Fitness influencer and entrepreneur Mari Llewellyn is an inspiration to over 1 million fans on Instagram, and knows what it takes to build the body – and business – of your dreams. The 26-year-old New Yorker has lost 90 pounds through exercise and healthy eating since January 2017, slimming down from 245 pounds to 155 pounds. Along the way, she's also launched two successful ventures with Mari Fitness and Bloom Nutrition.
“Starting my businesses really stemmed from the experience of turning my own life around a few years ago,” said Llewellyn, who spoke with FOX Business about her professional goals, her workout routine and the critical role social media plays in keeping her eponymous online fitness community connected.
While a student in college, Llewellyn described her outward lifestyle as picture-perfect, full of fun and nights out with friends. In reality, she explained, the drinking and partying masked other issues she should have been addressing in healthier ways.
“I wasn’t taking care of my mind or body, and I started using food as an emotional outlet. Before I knew it, I had gained a ton of weight and had officially hit rock bottom,” Llewellyn said. “I was failing all my classes, and my life had spiraled out of control.”
Focusing on a fitter lifestyle by embracing weightlifting and better nutrition, she posted a “transformation” photo to social media in November 2017 to highlight her personal progress – and was shocked when it went viral.
“I only had about 900 Instagram followers, but the photo caught the attention of much larger Instagram pages who reposted it,” she recalled. “I received thousands of messages asking for the workout plan I followed.”
From there, Llewellyn was inspired to pursue her passion for wellness on a grander scale in hopes of helping others.
“Weightlifting helped me out of a dark place and changed my life in so many ways. I wanted to show other women that it was possible,” she said.
With that as motivation, Llewellyn and her bodybuilding fiancé created a PDF workout plan for fans to follow, and Mari Fitness was born.
“It was simple, effective and fun, and was entirely based on the workout schedule I followed and still follow now,” she explained.
Llewellyn’s guide was so popular that the couple created more workout guides for both the gym and at home before eventually launching their first physical product with resistance bands. But after selling a whopping quarter-million of her guides and drawing a following of over 100,000 on the Mari Fitness Guides Instagram page, Llewellyn yearned for more.
“There was enough momentum for us to explore our next company, Bloom Nutrition,” said Llewellyn, who said it was always "challenging" to find supplements that didn't give her "jitters."
"I wanted supplements that helped me reach my goals, but without any questionable ingredients.”
Since launching the venture in January 2019, the entrepreneur said that over 40,000 Bloom products have been sold, generating over $10 million in sales.
With both Mari Fitness and Bloom Nutrition rooted in social media, Llewellyn cited the strong support from her online fan base as a “huge reason” for her quick business success.
As the companies continue to grow, Llewellyn said it’s critical to keep fans involved, polling them on everything from product flavor choices to label design.
Looking ahead for the rest of 2020 and into next year, Llewellyn plans to invest a large portion of available capital into expanding her team for creative content, product ideation and business development.
“We believe growing our small but mighty team will make our 2021 revenue goal of $20 million very realistic,” she said.
More importantly, Llewellyn described the empowering Mari Fitness Guides community as “one of the most fulfilling parts of my job.”
“Women in my community are from so many different walks of life: mothers, students and entrepreneurs,” she shared. “It’s amazing to see how their lives change when they begin to prioritize their health. Running into my fans in person has become a regular part of my days, and it brings me so much joy.”
Llewellyn ultimately hopes that Bloom Nutrition will become a household name for women in fitness as an inclusive brand for anyone eager to improve their health.
“A huge moment for me and my team was during our last Greens and Superfoods restock earlier this summer,” she said of one major “made it” moment so far. “Greens is our most popular supplement, and at the time, it had been sold out for about two months during quarantine… Upon restocking, we generated over $1 million in sales in 26 minutes. As a small team, this was an astounding number and an unforgettable moment.”
On a typical day, Llewellyn looks forward to weightlifting as her favorite form of exercise, frequently switching up her workouts and consistently tracking strength progress.
“I weightlift around five times a week, and on the weekend I try to stay active by biking, swimming, and running,” she explained.
Her favorite time to get a sweat on? First thing in the morning.
“In my opinion, once you get the hardest part of your day over, you show yourself that you’re capable of whatever the day brings. A hard meeting or difficult project will feel like a breeze compared to squats!” Llewellyn exclaimed.
In the kitchen, the fitness fanatic relies on clean, healthy meals to stay energized and fuel her busy days. For breakfast, the blogger said she’ll have Bloom Nutrition Greens, three eggs, smoked salmon and berries, followed by a quinoa bowl with tuna and salad for lunch. For dinner, she’ll eat tacos with shrimp, avocado, Greek yogurt and organic tortillas.
When it comes to imbibing, the influencer said she’ll drink a glass of red wine about every two weeks. She also avoids coffee, but has caffeine in her preworkout drinks.
In a word of advice to anyone hoping to embrace a healthier lifestyle, Llewellyn suggests starting small.
“So many people are intimidated by the prospect of taking on a whole new lifestyle. Rather than changing everything about your routine, make small tweaks and build your way up,” she explained. “For example, before stepping into a gym, I began walking my dog twice a day. Baby steps help you prove to yourself that you’re capable of challenges.”
That said, Llewellyn agreed that overcoming initial obstacles may be amplified by certain challenges amid the coronavirus pandemic, such as working from home while gyms remain closed.
“Focus on doing what you can do, not what you can’t,” she stressed. “If you pay attention to how exercise makes your mind and body feel, you won’t want to go a day without moving.”