Cassey Ho Shares Her Journey to Fitness Industry Leader

And why she attributes her accomplishments to her failures.

Cassey Ho’s childhood aspirations of making a name for herself in the fashion industry were shot down by her father. He was a part of the Chinese-Vietnamese immigrant community who wanted a secure future for their children, usually in fields like science or law. But Cassey had different ambitions. Being one of the pioneering YouTube personalities, she introduced her fitness channel Blogilates to the world in 2009. This channel and the blog sharing the same name have since become tremendously popular among fitness enthusiasts with over seven million subscribers on YouTube. Ho's achievements don't stop there. She is a best-selling author and was listed among the top 25 most influential internet personalities by Time in 2017. Additionally, she also runs her own fitness certification program named POP Pilates and juggles multiple roles - founder, CEO, and chief designer at her activewear brand Popflex. Ho has encountered numerous challenges throughout her journey as a fitness influencer and entrepreneur. Yet, her clear vision and relentless drive towards her goals have always been her guiding light. Even during times of despair, she managed to keep going. In this narrative, she shares how her perceived failures became stepping stones to her success and how a fundamental question constantly inspired her to chase her dreams.

Discovering Her Passion

Ho's academic journey led her to Whittier College in Southern California, where she pursued a degree in biology primarily to satisfy her parents' expectations. As a student, Ho felt a sense of emptiness as she engaged in a field lacking personal passion. She spent most of her time sketching on her notebook margins during classes. To manage this situation, Ho embraced Pilates, an exercise regime she came across through early 2000s infomercials featuring the renowned Pilates expert and celebrity trainer, Mari Winsor. The exercise gave Ho a sense of escape and left her feeling rejuvenated. Between her science classes, she would conduct informal Pilates lessons for her friends in their dormitories. One day while browsing Craigslist, Ho noticed an advertisement for a Pilates instructor position at a local gym. Despite lacking certification, she decided to audition. Her performance was so convincing that it prompted the gym owner to sponsor her professional Pilates training by providing mentorship and financing her certification course.

Risking It All

Despite her growing interest in Pilates, the issue of Ho's parents, who envisaged her future in the medical field, was still present. "There were countless nights of tears, torn between satisfying my happiness or theirs," Ho confesses. "The struggle was immense." Eventually, she deliberately disrupted her path to a medical degree by opting out of an organic chemistry class – the final course required for the MCAT exam, a prerequisite for medical school admission – just before graduating in 2009. "I believe my parents finally understood that I wasn't genuinely interested in pursuing medicine, but they were gravely disappointed," she shares. "Our communication ended for several years after that, which was quite distressing." Currently, Ho's relationship with her parents is complex, she elaborates. "I think they are proud of me, but it’s an area we’re still trying to mend."

Putting It All Together

Coincidentally, Pilates served as a gateway into another passion of Ho's - fashion design. During her school days, she was on the hunt for an attractive yoga mat bag but was unsuccessful in finding one. Hence, she took matters into her own hands and created one. Her classmates were impressed by her creation and started requesting their own bags. Before she knew it, Ho was venturing into her first fashion business, designing her unique bags (which she named oGorgeous), and sending them to various businesses and media outlets, including Shape magazine, hoping to draw attention to her budding enterprise. A few months later, after her graduation, Ho was working as a fashion buyer. One day she received a text from her sister with a photo showcasing a yoga bag in the November 2010 issue of Shape magazine – and it was Ho's design. Overwhelmed by this recognition, she recalls, "I just burst into tears". She saw this as a sign and decided, "I quit my job the following week. Even though I had nothing planned, I knew I needed to take a chance on myself. I would rather risk failure than live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether I could succeed on my own."

Being Persistent

In the early days, Ho posted her pioneer Pilates tutorial video to YouTube. The video was mainly meant for her students at 24 Hour Fitness where she taught Pilates with a twist - she used pop music instead of the traditional slow instrumental beats. Ho's intent was to give her students an out-of-classroom access to her unique training style. "I uploaded a 10-minute video thinking it was just for around 40 people. To my surprise, when I checked later, the video had garnered thousands of views and hundreds of comments," she recalls.

It would take several more years for influencers to start earning from their brand deals and ad revenues, but Ho felt an immediate connection with her online community that was drawn to her fitness videos. After seven years, with the backing of her online followers, Ho decided to combine her passion for fitness and fashion once again. This marked the birth of her activewear brand Popflex in 2016.

Even with her entrepreneurial success, Ho faced several challenges with her business. Just a few years ago, she was on the brink of giving up on Blogilates and Popflex due to stress. However, her husband, Sam Livits, persuaded her to persevere for another 30 days. "Adopting a survival mentality forced me into striving harder to make things work. It was as if some magic took place because things did start changing from that point onward," she reflects. With the operational hiccups ironed out, the business began to run smoother and Ho could concentrate more on her designs and clients.

Today, Ho is recognized for her thriving Blogilates YouTube channel and blog, boasting an impressive 2.3 million Instagram followers. Her fitness certification program POP Pilates has collaborated with 24 Hour Fitness to train instructors at the huge gym chain and across the globe. And Popflex continues to gain popularity, counting celebrities like Brie Larson among its fans.

Listening to Her Purpose

Ho's unyielding determination is anchored by her powerful sense of mission. This central question, "Why?" governs her every endeavor, be it early morning workouts or business growth. She holds fast to the conviction that having a potent 'why' can steer your life in the right direction. Ho emphasizes that any lack of motivation she experiences is often due to not having a purpose, or one that doesn't resonate with her deeply.

Reflecting on her journey, she would urge her younger self to embrace failure as an invaluable lesson rather than fearing it. Raised in an Asian American home, Ho was led to perceive failure as a shameful event. However, she now perceives failure as not just important but essential, as it offers the most profound lessons. Her failures have been instrumental in shaping her into a more proficient leader, a superior designer, and a more innovative creator.

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