No matter the good intentions, many of those January 1st (or new month or new week) resolutions we make about finally heading to the gym and making use of that membership are forgotten after the first or second visit. For some, the gym is too time consuming, or it doesn’t offer the right classes, or it’s even too intimidating.
Emma Hoffman, who previously founded the hospitality deals app BigDeal, saw the problem and came up with Classhopper. Co-founded by Gary Kshepitzki, Classhopper is an online platform that partners with independent and boutique fitness studios to help consumers easily find and pay for the classes they like.
“I’ve always struggled to maintain a work/life balance, and as a result I started taking my own health and fitness more seriously. I realised I wanted to try all these different activities like yoga and kickboxing and all of that, but there was no one stop destination to find that information,” Hoffman says.
“For me, I’d rather go to a smaller boutique studio because I know their level of service surpasses the major gym chains, but if I want to find a yoga studio in my area I have to spend an hour or so trawling through Google trying to find the studio and looking up their timetables manually, deciding whether that particular studio was going to suit me. It was extremely time consuming and honestly quite intimidating as well, because you’re thrown into the deep end.”
Classhopper, which already offers users 300 classes, has three membership tiers to choose from, with the monthly fee exchanged for points. The points in each membership can then be used on classes at different studios, with classes varying in points value. Users can then search for classes and make reservations.
Hoffman says that the response they got after approaching studios was surprisingly positive.
“We don’t charge studios any fees to be listed on the site and there are no lock in contracts. We’re really just asking for a go so they were more open to the idea. At the end of the day they saw it as free advertising to our database and a lot of the studios wanted to be innovators and get on board from the beginning,” she says.
The platform has been operating in beta for a few months, with the team focusing on a small area in Melbourne.
“We knew straight away that if we were to target all of Melbourne for our launch we would spread ourselves too thinly, and we knew the studios wouldn’t see value in what we’re doing. We targeted one geographic area and approached all the studios in that area, and once we’ve built up a sizeable database of users then we’ll expand out,” Hoffman explains.
Hoffman expects the platform to have its foot in Sydney in the next six months, but no matter the city, Classhopper will be avoiding gym chains and focusing on the independent and boutique studios.
The startup could face competition from similar platforms such as Classium, which also lets users search for and book classes online. The main difference between the two is Classhopper’s membership points system – the points mean members don’t pay for individual classes but just get points deducted from their total for each one they go to, removing the hassle of payment for each class. Classium, which currently offers 9 types of classes, makes money via the gyms and studios, who pay to be listed on the platform. Classhopper’s focus on independent and boutique gyms could be important, fostering a sense of loyalty from both the studios and users. Large chain gyms can be impersonal and off putting, particularly for those first starting out, whereas the small, local feel of Classhopper could actually encourage people to go to a class.
This low key approach is reflective of Hoffman’s general outlook on the startup. After working on BigDeal, she says the biggest learned she learned was to stay grounded.
“As great as it was, you do get carried away with the whole entrepreneurship and startup mentality and the whole Silicon Valley dream that nearly every entrepreneur wants to achieve. It’s great to set goals and have ambition and drive, but you need to stay in the moment and focus on what’s happening in the moment, not look five years ahead all the time.”