In The Path, we spotlight different women making a difference in the fashion, beauty, wellness, medical aesthetics, and more industries. Here, Esra Cavusoglu shares her road to success.
If you’re up to speed on the trendiest fitness classes in New York City, you’ve probably stumbled upon Shock Therapy FitnessTM. This boutique workout class — which relies on low pulses of electricity to stimulate muscle movement — is the brainchild of Esra Cavusoglu. The Turkish-born entrepreneur opened the buzzy fitness studio in NYC after discovering Electro-Muscle Stimulation overseas (more on that later). Since its inception, the low-impact workout has amassed a dedicated following — including our own Alexandra Wilkis Wilson. (For the skeptics: take one look at the svelte 47-year-old founder, and you might just want to get shocked yourself.)
But it’s not just Cavusoglu’s sculpted physique that reflects her dedication to self-care — her skin, mental sharpness, and cheery disposition all point to someone who prioritizes wellness. “The way that I look at life is, how can I improve myself to have the ultimate strength, health, and wellness conditions to live?,” she tells SpotlyteTM.
It seems like a lofty goal, especially when you consider the immense effort and passion she pours into her businesses (which include restaurants and a rehab center in Turkey, in addition to her fitness studio in the U.S.). Below, Cavusoglu gets candid about her journey to optimal health, her success with vastly different entrepreneurial ventures, and the anti-aging tips that keep her looking fresh all the while.
Spotlyte: Tell us about your journey to becoming the person you are today.
Esra Cavusoglu: I'm from Turkey and I've been living in the U.S. for the last 12 years. My actual training is in psychology; I'm a PhD psychologist with a focus on addiction. Before that, I owned two restaurants in Istanbul. I'm kind of an entrepreneur.
Spotlyte: How did you become interested in psychology? How did you put your degree into practice?
EC: I realized there was information needed in Turkey for what real addiction treatment is. So, I went back to school in the U.S., did a Masters and a PhD, and became a psychologist. I asked myself, how can I [bring my training to Turkey and] build a successful and sustainable rehab center? With doctors from Yale and Johns Hopkins, I built a 12-step-oriented, residential rehabilitation center for street kids in Turkey.
Spotlyte: How do you transition from restauranteur to psychologist to fitness guru?
EC: While I was in the field of psychology, I was introduced to the anti-aging longevity wellness approach. I started learning about supplements, and that actual aging [is also internal, including] gut health in the digestive system. And then I learned about neuro-hacks; how to improve your brain with important supplements.
Spotlyte: Any supplements you swear by?
EC: PA65 for preventing telomere shortening, which happens with age.
[Editor’s note: Talk to your doctor before starting or stopping any new treatment, medication, or supplement. PA65, like all supplements, is not FDA-approved as a medical treatment]
Spotlyte: What’s your stance on cosmetic injectables?
EC: I've been getting injectable wrinkle reducers since I was in my early thirties. I have them injected into my horizontal forehead lines to smooth the wrinkles.
[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face, including the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. Like any medical treatment, injectable wrinkle reducers have potential risks and side effects. Talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. And learn more by chatting now with a trained aesthetic specialist.]
Spotlyte: Do you remember the first time that you noticed a wrinkle and thought about getting injectables?
EC: I have a sister who is really into these things. Growing up, we were lucky; we were socialites in Turkey. We had the opportunity to follow the latest and the newest trends. If you look at every country, there's a group of women that are the pioneers of doing the new things. So, I was one of those people for my country.
Spotlyte: How do injectable wrinkle reducers fit into your lifestyle?
EC: I started getting injectable wrinkle reducers years ago after I saw my sister getting them. She recommended a doctor. I was so scared of needles — so what should have been a seven-minute process took me half an hour! Today, I go to the same doctor and they laugh [about how scared I was].
Spotlyte: What about injectable fillers?
EC: I didn't start fillers until maybe five years ago or so. Now, I have fillers in the cheek area because [my doctor] recommended them. I am happy with my results and will continue getting them.
[Editor’s note: Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, it has potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if it’s right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetic specialists now. ]
Spotlyte: Any other treatments you’ve tried?
