With health becoming less of a priority to penny-counting Australians, personal trainers are really feeling the pinch. A study of over 1,200 personal trainers conducted by FitTech startup OneFitStop, revealed that 56.5 percent of personal trainers in Australia are earning less than $45,000 a year. Added to that, nearly 50 percent of new trainer graduates fail in their first year, and around 4,500 trainers are expected to drop out of the industry this year alone.
After witnessing the businesses of good friends crash and burn, Sydney-based entrepreneur and personal trainer David Zeff decided to team up with Jarron Aizen, a veteran in online retail and technology, and create a solution to bring the personal training industry back from the brink.
Their startup OneFitStop is an online platform that caters to the interests of both fitness professionals and consumers.
For personal trainers, OneFitStop can be seen as a ‘connector’ or marketing platform through which they can promote their services to new clients. The website offers a trainer directory, as well as personalised webpages, which allows trainers to add their existing websites and social media links into their profile. They can also upload photos and videos, create targeted advertisements and collect payments for events, sessions, group session packages, as well as share articles with OneFitStop’s audience.
As an ‘all-encompassing’ platform, there are more functionalities on offer such as calendar booking, feedback generation, client communication, payment collection, invoice creation, program and goal creation, as well as client and business performance tracking.
On the ecommerce section of the site, consumers can purchase goods like supplements, exercise apparel, fitness equipment and rehabilitation products at wholesale prices.
At the moment, consumers are able to read and share articles, view invoices, track their performance and communicate with their trainers about how they have fared with their goals and programs. But Zeff says towards the beginning of next year, they will be working on new tools that will sync with existing apps and wearable tech products. Similar to MyFitnessPal, this will allow users to track and share their fitness pursuits.
Zeff says he started personal training whilst studying a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration at University. He fell in love with the fitness industry, but felt there was room for someone with business acumen to come in and shakes things up.
He has five years of experience in the industry, and has worked as a personal trainer and a group trainer in large corporations like Rolls Royce and Sygenta. He has also worked in a management at a large fitness chain. It wasn’t long before he realised there were some ‘gaping problems’ that needed to be solved with an innovative product. But he couldn’t do it alone.
On his search for a co-founder, he discovered Jarron Aizen, a good friend of Zeff’s brother: “Jarron had always struck me as someone with ideas, drive and entrepreneurial ventures. Jarron had been running a successful online fitness store for some time and has a strong background in technology, development, film and media.
“He approached me with the intention of creating a wholesale agreement, selling his fitness products to my clients. We began discussions to develop a website to facilitate wholesale product sales for trainers,” Zeff adds.
Obviously, the discussion didn’t end there. Zeff says it took two years of ‘heart breaking labour’ until OneFitStop was born.
“OneFitStop assumes that trainers are skilled in training clients and getting results; that’s been the job of Australian training facilities and course providers for some time. Unfortunately, many personal trainers are not business savvy,” Zeff says.
“Many enter the industry with the hopes that if they pursue their dream of training clients, they’ll have a successful business at the end of the day. This is simply untrue.”
This is where OneFitStop comes in, allowing trainers to spend their time and energy on what they’re good at (getting people fit) and aid them in what they’re not (managing and scaling their business).
But how exactly is OneFitStop unique? Zeff believes it’s the first platform that offers a vast range of tools under one digital umbrella.
He candidly admits that the fitness services industry is “full of false promises, overpriced services, and quick fixes”.
“We pride ourselves on our fairness and honesty with our members, and I think that is truly OneFitStop’s greatest uniqueness,” he adds.
Funding the startup
On the subject of scalability, Zeff notes that there are currently around 3.3 million Australians using fitness services. The startup launched officially in April this year, at the Filex Fitness Expo in Melbourne. Despite having a small stand, Zeff says they had about 2,000 visitors, and that the traffic and exposure was beyond his expectations.
“We were swamped with visitors and the industry response was very positive. I think both Jarron and myself each took around a 10 minute break to eat over the 3 days! It was madness, with 2,000 visitors storming through our stand to hear what we were all about,” he says.
At the moment, OneFitStop has around 150 personal training businesses operating on the site.
“[W]hen we recently created our new site and our subscriptions went through the roof. I remember sitting next to Jarron and watching the alerts come through one after another as new accounts were created. It was one of those moments when you just feel like you’ve made it,” Zeff says.
Though Zeff doesn’t go into the exact details, he says they are in the process of securing industry partnerships with key players as well as investors.
“[T]he overwhelming response of key players in the industry who have seen our vision instantly and have come to the table to assist us in making this truly successful [was one of our biggest achievements],” he says.
OneFitStop has been bootstrapped to date, a deliberate choice by the co-founders who believe that you can’t be the founder of successful business if you haven’t put your blood, sweat and tears into it. And like other bootstrapped startups, cash flow was the single biggest challenge Zeff and Aizen had to pull themselves through.
“Jarron and I are both quite conservative with our funds and decisions … Money is tight when you bootstrap and you learn to be very smart with how you spend it and stretch each dollar. We have been really creative with our spending over the past two years and thankfully it has gone well on the whole,” says Zeff.
“We’ve been burned once, but it was an education and allowed us to develop a feature of our site, which is actually better than what was originally planned.”
Zeff and Aizen are certainly open to the prospect of raising funds – and that’s their next step. They knew that when the time came for investment, having a proven product with traction would increase their chances of landing an investor and would give them leverage in negotiations.
Developing the product
Like with many startups, a lot of testing was undertaken during the development phase. Zeff even says he put his close friends who are also personal trainers as well as their clients “through hell” as they de-bugged and played around with each feature.
“Eventually, we came up with something that worked and our user feedback has been great. I have a lot to thank them for,” he adds.
User feedback has been vital to this startup, Zeff stresses. He regularly calls trainers who use OneFitStop to hear about their experience with the product. He doesn’t ask them what works, but what needs to be improved.
“We don’t need a pat on the back. I think you can’t be too precious about your product or you will never create something truly brilliant,” he says.
When it comes to generating awareness, Zeff feels “the best form of marketing is social proof – a testimonial from a happy customer.”
OneFitStop currently features a number of testimonials from happy trainers, but generating awareness earlier on was done through engaging with their networks, as well as social media activity, SEO and SEM.
“We started small…but we see the establishment of fitness industry partnerships as the key to segmenting the market,” says Zeff.
Though they’ve experienced early-stage successes, what Zeff and Aizen are most proud of is having stuck together and surviving adversity.
“I think we have developed something revolutionary as a result of being able to stick it out, hear each other, be honest in our thoughts and take advice when needed,” says Zeff.
He admits that being involved in a startup is like being on a rollercoaster ride – a comparison that has been made by many founders.
“Half the time you are screaming, the other half you’re gasping for air, sometimes you’re crying and sometimes you’re laughing and thrilled,” Zeff says.
“Most of the time you think you are going to die, and only when you reach the end, you realise that you have made it.”
They’ve certainly come a long way in the two years they’ve been hustling. For the remainder of this year, Zeff and Aizen will be focused on securing seed capital, making further product refinements, and launching a smartphone app.
On their final note, Zeff and Aizen communicate gratitude towards families, friends and supporters who have been generous with their time and have believed in the OneFitStop dream with them.
More information on OneFitStop is available via www.onefitstop.com.au.