Did you know that physical trainers and fitness instructors only get paid a very small fraction of the cost you pay the gym per hour? After they’ve pushed you to do a hundred burpees or gotten you to achieve that perfect yoga Crow Pose, they may end up with only $20. When your endorphins wear off, you’ll also notice that your wallet could be a $150 per hour lighter.
Clearly, the gym is the winner in the current fitness battle. Not anymore.
But that’s where Handstand — “Uber of Fitness Trainers” — this week’s featured Uber of X company, comes in. Whether it’s yoga, boxing, pilates, bootcamp or whatever fitness program you’re into lately, you can book a trainer on-demand at a more reasonable price. The iOS app debuted back in June 2015 and has already gained more than 2,000 trainers and 3,000 users. Currently offered in a session subscription payment method, Handstand is available in Los Angeles and Orange County; the plan is to roll it out to Boston, New York, San Francisco and Chicago. A second tiered subscription model is slated to roll out in the coming months.
And the app recently penned a deal with Reebok.
The hope is for users to pay half as much as they would normally at the gym and trainers to make much more money. And the plan is to work with gyms so they don’t miss out too much.
Handstand’s founder and CEO, Tiffany O. Hakimianpour, spoke with PYMNTS about how Handstand has been able to disrupt the industry and balance strongly in the market, despite a few bumps in the beginning. And in case you’re ready to jump onto Handstand, there’s a promo code, so read on.
PYMNTS: Give us the background on Handstand. What was the impetus for starting the company?
TOH: I was always an athlete, and I went to college at USC where I studied business. I kept up with my workout routine, and when I graduated and got a job, my job limited my time for my workout. I had thought about getting a trainer, and one day, a trainer came up to me at the gym on a Saturday. I started working with a trainer, but I felt the process to be extremely inconvenient, expensive and inefficient. But I did it anyways. I was paying about $150 per hour and trying to schedule it in advance.
One day, the trainer told me he only gets paid $20 per hour, and I was completely in shock. He explained the entire industry to me. So, I started thinking, and I quit the job that I hated while I was working with the trainer and started working with a tech startup that I helped grow while I was a senior at USC. One day, everything all clicked, and I pitched this idea to Science Inc. in Santa Monica, who are now my current partners and advisors. And we built and incubated Handstand from the bottom up.
We recently had Reebok come in as an investor and marketing partner, and they’re helping us take the business from one market to national and eventually an international rollout. They’re also providing free stuff to trainers to help compete in the space.
It’s been me and one engineer building it originally for a year and a half, and now, I have a team of eight. We’re launching New York and Boston soon.
People are able to pay half as much as they would at the gym, and trainers make a lot more money. Especially since they don’t have the overhead of a gym. We’re also starting to partner with gyms to fix the problem that I originally had when I walked into the gym. We really want to work with the gyms and not against them. I truly believe trainers are the future health practitioners of the future.
PYMNTS: What does the phrase “Uber of X” mean to you?
TOH: Handstand is the Uber of Fitness Trainers. As for what Uber of X means to me — that you can disrupt a space and connect both sides of the market that you’re disrupting, efficiently, conveniently and, especially in the case of Handstand, more cost-effectively.
PYMNTS: How much funding have you received to date?
TOH: We have raised $1 million to date, but we are anticipating more soon.
PYMNTS: How does it work from the user side, the trainer side, and how does Handstand get paid?
TOH: We’re similar to Uber in that they had one car and then drove that idea home. Right now, Handstand has one tier, one standardized rate. The trainers make a majority.
The trainers go in the app and enter different times and session types.
The user logs on and can book one session, or they can be on a four- or eight-session membership. That renews every month. The larger the membership, the rate per session comes down. The trainer makes 80 percent of that cost per session. Handstand takes 20 percent of the session rate.
The user goes on the app, they choose their location, date and time, as well as workout type. And then, all of the trainers that match those filters appear, and then, you choose and book the trainer you want. A lot of people will go on the app and book their entire month in advance. We have 50 different workout types, anywhere from boxing to pilates to bootcamps. And users tend to bounce around from types of workouts. So, you can do any and all, whether you want to work with just one trainer or mix it up. All booked sessions go into your “past workouts,” and so, you can just hit re-book if you like. We’ve made it very easy for both sides of the marketplace to connect and reconnect. We’re trying to make it easy.
Handstand is a little bit different from Uber in that, because of fitness, there is something to built and progressed on. And this is why our retention is so high. People aren’t just doing this once; they’re keeping up with it and turning it into a lifestyle.
PYMNTS: Handstand is a catchy name. What’s the story there?
TOH: The name comes from a great experience I had with a yoga instructor at a time that I absolutely disliked yoga. Since I was just coming off an injury, it was the only thing I was “allowed” to do. It was a very private and small class, so I decided to go, and the instructor that day was unlike any other I ever had. I was not the most yoga-going-looking person, but she pointed me out and made me feel like a pro and very comfortable (even though it was obvious that I wasn’t). She told me I was stronger and more flexible than I thought, and I trusted her. And by the end of the class, she was able to get me into a handstand, which is something I never thought I could do! So, the company is named Handstand after her, and it symbolizes that you can achieve anything with the right trainer by your side. No matter if it’s a run around the block, a handstand or a personal record, you can do anything with a Handstand trainer by your side.
PYMNTS: As for similar businesses you’re seeing out there, what are you seeing?
TOH: I feel like we have a few similar businesses and copycats. But they’re not disrupting the industry; they’re just taking the industry and putting it online. But we’re really here to serve both the user and the trainer. It all goes back to that conversation I had with the trainer a few years ago. Also, the quality of our trainers. We background check every trainer. There is not one trainer on the platform that you can book who hasn’t spoken to at least one member of my team or met us. So, we’re really working on this disruption of the marketplace.
PYMNTS: Startups are difficult. What kind of bumps can you share?
TOH: As a first-time, female founder, I think one of the hurdles was learning everything and the fear of jumping in. One big fear was the risk of getting into this industry because there have been others that have tried and have failed. But I feel, because I was basically doing this almost alone, I was so focused on the supply side of the marketplace, and it really made the difference and allows Handstand to gain the “stamp of approval.” There were many things not on my side — from being young, from not always being in tech, being female — but also learning to work with trainers. But my compassion to work with them kind of triumphed up to this point, which I am thrilled about.
PYMNTS: Anything else you want to add?
TOH: To get started, use promo code HANDSTAND30, which is available until the end of November.