Learn the Key Moves that Brought Her Lasting Success
Cristy Nickel, the founder of Code Red, has become a successful entrepreneur and a prolific author and speaker. She wrote The Code Red Revolution, outlining her revolutionary weight-loss plan, among other books. However, she wasn’t always an entrepreneur. She discovered her path to business leadership in her mid-thirties, and was fueled by her passion for helping people live healthy, fit lives.
The Evolution of Code Red
In her early thirties, Cristy was one of the top three professional boxers in the world. After a stint on MTV’s reality TV show MADE, she was lauded as a top celebrity personal trainer. That’s when she noticed herself quickly putting on pounds. “Here I am, training three to five hours a day, and I’m actually getting fat. It was astonishing to me because I had people who would come to me as a top-level trainer,” she remarks.
She had an epiphany: You can exercise and exercise, yet not lose any weight.
Why? It’s all about what you’re putting in your mouth – namely, carbs and sugars. Rather than ramping up an already robust exercise regimen, she needed to revamp her diet. “We believe in eating real food, drinking water, and sleeping; we don’t believe in pills and shakes and any crap – no gimmicks,” Cristy says. “The diet industry has been lying to us for years,” says her sister Cari, who now works with her. “I’ve lost over a hundred pounds and kept it off with the Code Red lifestyle.”
That means every single person can lose weight, regardless of physical ability, she realized.
Finding the Right Business Model
When Cristy launched Code Red five years ago, she had little knowledge of Internet marketing or business in general. She spent one-on-one time with each client, in addition to working with the people she trained. Then, Natasha Hayslett – a high-level business coach and marketing strategist who just happened to want to lose some weight – came along. A month into the program, she was astonished at how many pounds she’d dropped. “The the world needs to hear this message – you are very special,” she told Cristy. She gave Cristy three pieces of advice, and Cristy implemented them all. “I was blown away,” she says. “Implementing three small changes tripled my income, and I was floored.”
She brought Natasha on board to advise her. “Immediately, we completely changed the business model,” Cristy says. She went from accompanying clients to work parties (in order to keep them away from the snack table), to delivering powerful techniques to help clients develop self-discipline. Realizing the power of the Internet, she quickly left her brick-and-mortar office behind.
Money was a major hurdle at first. Fortunately, Cristy was able to borrow enough to get off the ground.
She was also challenged by how to take her knowledge and share it on a larger scale. Natasha guided her in identifying her niche, developing her vision and strategy, and articulating her purpose and message. “Like most, I’m not a natural entrepreneur. I am now, but I had to grow into it,” Cristy said. She’s the first to admit that at the outset, she didn’t have a clue about marketing funnels or Internet platforms. “But I’m smart enough to learn and to hire people who know,” she affirms.
Cristy also needed advice on when to level up, as well as the steps she had to take to make that happen – like hiring more staff, working with a shipping company, and automating processes. “I used to hand-print from my computer and hand-bind every single custom program book that went out myself,” she laughs.
She also dealt with the frustrations of her husband, Miles, who saw her working sixteen-hour days for few rewards. “We were never together. And it was not the life that he had envisioned.” But Cristy kept building her knowledge. Natasha had her do exercises on where she saw herself in one year or five. That proved challenging, as Cristy was a hard worker but not a natural visionary. Through much effort, including reading and completing classes, she developed an impressive level of business savvy.
She would also visualize herself speaking to a huge audience and having thousands of clients. “I had to believe what Natasha saw about me because it was such a synergistic relationship,” she says. “I believed that she would be 140 pounds, and she didn’t see it – and I said, ‘I see it, I see it.’” I believed in her when she didn’t believe in the program or didn’t believe in herself. And I loved her through that. And she loves me through building. And so we both had to see each other the way that we saw the other person.”
The Path to Entrepreneurship
Cristy reflects back on the key milestones and lessons in her path to entrepreneurship, sharing vital tips for those embarking on their own journey.
1. Find a coach.
Cristy credits the start of her journey to entrepreneurship to working with her coach, Natasha. Some of the exercises she completed involved visualizing future success, such as where she planned to be in the next 1 year, or the next 5 years. Although she was willing to put in the work, she had never really visualized where that work would take her.
As she continued working with Natasha, Cristy was also reading personal development books and taking classes in order to build her business acumen. She found that, in the same way she believed in her clients, she needed a coach who believed in her.
