If you’re hesitating to make community service part of business, a few minutes with Alison Roessler will change your mind. She’ll inspire you to make it your culture and get you fired up about the benefits of giving back in a heartbeat.
I talked with Roessler the other day about what making an impact means to her and why it’s important. As CEO and Founder of the Oakland, California fitness and wellness center Truve, established in 2014, she can’t imagine doing business any other way.
How did you start giving back?
I got started at a young age by my Mom. She was in charge of a holiday gift drive for an Oregon-wide credit union, and I went with her to deliver gifts to families. In high school I chaired a canned food drive, and helped with a pageant to raise money for the ICU at a local hospital. In college, through my sorority, I worked with the blind. Then I went to Costa Rica on a fluke trip, saw the poverty there and wanted to see how I could help. (The nonprofit she started in 2008, The Stars of Tomorrow/Las Estrellas de Manana, is working to break the cycle of poverty one child at a time.)
Did you build community service into the business when you created Truve?
Yes. It was a driving factor for me in creating the business. I was doing some pro bono work – helping people with diabetes and more – at other fitness places and they were charging me to use the facility. I thought that was crazy! I wanted to make fitness accessible to everyone.
How are you making volunteering and giving back part of the business?
We have a big event every month to give back. Anyone who is part of the Truve family – practitioners, members, and anyone who drops in to attend free classes – can suggest something that’s important to them and we’ll organize a class, run, fundraising drive or event to raise money. Last month, we taught classes at the Lion’s Center for the Blind, just 2 blocks up the street. This month, we’re giving a drop-in class discount for anyone who brings in a non-perishable food item or arts and crafts supplies for the Lafayette Elementary School.
I made it a requirement for practitioners who are part of the Truve family to do 30 minutes to an hour every week, or 2 to 4 hours of pro bono service a month. Many of us teach free classes (we have 8 to 10 a week), including acupuncture and Reiki. Our Esthetician helps cancer patients and is involved in feral cat rescue. A Spin teacher reads to kids.
What would you say to business owners who think it costs too much to make volunteering a part of their work?
The benefits so outweigh the costs. It’s totally worth it; it comes back to you tenfold. The return my practitioners get from it and the change they’re making in the world. . . they’re happier afterwards, so glad they did it and ready to do it again!
Giving back to the community brings the whole culture of the business together. It should be a part of every business model.
What’s the best way to get over any hesitations about it being too hard to get started?
Dive in – head first – for something you’re passionate about. Once you do, it grows from there. You don’t have to be a Microsoft of the world to do this. (Truve is a small business.)
Truve’s name is inspired by Leonardo DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man, an illustration that shows a person’s wingspan is the same as his height, with the human body in perfect balance. The fitness classes and services Truve provides, and its community service, actually puts all of life in perfect balance.
If you’d like to help the Costa Rica nonprofit, The Stars of Tomorrow, donations are happily accepted.
Ready to incorporate giving back into your business? Just contact us.