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December 18, 2019 Q&A

Entrepreneur jumped through hoops to build a company

BringtheHoopla’s Nicole Heriot: A formula for education, fitness and fun.

Nicole Heriot has built a career, and a company, with hula hoops. Yes, hula hoops. Hula-hooping has come full circle in recent years, since the original plastic hoops were introduced by Wham-O Inc. in the late 1950s. The hooping craze has been reborn, after a fashion, as a fun fitness regimen. Heriot spoke with NHB about how she built her Shelton company, BringtheHoopla LLC, from a classic American pastime.

Q: Why hula-hooping?

I was living in New York City for 10 years, and I was ready for a move back home [to Shelton]. I wanted to belong to a community and create something from the ground up. My dear friend in Seymour loved to hula-hoop and began constructing hoops. She asked if I wanted to go into business together and see where it took us. We launched BringtheHoopla in February 2011. She was making the hula hoops and I focused on the marketing of starting the business and building the foundation of the business. I restructured the business, moving the focus of creating custom-designed hula hoops, and shifted over to a fully educational fitness company in 2014, focusing on ages pre-K through grade 6. 

How has your background prepared you to launch a company?

I grew up in Shelton, graduating from Shelton High School and later received a BFA in music theater from the Hartt School. I pursued theater in NYC for 11 years. As an actor, there’s a few things you need: persistence, determination, the ability to work well with others, always remembering to put your best foot forward and a sense of humor. I took that all with me. 

Did you ever see yourself owning a hula-hoop business?   

As an actor, I never imagined I would venture into the educational fitness world. However it has provided me with the opportunity to empower thousands of children, set new precedents for fitness and create a conversation around healthy minds and healthy bodies for children of all ages. 

What has contributed to the company’s growth trajectory since 2011?

Quality programming is the No. 1 reason why we have sustained and grown. We have continued to grow over the last nine years. A business is only as strong as your team. I am very grateful to have an incredible team led by Sarah Murphy, our program director, who I believe is the true face of BringtheHoopla.  We are a small business, but our sales have increased year after year.

Where are you revenue-wise today?

We went from $5,000 in 2011 to $125,000 in 2019.

How do you promote the product?

Primarily by word of mouth. As they say, that’s the best form of advertising. 

How do you get your program into school systems?

Being integrated in school districts is an organic process that takes patience and consistent effort. Our program is successful in schools because our curriculum embodies the key themes and conversations we need to be having with our children: the importance of physical fitness, self-esteem, self-confidence, loving ourselves for who we are. We provide high quality programming for children of all ages by using the hoop as a form of play, exercise and learning. Our curriculum aligns with state and national [Common Core] standards to ensure developmentally appropriate programming that promotes physical literacy. We use positive reinforcement and encouragement to foster persistence, self confidence and free expression for all students. 

Where else are your programs offered?

The beauty of BringtheHoopla is we can customize our programs for any setting, from corporate to private and public schools, preschools, community and senior centers, libraries, birthday parties, corporate events and ladies nights. This past year we facilitated programming in more than 250 public and private schools, libraries, summer camps and preschools. We taught over 3,800 students. We are always partnering with organizations to continue our outreach and to build awareness of who we are and what we do.

What does it take to be successful in business? 

Always be willing to learn, lead with enthusiasm and positivity. Surround yourself with a strong team. Your happiness at home leaks into your professional life. Finding the balance between work and home is so important. Continue to persist down the path. 

Where do you see BringtheHoopla in five years? 

Continuing to build upon our programming and to be a physical fitness standard in every school across the state.

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