2. Stop waiting for the stars to align.
Get crystal clear on your message, Cristy says. After that, “Done is better than perfect. Get something out there; start creating content on social media.” If you’re a parent, she remarks, “you are putting out content every day to those kids, and you are selling to those kids. You’re selling them on peas and carrots; you’re selling them on taking a nap.” You can use the same skills for another product and platform.
You don’t need a particular background to succeed, she stresses. “I want to continue to be an influencer and somebody that motivates people to want to achieve more – because I came from nothing. Cari and I came from nothing. I mean, we got an orange one time for Christmas.”
Cristy didn’t wait until everything fell into place financially. Rather, she took smart risks. She knew that as a nurse, her sister Cari would bring tremendous knowledge to the table. But five years ago, when Cari told her the salary she would need in order to quit her current jobs, Cristy wondered how she could swing it. “I just sat there with my head in my hands like, ‘I know I have to do this; I know that nobody’s got my back like Cari does,’” Cristy says. “I took a huge leap of faith and signed her on ,” she continues, noting that Cari now runs the day-to-day operations.
3. Be protective of your time.
At a recent conference, Cristy was astounded by how much time people admitted they wasted on mindless pastimes, like binge-watching Netflix. While Cristy loves to travel and maintain an active lifestyle, you won’t find her catching up on the last season of Game of Thrones.
“I only want to level up, so I’m very protective of who I hang around. I know what I’m capable of,” she says. “I know what my potential is. And I only want to associate with people who challenge me to be the best version of myself.”
Cristy keeps a consistent schedule. She wakes up early to exercise, then gets dressed. Though she works from home, Cristy always makes an effort to look polished. Then she’s ready to share her message on Facebook and elsewhere and spends her day continuing to develop and support the CodeRed community. She goes to bed early every day so she can wake up recharged.
Cari also works twelve to sixteen hours a day, starting at 5 a.m. She’s definitely an early morning person – she can’t wait to get to sleep because she can’t wait to wake up, she says. She starts every day by working out — focusing on self-care and then moving on to Code Red.
Cristy admits that her brand of work/life balance isn’t right for everyone – she works a lot. But she loves it. Plus, she’s brought in enough money for her and her husband to take a couple of high-end trips to Europe, as they have a passion for travel. While they’re away, Cari holds down the company
4. Stay focused.
In her life as a whole, Cristy is highly focused. Code Red and her marriage are her key priorities. Her sister Cari is her best friend. She’s focused on her goals and the core relationships that are most important to her.
Cristy has quickly become a pro at delegation. “I’m always offloading more and more responsibilities,” she notes. “I’m really focused on only doing things that bring Code Red money and outsourcing stuff like compliance.” Maintaining this laser focus has led the duo to triple their income each year.
Cari is highly efficient with her time, too. Time blocking has maximized her productivity. As a working mom, she’s good at prepping, prioritizing, and keeping a tight schedule. She does large chunks of work in the early morning before the family wakes up, then turns off the volume on her phone during family time.
To parents, Cristy emphasizes, “You can’t be the best parent – or anything else in life – if you’re not taking care of yourself.” Don’t be the martyr who boasts that you only got three hours of sleep last night. “Turn the phone off, turn the TV off, start putting your foot down in your household, and start creating content. You can do it all; you really can. It just takes saying yes to some things and saying no to other things to stop selling yourself short,” she says.
5. Level up.
If you want to continue growing, you need to keep stepping outside of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself to do something you don’t feel quite ready for. Push yourself to follow your coach’s guidance even when you feel self-doubt. Pushing through those doubts is the only way to level up. By doing that, you prove those doubts wrong time after time and increase your confidence, becoming the person you aspire to be.
Surround yourself with people who challenge you. “I seek out people that are high-level, high-octane, such as multi-million-dollar earners who have high levels of influence,” Cristy asserts. Why? Because they challenge her to level up.
What the Future Holds
Cristy sees an exciting future for herself as a motivational speaker who focuses on small businesses or entrepreneurship, as well as continuing to author more books on healthy living and weight loss. With her own challenging rise to success, Cristy always strives to encourage others, as well as to give opportunities to deserving people with few advantages, shares Cari.
She’s prepared to navigate the changes that come with scaling up further, too. “I know how to handle the success that’s going to come my way. I know how to treat the staff,” she explains. She also wants to continue striving toward a higher level of fitness and find time to travel more, while continuing to level up with Code Red.
“I can’t imagine being retired. I don’t want to be without Code Red,” Cristy says. “I know with every ounce of my being that I am the absolute best person when it comes to weight loss.”
Becoming An Entrepreneur