As a part of our series called ‘Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO’, we had the pleasure of interviewing Maria Angelova.
Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher, founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl.
With a diverse and unique background and experience — born in Bulgaria, Eastern Europe, moved to the U.S.A. as a teen, BBA and MBA in Finance, 20 years in corporate, 30 years in the fitness industry, a massive personal transformation — Maria today offers a comprehensive and practical approach to self-care and personal growth through her lifestyle and wellness company — Rebellious Intl.
The core of Rebellious is intentional movement and mindset work. Maria helps people build a strong body and a calm mind. The goal is to create movement habits for life and conscious thinking for living.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Ientered the fitness world at the young age of 12. I started going to the gym regularly when kids started making fun of my developing curves. Prior to that, I demonstrated athletic ability. However, my family were heavy academia; athletics were not in the picture. Emphasis for me were good grades and performing well in school.
When we immigrated to the U.S. in 1996, I wanted a gym membership. Long story short, my dad said the only way to get a gym membership was if it were free. He pitched me teaching to the general manager at a local gym. An audition and week later, I was 16 when I first stood in front of a class full of adults teaching step aerobics. I had never taught before. It was not in my native language. I fell in love with teaching fitness classes and motivating people. For 20 years, I taught fitness as a side gig.
I went to high school in Athens, GA where I graduated as a salutatorian. Consequently, I attended the University of Georgia where I obtained my BBA in Finance. A couple of years later, I continued my education at Georgia State University where I received my MBA. I completed both degrees with highest honors. I spent over 17 years in the world of Operations and Finance. I specialized in financial reporting, systems and data analysis, systems and process flow improvement.
In 2012, after I had my daughter, I discovered Pilates. It was very different than the high intensity classes and personal training I was used to teaching at the gym. Pilates felt slow and awkward. Fast forward, Pilates changed my life. Not only did it change my body shape. Pilates got me to quiet down and inner connect to my intuition.
In 2016, I quit my corporate job and the Rebellious journey began. In the past 6 years, I have experienced an immense personal transformation. I discovered mindset work and have been consistently and diligently evolving. I now teach everything which changed my life to my clients. My goal is to guide you change your life.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
For me, one of the most interesting things which has happened is the progression of Rebellious in unanticipated directions. Through the entrepreneurship journey, I have learned to trust the process. As a results, my originally fitness-focused business now offers mindset and energy work. Neither of these were originally planned. The expansion of the business reflects my own personal growth path. More importantly, I would also like to note that I arrived at this stage based on things not going my way — it can be agitating, feel like failure; long-term, those mishaps have turned out to be a blessing. As a leader, it is important to stay connected and trust your gut.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are many people — teachers, mentors, colleagues, clients, friends, family members — who have been significant contributors to my journey. If there is one person I would like to highlight, it is my mom. As I stepped into the unknown world of entrepreneurship in a completely different industry and at the ripe age of 39, I found myself lost and lonely. I had voluntarily kicked the foundation of my life by choice, and everything seemed to be falling apart. The noise of the world got loud, it got scary.
There was this one person who said: “If there is anyone who can do it, it is you.” That was my mom. She has stepped up with everything household; she is the operations manager. Knowing I have a trusted resource, I can focus on everything else I am doing. Truth is my success would not have been as rapid had my mom not been there to not only cheer me but also help me hands-on.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Read the entire interview in Medium.com.