Lauren Imparato is the definition of ‘ambitious.’ Growing up as an athlete in California, she studied at Princeton to become a VP at Morgan Stanley, where she took her competitiveness to the trading floor. The fast-paced, whip smart New Yorker thrived on Wall Street where she demanded top performance from herself – something she continues to do even though her career has taken a 180-degree turn.
Imparato quit her high-powered position in the financial district to start RETOX, a wellness company and boutique yoga studio. She’s living proof that working in finance doesn’t mean you can’t find a little Zen – and that living a non-stop lifestyle doesn’t give you license to opt-out of your health.
Here’s a small sample of the RETOX philosophy: imagine a meal plan and exercise regime that works with your schedule instead of against it (no sugar-free or gluten-free rules applied).
“There's this entire world now that thinks you have to suffer to be healthy and happy – I'm not into that. I provide realistic wellness solutions for real people who lead real lives. No dogma, no diet, no stress, no BS. Just straight-up wellness for real people,” explains Imparato.
On a scorching summer day in NYC, we talked with Imparato about her challenges as an entrepreneur, advice for quitting your job and how to channel her signature take-no-shit attitude into your own life.
Kit and Ace: What was the experience like when you left Wall Street to pursue the wellness industry?
Lauren Imparato: It was a tough decision. I actually loved Wall Street – it was an amazing place to learn how to run a business, work as a team and assess risk. I never saw myself leaving that place. The day I quit was by far one of the hardest of my life. It was so scary. You live your whole life to get good grades, get into school and then get the job that everybody wants – and to quit? I was leaving it all on the table.
KA: It sounds like a huge turning point for you, both professionally and personally.
LI: It wasn’t just that it was literally the end of one career and the beginning of another. It was also the idea of jumping off a ledge into the vast unknown. No one knows how to be entrepreneur, and I had no idea how to do it in the context of the wellness world. It was like, "How am I going to do this on my own with my two hands and my brain?" But that's what I did.
KA: What has been the most challenging part of entrepreneurship?
LI: It's hard sometimes when you work for yourself because the business becomes your child ¬– and it is my child. RETOX is my child – from the book, to the studio, to everything else. Not getting down on myself or fixating on the one thing that didn’t work is definitely a huge challenge. It's especially hard in today's world where almost everything is digital. You don't know what's real and what's fake. This world is quite murky.
KA: You approach your work with a lot of confidence though. Where does your powerful attitude come from?
LI: Hard work – I was determined to do it all on my own. I love teams, but I wanted to know what it was like to get my hands dirty in this world. I've washed thousands of yoga mats on my hands and knees. I've done all the branding, marketing, emails and PR myself. People can feel that.
Also, there’s the fact that I get it. I had pasta last night. I will probably have 10 drinks later – actually I'm dying for a drink right now. I'm a career-driven woman, I have a husband and I love him, but we fight sometimes. I'm real and I'm not going to hide it and pretend it's easy in a bikini, grinning at you. That's not real life. I think people find that refreshing.
KA: What advice would you give to someone looking to take a similar leap?
LI: Don’t quit. We think that if we post a cool photo on Instagram or Snapchat, we can quit and be famous and have tons of money. It doesn't work that way. You need to have a plan. It was very hard for me to leave my job. It wasn't a point of desperation, like I was trying to escape something. I was trying to build something and that's an important point to note.
KA: There is the belief that when you quit your job, life will be perfect…
LI: That's right. There's this facade of, "quit your job and everything's great." I've cried more in the past seven years than I did my entire time on Wall Street. You have to be ready for it, and be ready to work hard. If you're going to create your dream, it's going to take hard work. Look at the Olympians we have now: Kerri Walsh and Michael Phelps. They didn't just wake up and be like, "I'm going to swim." They have worked like dogs to get there.
Discover more about Imparato's retox method at iamyoustudio.com.