Thirty-two year-old fitness guru Mario Godiva is a preeminent trainer and spokesman for rebounding boots. But like every entrepreneur, Mario has a dream. Seeing flaws in the existing product, he wants to market and promote his own.

So just like the rest of us, Mario struck out on his own, designed a revolutionary new boot, and began raising capital. Then, as Harry Truman said upon being told FDR had died and that he'd be president, "The earth, the moon and the skies fell." In May, Mario was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and given a 50-50 chance of survival.

That'd be enough to send me to the nearest hospital psych ward, but Mario's road to health, and the launch of his new product, are truly inspirational. Read on to see how Mario has bounced back, and is continuing to air glide toward his goal of creating one of the world's breakthrough fitness products.

Tell me about the business you're attempting to launch. What inspired you to create it?
Mario Godiva: Seventy-nine percent of people who jog get injured a year; 1.4 billion adults worldwide are overweight or obese; and common forms of exercise are high impact, monotonous, and hinder motivation. Plyo Air Glides is a rebound shoe that absorbs, stores, or converts impact shock to return "kickback" energy, leaving your joints pain-free.

At what stage are you currently in terms of initial fundraising?
MG: We have everything we need for success except the product. The next step is to create molds. That's the most expensive part and we are looking for financing to help us with the production of our first model, Air Glide Mario.

Tell our readers about how being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has changed your approach to building a business, if at all.
MG: I was diagnosed on May 16th but have had symptoms since January 2014. I was misdiagnosed twice before a third team of doctors got it right, thankfully just in time to begin treatment. When I got my diagnosis after the liver biopsy, the first thing I did was cry like a baby. I recalled all the horror stories of people with cancer and chemotherapy and how many stop just because they can't take it anymore.

The next thing I thought was that I need to get my business off the ground and in the hands of supportive people I trust. I've always been a do-it-yourselfer--very proud and afraid to ask for help. The biggest change is that I now realize I can't do it all myself. Instead of being the lone superhero, I am now the head of an amazing "Avenger" team that is extremely motivated and hell-bent on producing this product.

What advice would you provide to the thousands of readers who, like you, are in the midst of getting their businesses off the ground?
MG: My biggest advice would be to research, research, and research some more. Whatever industry you are in, there is a vast wealth of knowledge and advice at your fingertips: business plans, tips from other startups, equity investment information, etc. If you are unsure about an aspect of your business, ask! Get an adviser or mentor you trust who preferably knows the industry and is successful and go to them for guidance. Also know when you need to let go of control and trust the experts to do the work for you. This is hard, especially when you are launching a business--it's your baby.

What life lessons has the disease taught you?
MG: As a fitness expert, I motivate and inspire people on a daily basis. I often preach about how much we take for granted, the importance of treating other people nicely, and living positively and presently in each moment. We never know how long we have in this world and I feel people should be complaining less and showing gratitude more.

Reality Check

What Mario calls his "reality check" would checkmate the dreams and aspirations of most entrepreneurs. I know his diagnosis would stop me in my tracks. But Mario's different. And if after reading this column you agree, post a comment and send Mario your thoughts. We're all scrambling for the same pot of money, but people such as Mario Godiva deserve our love and support. We only "air glide" around this globe once in our life, and Mario is blazing a new trail that should make the business community not just proud, but very supportive of him.

Published on: Jun 11, 2014