EC: I’ve tried Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) — the treatment using blood. I didn't see a huge difference because my skin was still young. It [maybe] delayed the aging process, though. My main approach is that I want to delay [aging] rather than fix it. Also, I apply peptides and vitamins via biorevitalization.
Spotlyte: Do you notice a difference in American beauty rituals and Turkish beauty rituals?
EC: In Turkish culture, women are not really — or were not, I should say — much into business. The culture is that men work and they take care of the family. Therefore, women probably had more time [on] their hands. They like to do their eyebrows, get manicures; you wouldn't find any women, poor or rich or middle class without a [regular] manicure.
Spotlyte: Tell us about EMS — i.e. the technology behind Shock Therapy Fitness.
EC: Electro-muscle stimulation involves sending a low current [through your body] that triggers muscle fibers to contract. It actually promotes muscle toning.
[Editor’s note: EMS has not been cleared by the FDA. While using a product that has not met FDA requirements isn't necessarily unsafe or dangerous, it could be. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new program to discuss the benefits and the risks.]
Spotlyte: How did you discover EMS?
EC: Everything I do professionally is inspired by experiences I’ve had. Like the restaurant I started in Turkey — I went around the world and saw restaurants and said, "Huh, this is missing, let me do this." Opening a rehab was out of my own struggles with addiction. With EMS, I discovered a small private training studio in Europe seven years ago. At first, I didn't quite get it. But then I tried it again. And within two months, I saw a crazy change in my body. I did it twice a week for two months, and I became incredibly toned.
[Editor’s note: Individual experiences may vary.]
Spotlyte: What was the biggest incentive for you to continue using EMS?
EC: I used to have a problem with weight fluctuation. I like eating my junk food! I'm not that disciplined, to be honest. [Before EMS], my trainer would say, “Hey, in six months you're going to look great.” And I'm like, I don't have six months! EMS was a magical thing [for me, when combined with my regular exercise routine]. But there was nowhere in the U.S. offering the service. So I just decided to purchase the EMS machine for myself.
Then, I wanted to create a concept that would fit a U.S. market. I started analyzing this EMS approach and culture in Europe, because it's everywhere — Africa, South Africa, South America, Canada. I was the first one in the U.S. because I was able to bridge and do something fitting U.S. fitness markets.
Spotlyte: How did you transition your personal obsession with EMS to a full-blown business?
EC: It took me around four years until I really found the right team to work with, the right design concept. Then I came up with this group fitness approach to EMS — [Shock Therapy Fitness] is the first fully branded and conceptualized EMS group class.
Spotlyte: Any advice for someone who either wants to open a boutique fitness studio, start their own business, or completely switch careers?
EC: If they're an entrepreneur, they really have to be ready to work literally 24-seven. There's no rest. Also, they have to know every detail — more than their staff.
Spotlyte: Why is that?
EC: So that they're not [a] hostage in the hands of their staff. When I was at the restaurant, I knew all the recipes. I don't know how to cook, but I would be able to pick [and educate a new] chef or sous chef or a waiter. I make sure I am capable of doing every required chore for the business to function. And if I'm lacking staff, I will do the chores myself.
Spotlyte: Does that apply to other businesses — say, your fitness studio?
EC: Yes. At Shock Therapy, I literally take the laundry home and make sure that [it is] very clean, because we provide some undergarments; some like leggings and fitted t-shirts to wear under the power suit. So I took that job, and my staff sees that I'm literally carrying that big laundry bag to my car. And every morning, I bring them back. I don't let my staff think I'm above everyone — that “you guys are my workers.” No, I work with them.
Spotlyte: Anything else?
EC: Business life is also luck. You have to really provide the best service, provide the best information. So, inform the client. Train the staff. Give the best service possible. After that point, it’s kind of luck. I only got into businesses that I really believed in. It helped me, before even I made a business out of it. I have a smile on my face. I do so much from the heart, and with my passion about it, I don't even feel or think it's a business.
When I talk to people, it's just that I want them to try and like it. My first approach is not to make money. I believe that if one presents enough evidence, the money will follow.