Episode 5 of 9

Krista Stryker

Athlete. Adventure Seeker. Writer. Entrepreneur. Blogger.
Words by Kayla Hollatz • Photography by Caleb Wojcik

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Krista Stryker

Staring at the metal bar above her, Krista Stryker stretched her hands before grabbing on. For years, Krista’s inner critic told her that she couldn’t do a proper pull-up because her arms were too long and she wasn’t strong enough.

After strengthening her arms for a few months, she found herself at the metal bar again. With a wide, tightened grip, she pulled her body upward so that her chin passed the bar before lowering herself toward the ground.

She did it. She had finally silenced her inner critic and eliminated the word impossible from her vocabulary with a single pull-up.

Shortly after reaching this goal, she focused on a new objective. Krista had always wanted to do a pistol squat—a one-legged squat where balance and strength are equally important. And once she had completed that goal, she was on to the next one.

While Krista had been involved in many sports at a young age, she started to consider herself a true athlete after training in Amsterdam and New York City.

Training really made me feel like I could do anything. It was kind of addicting. Once I got one skill, I wanted to do the harder version. It definitely became more about building strength than my looks.

This renewed passion for strength training helped Krista embark on a fitness journey that would soon lead to a new career path. But before that could happen, she needed to discover what she didn’t want to do for a living.

Big Dreams in a Small Town

Krista grew up in the small town of Camas, Washington, located just outside of Portland, Oregon. She learned a lot about entrepreneurship from her parents at a young age. Her dad was a dentist, and her mom, who once worked as a teacher, eventually took on the business manager role for the dentistry office.

Living in a small town, however, was difficult for an out-of-the-box thinker like Krista. In her spare time, she found herself lost in fictional worlds as the books she read offered the exciting adventures her small town couldn’t provide.

Knowing adventure was important to her, Krista’s parents always found time to play together and go on vacations. Balancing family life with the daily operations of running a successful dentistry business seemed to come naturally to her parents.

Krista admired what her parents did for a living, but she didn’t grow up wanting to be a dentist or a business manager. Instead, she tried on many career aspirations to see what would feel like the right fit, but she couldn’t find a single career path she wanted to stick with.

It didn’t help that the small town she grew up in discouraged kids from pursuing their own thing. To appease her neighbors and teachers, Krista would have to follow a traditional academic path—but she went for a more unconventional route instead.

With the support of her parents, she left high school early to get her GED.

I hated high school. I remember telling my mom that I didn’t want to learn anything ever again, but what I really know now is that I didn’t want to be told what to learn.

After feeling trapped for years, Krista finally felt like she could explore who she was outside of the small town when she enrolled in college at seventeen years old.

Non-traditional College and Career Paths

In high school, Krista was inspired by photography and the ability to capture images from behind the lens. Struggling with her own identity, it felt like a safe career path and one where she didn’t need to be on display.

She enrolled in a photography college in Santa Barbara, but only stayed there for nine months before deciding to transfer universities when she realized photography wasn’t the only passion she wanted to pursue.

In total, Krista would attend five colleges before graduating with an international relations degree in just three and a half years. During college, Krista also noticed that she wasn’t prioritizing her fitness and health.

She never felt exceptionally strong when she was growing up, but her non-active teenage years were catching up with her. At the time, Krista wasn’t eating well and didn’t have enough energy to sustain her throughout the day. More importantly, she noticed that her inactivity continued to affect her confidence.

I didn’t feel very good in college. If you don’t eat very well, it affects everything. It affects your mood and how well you think. And I didn’t like how I looked. When you’re seventeen or eighteen in college, that sucks. No one likes to feel insecure about their appearance.

It was time for a change. Krista experimented with different kinds of exercise—things like running, weight lifting, and triathlon training.

While continuing to prioritize her health after graduation, Krista hoped to get a job at a local NPR station she previously interned at. She was interested in journalism and thought the entry-level position might get her foot in the door for bigger assignments, but the job market was at a record low.

After a few months of applying and interviewing for positions she didn’t get, Krista decided to travel and live overseas for awhile. Her now-husband Brian transferred to Nike’s Amsterdam office and they relocated together.

Krista envisioned becoming a journalist in Amsterdam because she thought they needed native English speakers. However, after a year and a half of waiting, she finally got her work visa but was turned down multiple times for journalist positions because she couldn’t speak Dutch.

She did, however, start a travel blog. It was mainly written to update family and friends about their overseas adventures, but it only lasted a couple years. Krista never thought about monetizing it or making it her career.

Krista’s true turning point was when she began working with a personal trainer in Amsterdam. After reaching her pull-up and pistol-squat goals, Krista dreamed about what it would be like to help other people with their own fitness journey.

When I could do something in the gym, it gave me a boost of confidence. I’d always thought this stuff was impossible . . . so when I could do a pull-up, I thought, “Well, maybe I can start a business.” It just opened up a lot of possibility for me. That’s what I love about fitness; it can really change you.

