By Amanda Kuhnert
Last summer Michelle Wiegers, a life coach based in Bennington, Vt., offered 30 hours of free coaching to 20 people suffering with chronic pain. “When COVID hit, I really wanted to reach people that are in pain because I know increased stress increases body pain,” she said.
The free 90-minute Zoom sessions, which she called the People First Project, took place over the course of 60 days. Although she said the project was “a ton of work,” she enjoyed seeing her clients discover a new path to healing. And if a few decide to sign up for a coaching package, all the better.
Individual coaching has been part of Wiegers’ business plan since starting her business in September 2019. But it wasn’t where she was directing all of her energy. In March of this year, she was planning to start offering creative workshops in her office space, which she calls “Creating Space,” located in the Benmont Mill Building in Bennington.“When COVID shut down my workshops, it forced me to narrow my focus to the coaching side of my business,” she said. “I hadn’t really done any marketing to reach new clients.”
The People First Project was an opportunity to build her business, while helping people during a difficult time. Wiegers used a body mind science approach to heal her own chronic pain, and now applies that knowledge and experience when working with clients who are struggling with similar issues.
To spread the word about the program, Wiegers posted videos on both her personal and business Facebook pages and sent emails to contacts she thought might be interested. She also reached out to a few people through Curable, an app for chronic pain sufferers.
Wiegers said the pandemic gave her the incentive to narrow her focus and “do something big like the People First Project.” But she said the health crisis also has made people more aware of their needs and willing to ask for help.
Creating a company vision
In 2019, when Wiegers first met with Nancy Shuttleworth, a business advisor with the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC), she planned to open a retreat center. “My vision was big…I was in a dream space,” Wiegers said. “Nancy asked all the questions I didn’t know I needed to hear.” Together, they were able to zero in on Wiegers’ niche and create a company vision.
“We met periodically as she helped me refine my business plan and financial goals,” Wiegers said. “She held me accountable to take the steps I really wanted to take, as well as advised me on how to move forward.”
On the other side of the Covid-19 crisis, Wiegers plans to reignite Creating Space, a venue where people can use creative expression to expand their lives and heal. Along with offering her own workshops on chronic pain and creative writing, she looks forward to collaborating with local artists who want to use the space to teach their own creative-oriented workshops.
Wiegers is currently making plans to launch a Zoom-based mind body group for local chronic-pain sufferers. She hopes “this group will help participants begin to reverse their own chronic pain symptoms.”
Looking for more? Visit VtSBDC.org to explore resources or connect with an advisor.