The Columbia MBA Who Left Investment Banking To Set Up A Fitness Company

Columbia MBA Manya Klempner talks to us about her new business, Moose X-Training.

Manya Klempner is the co-founder of Moose X-Training, a new training boutique in London. The Columbia MBA, has worked at top investment banks such as Citi and Merrill Lynch and even did a stint JP Morgan Moscow, before eventually starting her own business. We talk to her about her new life as a business owner and entrepreneur.
What's "The Moose" in a nutshell?
Fitness for people who don’t like fitness!  We all know exercise is good for us.  We all know that in order to look good, as well as feel good, it’s important to exercise.  But, let’s be realistic, even the most accomplished and disciplined among us often struggle to incorporate fitness into our lifestyle; I know I do.  I often say, in jest, “I’m perfect, but I suck at the gym.”  Moose X-Training, with our emphasis on convenience and affordability, is perfect for people like me.  Having a personal trainer, whether privately or semi-privately, is the key to maintaining the commitment to fitness for those of us who aren’t naturally fitness-inclined but still want to be fit.  As a result, I no longer waste money on a gym membership I rarely use.  There are no more excuses about being too tired or not having enough time.  In short, I don’t feel guilty about not exercising; with a standing appointment with my trainer, that’s something that is always “ticked off.” I love that!
How long has the business been running and what are you hoping to achieve in your first year?
We launched the 5th of November in 2012, so we’re only about six months old.  We launched into the longest and coldest winter most people can remember. It’s been a challenging start.  However, we take great pride in knowing that we are doing something right - our client retention has been excellent; 100% renewal.  I would much rather build a solid client base slowly than a fickle client base quickly. With the former, the clients become annuities, so we can focus on growth rather than managing churn. By the end of our first year, I would like to have a stable base of regular clients that is 3x what it is now.
You studied your MBA at Columbia - what were the highlights?
I loved my courses, especially the ones on Fixed Income, but the most important part of my experience was the people. The network business school offers, both from a professional and a personal perspective, is one of the most valuable aspects of the degree.  Most skills one learns on the job. I would encourage all MBA students to really optimize the time they invest in developing personal relationships.
Post-MBA you worked in derivatives at several big-name banks like Citi and JP Morgan - can you share some of the best and worst experiences of working in finance?
I focused on CEEMEA emerging markets with a concentration on Russia, Kazakhstan, and Central/Eastern Europe. The deals were by far the highlights. When emerging markets were booming, the notional sizes were huge, and the sophistication of the structures was so cool. It was an exciting time to be on a trading floor. Post crisis, the banking environment changed considerably, and as banks took on stricter internal and regulatory controls, it became nearly impossible to do deals anymore. The derivatives business became less about helping clients mitigate risk and all about managing the internal politics. More and more people were empowered to kill deals rather than enable them. The harder it was to do business, the sharper the elbows became. Going to work had been fun; it was now a grind. The industry had totally changed, and for the worse. It had become a soul crushing affair and it was time to get out.
What would you say to current MBAs considering a career in capital markets?
Capital markets are no longer what they once were. There’s a very steep learning curve at a bank which is useful, but the heyday is definitely over. Make sure you’re sincerely interested in the field and not just in it for the money!
What inspired you set up your own business?
In banking, I had always had to build and to develop my own client base, so even though I worked at a large company, I was running my own little business, so to speak. I was ready to take that one step further but also to embrace the autonomy, the creativity, and the risk of doing it for myself 100%.  There’s so much opportunity out there. I was determined to seize it. I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines anymore. I wanted to get into the thick of it and be a part of that growth and change and innovation.
What has been the toughest part of "entrepreneurship" so far?
Not having an IT guy...joking (but only kind of). The best of part of entrepreneurship is the unknown; the worst part of entrepreneurship is the unknown. The sky is our limit, on the one hand, but on the other hand, the uncertainty of knowing if we are doing things right, when to persevere and when to change tactics, whose advice to trust or to discount….and the list goes on. The freedom to be nimble and to make quick judgment calls is refreshing, as is the right to offer a top quality service and to provide customer service that is a reflection of my own highest standards. The “what ifs” and the “what nows” are equally as stressful, however. You only have yourself to thank; likewise, you only have yourself to blame.
Have you been able to implement your b-school toolkit for The Moose or are you 'learning the ropes' as you go along?
From an operational point of view, I’m definitely figuring things out as I go along. However, we did take advantage of the government’s SEIS scheme to raise some early stage financing, and for this, my business school network came in very handy.
Have many of your MBA classmates set up their own businesses - any other fitness companies?
Due to its home in NYC, Columbia Business School is traditionally a finance school, and as far as I remember, very many of my classmates went into investment banking, sales & trading, investment management, private equity, etc upon graduation. A fair number remain in the finance industry, but I’ve actually been surprised how many have embraced entrepreneurship during the past few years. There seems to be a new trend developing. In fact, the CBS Facebook Page is constantly being updated by new success stories in the entrepreneurial space, which is very exciting!
Do you think you'll ever go back to investment banking or have you 'switched sides' for good?
I think I’ve switched sides for good. It’s not easy being an entrepreneur, but it’s so much more rewarding.

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