This inspired her to become a certified personal trainer in 2010, but by the time she received her certification, she was ready for a new beginning. She and Brian moved to New York for the next chapter of her career.

Designing Her Own Career

After moving back to the United States, Krista began working in a gym as a one-on-one personal trainer in 2011. While she liked the work itself, the job gave her little freedom.

The hours were difficult. Krista began her day meeting morning clients at 5:00 a.m., then had a big break in the middle of the day before she could meet with her evening clients around 6:00 p.m. It was exhausting, and she didn’t want the gym to be in control of her schedule.

One of the things that I figured out from these various jobs was that I really hated working for other people. I really like having my own schedule. I didn’t want to be in an office and waste time.

It wasn’t long before Krista began looking outside of personal training for a solution. She started reading business books like The Hundred Dollar Startup and The 4-Hour Workweek, and she spent her time browsing through blogs like Copyblogger to learn how to become a freelance copywriter. She also took a course on copywriting to retrain herself on how to write in a specific style.

It was also during this time that she started a second blog with a focus on sharing personal development tips. She loved blogging and writing but didn’t yet know how to turn it into a business.

A consultation call with Jon Morrow, a writer she admired from Copyblogger, confirmed that the blog centered on personal development tips wasn’t a viable business idea. He affirmed that Krista was a great writer but that her efforts would be better directed toward a new project.

Krista wanted to create something bigger than herself, which then gave birth to a new blog and her first income stream.

Building a Fitness App

At the same time that she decided to blog under the brand name 12 Minute Athlete, Krista thought about creating an app for blog readers who wanted quality exercise routines that they could fit into their busy schedule.

There weren’t many fitness apps on the market in 2012, and of the apps that were available, most of them didn’t provide workouts or additional support. Krista set out to create a unique app that would combine her personal training experience with her blog niche.

Much of the content had already been created through guiding her personal training clients in many high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. The only thing left to do was to find a developer.

Since Krista’s husband is a designer, she collaborated with him on the wireframe design for the app. The wireframes showed a visual layout for how each app screen would look and function. Completing this step made it easier to find the right developer.

As the developer worked on the app, Krista continued to pick up freelance copywriting positions while blogging to sustain her audience growth. She knew she didn’t want to be a lifelong copywriter, and Krista knew the app would be a great step forward.

Krista then focused her attention on launch marketing. She knew that to have a successful business, people had to know about what you were creating and get excited to share the app with their friends.

Although she was juggling multiple projects at a time, Krista worked intentionally on each one. This allowed her to work diligently without feeling the financial pressure to make the app her sole income generator too soon.

If you go slowly and test as you go, and you still have income, there’s less pressure. And I think you’re going to end up making something that’s a better product or whatever you’re trying to make in the end.

I didn’t even try to make money from my blog for six months. I just wanted to do the app, test it, and see if anyone resonated with what I was saying. And if people really didn’t, I would have changed what I was doing, but I got enough of a response that I was encouraged to keep going.

After launching the 12 Minute Athlete app, Krista saw several doors of opportunity fly open as she began testing more income streams. This allowed her to take a step back from freelance copywriting and personal training to pursue 12 Minute Athlete full-time.

Krista’s Business Today

Although the 12 Minute Athlete app may look like an overnight success to an outsider, it’s taken years of hard work and self-discovery to grow the brand to where it is today.

Krista attributes much of its growth to the word-of-mouth recommendations from her loyal blog readers and app users. She always thought business success was about having a big break, but she now realizes it’s the gradual process of building a brand you believe in and one you can stick with.

Blogging has given her an incredible amount of freedom, allowing her to work during her most productive hours of the day. She loves waking up in the morning and listening to NPR before she works for an hour. Then she takes her dog, Rocket, out for a walk around the neighborhood and does a couple hours of work at a nearby coffee shop before fitting in her workout.

Even though Krista has a great routine at home, she likes to switch it up every so often when she travels to new places.

Blogging has given me so much freedom. I can literally work from everywhere. My husband and I spent an entire month in Thailand and I worked every day, went swimming, and explored the markets. It was so fun.

Not only does she have schedule freedom, but she also has newfound financial freedom. She has earned more income through 12 Minute Athlete than any of her past salaries. This is much in thanks to her diversified business model.

Her 12 Minute Athlete app brings in around 30% of her total business income—with workout programs producing another 30% through eBook and online course sales. Influencer marketing has also created an extra lift, bringing in 10–15% of her total income depending on the season. December and January are usually her busiest months for influencer marketing campaigns because of the holidays and New Year’s resolution themes. Affiliate and advertising income make up a small percentage too.

Even with multiple income streams already in place, she intends to scale her business into new channels in the next few years. She once read that a successful modern-day entrepreneur should have at least seven streams of income, so Krista continues to work toward that goal.

Now Krista treats every new business goal like her first fitness goals in Amsterdam: she proves that what seems impossible in the moment can be accomplished with dedication, tenacity, and guts.

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