Marsha Stopa – Winter Blues Coach, Author & Energy Therapist

Marsha grew up in Detroit, a town where people always expected to get one job and retire comfortably. She has tried so many different things, some sane and some not, she was once called “peripatetic.” Twenty years as a newspaper journalist saw Marsha’s byline under the mastheads of Crain’s Detroit Business, The Oakland Press and the News-Herald Newspapers. She worked for an automotive B2B marketer, a PR agency and in educational book publishing. She also had her own tiny business as a professional gardener.

Recent incarnations have been more people focused: Marsha trained as a Polarity Therapist, a type of energy healing and bodywork, and as a health coach. Together with five other health coaches last year the six formed a company, The Lemonade Network, and co-authored a book, “Emotional Stimulus Package: Your Guide to Re-creating the American Dream.” The authors use the stages of grief to help people recover and heal from economic loss –foreclosure, layoff and the loss of their lifestyle.

She learned to ask questions as a journalist and learned to appreciate the deeper value of asking questions as a coach and Polarity Therapist. Years ago a friend said, “Two of the greatest and saddest words in the English language are, “What if…?” Blessed (or cursed) with an active and inquisitive mind, Marsha has been on a mission to answer her own what-if questions.
Searching around for a niche after finishing health-coach training, she realized her niche was hidden in plain sight. Every winter for 10 years she shifted habits to include light therapy in the morning and change her eating patterns to deal with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It had taken her at least three winters to figure out what worked best after an unproductive session with a psychiatrist who wanted to put her on an anti-depressant.
She decided to combine her coaching skills with the new tools the internet offers but floundered until finding Teaching Sells, the online program created by Copyblogger founder Brian Clark on how to create and market paid membership sites offering online education. Out of that program Marsha started her brand and website, Winter Blues Coach, and developed her online winter blues coaching program.

What are you working on right now?

Developing and launching the LightBox, an online, interactive learning program where members learn to manage seasonal depression and the winter blues using light therapy, attitude shifts, diet and exercise changes with the support of a health coach and community. The charter launch is running April 28 through May 12. The more I read and learn about seasonal depression the more I believe it’s an unrecognized public health problem. Six percent of the U.S. population suffers from SAD and 14 percent from the milder winter blues – that’s fully 20 percent of the population! With no apologies to Thomas Edison, we are still hardwired into the circadian rhythms of the planet and our biological clocks are set by the rising and setting of the sun, yet we think we can run our bodies 24/7 with no ill effect. We are adaptable creatures, but our biology hasn’t changed since we began to walk upright. The volume of misinformation and garbage on the web about seasonal depression and how to deal with it is downright dangerous.

3 trends that excite you?

The building of interactive learning communities. I have learned so much, with so much unexpected help and support from people around the world. I’ve been coached by a woman in Saskatchewan, given marketing advice by a woman in Wales and photographs by a photographer in Calgary, and Word Press help by a friend in England. It is also expanding my worldview – I discovered a woman I was conversing with last weekend in a forum lives in the middle of the Atacama Desert in Chile, which I had to go look up.
The evolving people-first, relationships-first Third Tribe movement and philosophy. It’s exciting and more personally satisfying to be involved in online communities where the members’ goal is to develop and honor relationships while they offer truly beneficial products and services. I call it the “personalization” of the web.

The unexpected and amazing ways ideas, products and concepts can collide and morph into totally new business models and offerings because of the internet’s dynamic nature. Copyblogger, the intersection of copywriting and social media, is the classic example. I’m bringing together three concepts with the LightBox – health coaching on the winter blues in an online environment. You read it here first. J

How do you bring ideas to life?

I get the best ideas while brushing my teeth. Maybe it’s because my head is bent over and there’s more blood rushing to my brain. I like to say it’s because I’m around the ionic vibration of water, but I consistently get good ideas over the bathroom sink.
And I use clustering – the paper and pen forerunner to mind-mapping that was first presented 25 years ago in “Writing the Natural Way” by Gabriele Lusser Rico. Generating ideas on a computer still engages more of the logical, sequential left side of my brain than the creative, big picture right side of the brain. So as my first step I create those strange-looking, grape-like clusters of words as ideas spill all over the page. It’s strangely satisfying. Sometimes when I want to think really big I cluster on big sheets of newsprint or rolls of paper. Sequential outlines, timelines, research and lists of next steps flow out of the cluster. One cluster often ignites another idea that requires its own cluster. Clusters were my secret weapon to writing a weekly column many years ago.

What is the one mistake you made and what did you learn from that?

There have been so many it’s hard to choose. I’ve tried doing lots of different things to make money and flopped a few times. The underlying mistake was that I felt ashamed of my mistakes and tried to hide them. Fact is, if I hadn’t had those experiences to redirect me I wouldn’t be where I am today, learning what I’m learning and doing what I’m doing. I’m much more OK with who I am and with my life, even though I’m less financially stable than I’d prefer. I’m developing a deeper understanding of what’s really important in life – treating others with kindness, generosity and compassion as I become aware of the beauty and meaning around me every day.

What is one business idea you are willing to give away to our readers?

Don’t assume that because you are a member of your target market that you are completely representative of your target market and know how they think and respond. Ask. Survey. Keep asking and keep learning. Expect to be surprised.

What is the one thing you could learn that would make the biggest difference in your future?

Copywriting. After 20 years as a journalist I thought I knew everything there was to know about writing. Then I worked with a number of incredibly sharp advertising writers and copywriters and began to realize they might be just as good – or even better – than a lot of the reporters and editors I’d worked with.
And now, as I’m writing my own lesson material, blog and marketing material I’m finding I need to unlearn a lot of what had become so natural: short and concise is not always better, a personal tone is more welcome than an objective observation and people want to know your opinions and conclusions before they figure it out for themselves. Opening new rooms in my brain for fresh information and approaches will keep me forever young.

Where are you headed next?

To Western North Carolina, somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains around Asheville. I fell in love with the area five years ago and have been contemplating moving there since. This is the year. Not sure exactly where I’ll land but the sense of adventure is exhilarating, and I can take my online business with me. There’s at least one book in me and lots of other entrepreneurial ideas and projects.


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