Year after year, it’s safe to say that most New Year’s resolutions include some form of getting in better shape. People join a gym with good intentions, but then their rate of going either slows down or stops altogether.
Consumers seem to want to be in physically good shape, but when it comes to that journey, most have a hard time committing to a specific gym or routine. Nearly every celebrity interview that peters over into the topic of fitness circles back to the same routine, which is the non-routine workout. To keep their bodies in the best shape of their lives, the answer on what to do about fitness for celebrities is often met with a variation of the same theme: “I like to mix it up with different workouts on a regular basis.”
One company looking to disrupt this yearly phenomenon of joining gyms or starting workout routines and shortly quitting after is SwitchFit. It is looking to change the way people work out by offering up various studios, classes, gyms and trainers through its app. We sat down with SwitchFit’s CMO, Frederick Heim, to learn more about how the company is shaking up the fitness arena.
PYMNTS: In your own words, what is SwitchFit about?
FH: We are the jet-setters of fitness. SwitchFit is an app for fitness explorers. There are more choices in fitness than ever, but original, creative and exciting options aren’t marketed well, usually because they don’t have the budget. You could have an amazing studio or trainer just blocks from your office and never know about it. Why not try a new studio every night? We find the hottest studios, classes, gyms and trainers and put them on the SwitchFit map so you can explore your options until you find your perfect fit.
PYMNTS: What’s the story behind how SwitchFit started?
FH: Our founder, Natalie Sessions, was living in the northwest and loved switching up her fitness activities. She knew she would stay more motivated if she was looking forward to something different. The only way she could accomplish this was to have several studio memberships, which wasn’t cost-effective. She had a group of friends who loved the idea of switching it up, but there wasn’t a way to do this outside of using up trial memberships with limitations. She talked to studios, and they loved the idea of new customers who value their programming and weren’t just looking for a deep discount. Combining the two was how SwitchFit was born.
PYMNTS: How does the pricing model work, and how does SwitchFit get paid?
FH: SwitchFit pricing is on demand, meaning customers pay à la carte (as they use it per session) and we collect a percentage of that transaction. Our business partners (studios, gyms and trainers) set their own price, which keeps them in control of their business. If a partner wants to increase traffic for a session, they can reduce the price, but we don’t market a discount model.
PYMNTS: Who does SwitchFit see as its competition, if any, and why?
FH: We are a challenger brand. While we aren’t the first, we’ve benefitted from the experience (good and bad) of others and cherry-picked best practices from these other models. We are seeing a similar path as the hotel and airline booking space, but the frequency in fitness is much higher with lower price points. The aforementioned space is all about discounting, and that has commoditized the industry. Fundamentally, businesses want to hold margin, which is why our value proposition is so strong.
PYMNTS: Since its inception, how much has SwitchFit grown year over year? Does it have any future projections for where it hopes to grow within the next few years?
FH: I’d love to tell you that we are crushing it over last year’s numbers, but this is our first year of business. We’ve had incredible response from the community, and our partners are the best in the industry. We’ve doubled our signed locations in each of the past three months. We are fitness people at our core, and we love to get in and sweat with our partners while growing their business. I think this is why we’ve seen such a high closing rate. At the recent IHRSA fitness trade show in Los Angeles, we signed pretty much everyone who heard the elevator pitch. Now, it’s just a matter of getting the word out.
PYMNTS: How many rounds of funding has SwitchFit received?
FH: 2016 was angel funding followed by a $750K raise from Stage.O, which closed in February 2017. We are currently in a seed round of $2.5 million being led by Stage.O and are expecting to close in May or June.
PYMNTS: What does the term “Uber of X” mean to you, and how does SwitchFit fit that mold?
FH: Uber set the stage for third-party distribution model. You could call us the Uber of Fitness, but we would refrain from the comparison because it comes off as a little cliché (or cocky). Yes, we have a location-based service, and we connect customers with independent businesses, but our model breeds loyalty, whereas Uber is intrinsically random and implies that every driver is basically the same. Imagine if you could use the same driver whenever you like. That is what we offer, and we think it’s better!
PYMNTS: As most startups have their fair share of hiccups, can you share a few lessons-learned anecdotes?
FH: We started out as a very niche product that was athlete-centric. This had a few inherent flaws, like market size and psychographic issues. When we stepped back and looked at the market potential, we realized that while athletes have the ability, the studio market is made up of people who don’t self-identify with this attitude. We keep the attitude but make it attainable while keeping it exciting. Another challenge isn’t so industry-specific; as with a lot of good concepts, one of the biggest challenges has been saying “no.” Technology is a double-edged sword, and it is really easy to start chasing ideas that don’t feed into our product roadmap. We are staying disciplined, even if it means shelving great ideas for future release.
PYMNTS: What are SwitchFit’s 2017 goals?
FH: We aren’t faced with a true “chicken or egg” scenario; we need studios first. “Build it and they will come” is more appropriate for us. 2017 is all about getting partners on-boarded since we are location-based. NYC and LA are our initial focus because these are fitness hotspots, but we’re signing partners nationwide as they approach us. By summer, we’re planning on 10 times partner growth, which will fuel consumer use. This is all that matters from a macro level. We’ve got some unique systems to fuel this growth that are based on our deep industry connections. Another goal? Keep our attitude! It’s easy to start drinking your own Kool-Aid and becoming just another inspirational fitness brand; if we do that, we are dead. People don’t “work out” because they don’t have time, yet you find time for things you enjoy. Fitness should be exciting, right? SwitchFit must continue to infuse attitude into everything we do.