By Stacey Gualandi/December 21, 2011
“We wanted to create a space where people felt safe and comfortable just being themselves.” Erika Shay and Parvati Shallow
What happens when you bring together a survivor of “The Amazing Race” and a winner of “Survivor”? You get a one-stop wellness and fitness business, all under one roof. Best friends Parvati Shallow, the winner of “Survivor: Micronesia” and Erika Shay, a contestant on Season 5 of “The Amazing Race,” decided to join forces last year and open up their own business, ESP Wellness Center in Santa Monica, CA. Their goal is to literally give people the gift of a healthy life, and they definitely practice what they preach!
I visited ESP recently and got a real taste of their integrative approach to fitness and health. I enjoyed the detoxifying effects of the “rebounding” class (jumping up and down on a little trampoline)and mellowed in their infrared sauna.
I went back for more with a group yoga class taught by Lauren Eckstrom, who heads their yoga program. It was inspiring and invigorating to say the least.
Two gals: one great healthy cause. So I wanted to know more about these reality stars who opted to parlay their fame and fortunes into helping others.
EYE: Parvati, you just got back from spending 100 days traveling “Around the World for Free,” an online interactive series. You had no money — just your wits — and it was all captured on cbs.com/world. You made it safely back for our interview!
PARVATI: I had the time of my life. It was a dream come true. Since I was a kid, I had always dreamt of hosting a travel show. I had to rely on the kindness of strangers and reaching out through social networking. It gave me the artistic license and freedom to guide the show the way I wanted to. I had such a great time.
EYE: At one point, you were injured on the sand dunes of Namibia. There was a concern that you might not finish…
PARVATI: Yes, I broke my right wrist. But I’m a powerhouse, and there was no way that I was going to stop. I’m back and rehabbing right now at ESP!!
EYE: Erika, you certainly know a thing or two about traveling the world!
ERIKA: Ha!! And since Season 5, I’ve been casting for “The Amazing Race” and “Survivor.”
EYE: My sister and I have thought about trying out, but I’m not sure if we’d get along…
ERIKA/PARVATI: That’s what they like!!! Hahaha.
ERIKA: It was an amazing experience. And the one great part about casting for the shows is that I don’t know anyone who has ever walked away from them saying I wish I hadn’t done that. It’s life-changing, and its definitely a growing process during and after.
EYE: Have you been long-time friends and why join forces to start a business like this?
PARVATI: We met through mutual friends and have been Super Glued to each other ever since. We found that we wanted to start looking for a change of direction in our lives. We were feeling unfulfilled career-wise; I had just finished “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains.” What makes me the happiest is boxing and yoga, and for both of us, making a difference in people’s lives…helping people to achieve their maximum potential.
That’s what we strive to do at ESP: create an environment that is personalized to each individual. We give you what you need when come through our doors. I think we’ve created the best of all worlds here.
EYE: What does ESP mean?
ERIKA: It is a combination of our names. But it also means to have a sixth sense about yourself, to adopt a mindset of health plus wellness that will keep you happy and alive longer.
Our philosophy is to offer services from amazing people who are inspiring people to be the best they can be. We really want it to have a trickle-down effect and to help people live at their happiest.
EYE: You both gained fame as reality stars. We’ve seen other reality contestants who became famous. But you both chose to take your popularity to help provide for others.
PARVATI: Thank you for saying that. We wanted to create a space where people felt safe and comfortable just being themselves. And to help them work on making themselves better emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually – every sense of your being.
EYE: Fellow “Survivor: Africa” champ Ethan Zohn has been publicly battling cancer. Was his journey part of your inspiration?
PARVATI: Yes, but even more so his relationship with girlfriend Jenna Morasca of “Survivor: Amazon.” Their relationship inspired us to create ESP. We saw what she was going through as his caretaker. It inspired us to want to provide a safe haven for people like her who are dealing with and supporting someone going through cancer. Ethan has lots of support with his doctors, family, etc., but who is taking care of Jenna and who’s giving her the strength to take care of him?
EYE: What can people expect when they walk through the ESP doors?
ERIKA: I like to ease into my workouts. I do pilates, but Parvati likes to run hardcore workouts. We have something for everybody from private or group pilates to classes taught by teachers who have over 600 hours of training.
We have rebounding classes; we also do TRX resistance training. We also offer full-body wellness services: an amazing massage therapist, an infrared sauna, and nutrition counseling as well.
PARVATI: Santa Monica is the mecca of yoga but what we’ve been finding with a majority of our clients is that they are looking for more restorative practices…a way to unwind and distress. So they are able to use ESP in an integrated way. You can do an intense cardio class – I like boxing and I compete so I teach boxing technique – and then you might want to help with insomnia, anxiety, all stress-related illnesses.
So many clients are getting into the restorative yoga practices and meditation here. There really is something for everyone. We have personalized instruction, and we follow-up with emails, so you are getting the most out of your session, no matter what.
We make sure that you’re listened to, you’re heard and that your needs are met. Full body wellness services are available as well as massage therapy, and nutrition counseling.
EYE: Here you are, two young women coming together to start a business. I imagine at times that has been a daunting task?
PARVATI: It’s definitely not been without a few challenges that’s for sure. But I feel that this is the trend…the world is changing. People are spending more time and money on themselves and bettering themselves, so I felt it was the right time to be starting in this field of health and wellness. It was kind of scary, both in this field and with this economy. But its been a wild ride.
EYE: Do you have any advice for women wanting to start a business?
ERIKA: If you believe in yourself and believe in the power of what you are doing, you can accomplish anything…if you have an idea or passion that you feel strongly about. It’s ESP. Female intuition is so strong. If you believe that nothing can stop you then follow your passions. Go with your heart.
PARVATI: And everyone is going to tell you no. So just keep persevering. Keep pushing through all the obstacles because there’s going to be a ton of them.
EYE: Do you recommend working with a partner, especially a female?
PARVATI: I’d never do it alone!!
ERIKA: We’re an interesting duo. That’s a good question! The secret for Parvati and me is that we are happy with ourselves and with our lives. We can think individually and never take offense with each other. If we argue, it’s over a minute later. We’re strong- headed and we work well together.
PARVATI: You have to be honest with who your partner is. Don’t be concerned with hurting feelings. Women think too much about whether someone likes you or not. In business, it’s a different set of rules. You have to stand up for yourself. It’s the only way to make yourself happy and make things grow.
EYE: Thanks so much for sharing ESP with me!! I’ll be back!!!
To hear more of my interview with Parvati and Erika, just click on this link…