Second Life: How One Woman Picked Her Passion—and Came Out on Top

Meghan Rooney

You spent your 20s working toward building your dream career, but now that you’re in your 30s, what do you do when you’ve, well, changed your mind? Or maybe you never quite figured it out, and you’re now ready to commit to something you’re passionate about, whether it’s a job, a city, or just a new way of life? To celebrate the career changes that can come at any age, we’re debuting a new series called  Second Life. Each month, we’ll hear from women who got over their doubts and fears and made the biggest changes of their lives.

PHOTO:

George Andreadis for Bari

Though she could've stayed the (conventional) course as a consultant after graduating from the prestigious Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (and ensured a comfortable and secure livelihood), that wasn't the route Alexandra Bonetti chose to take. Instead, the always independent South American woman called it quits in terms of keeping up with her steady career path to pursue her love of fitness by founding her own workout/wellness studio, Bari. And the risk paid off. Now her "tribe," that is hundreds of women, men, and even children, subscribe to her new method from coast to coast and are immensely grateful to Bonetti for taking that risk.

Bari is a modern method of exercise that blends strategically structured workouts with a nutritionist-approved cleansing plan. The revolutionary six-week program has been known to transform and shape both the body and mindset. After five successful years, Bonetti now has studios from New York to the Dominican Republic and is set to launch an online platform to open the addictive sweat-based wellness plan to anyone, anywhere. After trying a class, we're foreseeing a global sensation. Ahead, Bonetti shares her inspiring story and the reason she bridged the gap between fear and success.

MYDOMAINE: Tell us about your first career path.

ALEXANDRA BONETTI: After graduating from Wharton at Penn, I immediately started a job in finance and management consulting in the oil and gas industry. I traveled a lot for work—mostly internationally—and it was during this scattered, always-on-the-move period of my life that fitness became what grounded me.

MD: How did you go about making the transition out of corporate consulting and into fitness?

AB: While working in consulting, I found myself balancing a million different workouts in order to look and feel the way I wanted to. I would go for a run one day, focus on weights another day, incorporate pilates the next day, and try to hit the elliptical another day. The thing is, I didn’t look or feel the way I hoped to. I wasn’t getting enough cardio or sculpting the right muscles because I couldn’t find a method that offered the right recipe, especially since I was reduced to a limited amount of time to dedicate to my weekly workouts. That's why I decided to take my fitness plan and my body into my own hands and little by little started crafting what Bari’s method would become, and is, today.

I think once you establish an idea that you feel very excited about and you unearth that entrepreneurial itch, it almost becomes an obsession. There's no choice but to do it. Personally, I found myself at a point in my consulting career where I didn’t feel like I was learning as much as I had the first few years out of college. I was thirsty for more in terms of responsibility, and bigger thinking. Almost everyone I spoke to about my idea at the time told me I was too young to pursue it, but the way I saw it, I didn’t have much to lose. I wasn’t married (even though I ended up marrying the guy I was dating when I launched Bari) and I didn’t have kids, so I could risk losing my savings. I didn’t think too much about it and dove in as soon as I could.

MD: What came after that?

AB: I started putting together the pieces of the puzzle that would become Bari. I felt a shift from dreading my workouts while constantly trying to figure out how to accomplish the balance between effortless motivation and excitement. As soon as I perfected a formula that felt right (both physically and mentally), I fell in love with the feel-good power of a consistent workout practice.

It was then that I knew I was onto something, and I couldn’t shake the opportunity to see it through. I was good at consulting, but I was invigorated by Bari. So I left my job in the corporate world to follow an idea. I thought, If I want a more efficient, fun workout, other people must be craving the same.

MD: What have been the biggest challenges in your many careers and why?

AB: Bari still doesn’t come easy to me. I think there are two major struggles that come with opening a business. One is staying true to your vision. Sometimes we have an amazing idea, but once we’re executing it, we run into the less romantic reality that is bills, laws, etc. There are so many day-to-day operations that take up a lot of time and energy. I feel a lot of businesses and founders lose their drive because they’re so overwhelmed by these factors. It’s important to keep your end goal in the forefront of your mind.

The second is that people are the most important and most difficult part of the business equation. The business will let you fail over and over again, whereas people won't usually afford you a second chance. Treat everyone with respect, appreciation, and kindness, and seek out the people who believe in what you’re doing. There are two people who entered Bari’s picture before we had turned a year old and without them, I don’t think Bari would exist or evolved the way it has today, as a successful business.

MD: Why is your current path suitable for your personality?

AB: I’ve always had a very entrepreneurial spirit, but what’s most rewarding about Bari is our tribe and the fact that I enjoy surrounding myself with people. I love talking to them, getting to know them, and understanding them better. I’m surrounded by amazing women every day, and I love every second of it.

MD: What’s the most important thing you have learned in making a big change in your career life?

AB: It's okay to lead with your instinct. Women have an extraordinary sense of intuition, and too often we don’t feel confident enough to believe in ourselves. Don't be afraid to follow your gut. When we’re leading with passion and love, the answer to whatever we’re trying to solve is always within us.

MD: What’s your best advice for someone who wants to start over or make a big jump in their career?

AB: Don’t dwell on the risk. Sure, the risk is there, and it’s probably big and terrifying, but don’t focus your energy on that. Focus on the potential, ride the wave of passion, excitement, and inherent creativity that comes with starting something from scratch. Dream big, think big, and create big—and do so unapologetically.

MD: Who inspires you most in the fitness world?

AB: The person who inspires me the most is my mom, but she’s not in the fitness world. She worked her whole life and managed to be the best mom anyone could ask for—she’s successful yet down to earth, clear and demanding but kind and light hearted—all at the same time. I always aspire to be a little more like her.

MD: What’s currently in your gym bag?

AB: My heart rate monitor, dry shampoo, water, and a Zing bar! ​

If you're feeling inspired to take a Bari class or get to the gym after this interview, check out a few of our favorite gym bag essentials below.

Have you considered making a career change? Share your experience with us below.

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