Fitness expert and entrepreneur Liz Cort. Liz (Coughlin) Cort '03 left a successful career to make a new one that worked for her and her family. Today, she is helping people improve their health and launch new businesses, calling on many of the lessons learned in the classroom and on the basketball court at Saint Rose.

Her Winding Path to Success

Liz (Coughlin) Cort ’03 is a lifelong entrepreneur who started her first business at the age of 15. “I was coaching athletes and teaching young girls how to play basketball and strength train so that they could achieve their dreams of getting a college scholarship,” she says. “I’ve always been in the training industry as an entrepreneur.”

Sometimes one has to take the long way around to find the right path, and it took Cort a multiyear detour through the corporate world to discover that her calling was truly in entrepreneurship. After graduating from Saint Rose with a B.S. in Business Administration and earning an MBA elsewhere, Cort started in sales in 2005, first in insurance, and later in pharmaceuticals. By the numbers, she was wildly successful – she won award after award for exceeding sales targets – but the fire just wasn’t there.

By about 2011, Cort realized that the rewards of the corporate life weren’t the type she craved. She had a toddler and an infant at home, and her full-time sales position didn’t leave her enough time with her family. Her police-officer husband Jesse Cort, a varsity basketball star whom Liz had met at Saint Rose, worked all day long, as well. “I truthfully was not loving being an absent mother to my kids,” says Cort. “We were both out all day, and we didn’t want to put our boys in daycare. So, we decided to take the entrepreneurship route and take some risks.”

A Foundation at Saint Rose

A star athlete who had been recruited to play basketball at Saint Rose, Cort decided to quit her job and open a gym in her hometown of Red Hook, New York. “I couldn’t even get a loan from a bank, being female, so I maxed out my credit cards,” she says. While the gym quickly filled with clients, Cort found herself having to spend just as much time away from her kids as before, all the while laboring under a heavy financial burden. “That drove me to want to build multiple income streams into our life. It’s Business 101 – what I learned at Saint Rose,” she says.

“I took those skills I’d learned and built these multiple income streams, and all of that combined is what helped us launch our other businesses and have a life that we designed, with some freedom for our family,” says Cort. Through some trial and error, she developed a hybrid business model that perfectly suited her capabilities in entrepreneurship, coaching, and selling, and provided her with operating capital to hire trainers and instructors. In addition to the gym, she launched an online training business, Team Fit, through which she provided personalized training and nutrition information to women virtually anywhere.

At about the same time, she became a distributor for a national health-and-wellness company, Advocare, that provided her with the security of a corporate infrastructure while allowing a large degree of entrepreneurial latitude. She and Jesse recently were back to visit Saint Rose, holding an Advocare seminar in the Events and Athletics Center.

Cort is quite happy with her multi-pronged model: All three businesses are expanding steadily. The Corts have added a yoga studio to the gym and grown the distributorship considerably. She also has expanded her consulting business. “We now help other people, not only with health and wellness, but with entrepreneurship,” she says. “I had industry professionals looking for help and guidance with running their own local gyms and online companies, so in 2016, I opened up my consulting company, lizcort.com. We help clients with everything from branding to writing business plans and soliciting funding.”

Although she didn’t enjoy the corporate world, Cort says she learned a lot during her time there. “When you run a business, you’re dealing with people, and you need professional and life skills,” she explains. “The training I received in the pharmaceutical industry was an incredible transferable skill to carry over into the nutritional industry. There are a lot of the same types of common questions and objections.”

Cort brings her unflagging energy and supportiveness to every encounter, whether she’s cheering on a new mom who’s working off extra pregnancy pounds or helping a fledgling gym owner who’s beating the bushes for investors. She spends her typical work day coaching clients online, logging hours on social media, meeting with clients, and conducting educational events for the community.

Perhaps most important to Cort: Each morning, she and Jesse see their two sons off to school, and are waiting for them at home at the end of the school day. They’re there for every swim or soccer practice, meet, or game. “Getting the business degree from Saint Rose has given me the tools to design my life, which is kind of a dream,” says Cort. “Waking up and getting my two kids on the bus is the greatest gift of entrepreneurship.”