will continue

Q: Is this what you pictured yourself doing when you were young?

A. I don't think I even knew what a small-business owner was when I was a kid. Like many, I wanted to be astronaut, but as a pilot, not a scientist. I wanted to take people to the stars, and I guess in my own way, that's what I'm doing now. I help people get farther in the fitness journey than they thought possible. And for me, that's as rewarding as any astronaut career could have been.

Q: If you could give one tip to a rookie business owner, what would it be?

A. Find a way to keep your life balanced between work and personal. When you own a business, you don't get to "leave your problems at the office" because they're with you 24/7. This makes it very challenging to unplug at the end of the day, or on your rare day off. Having a ritual that signals "I'm putting down the work now" helps immensely, and if I just can't stop thinking about something, I will take 5 minutes to jot down my ideas, or write a "to do" list -- whatever will help -- and then I move on with the R&R.

-- Kim Mikus

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