Lean startup The WOD Life turns fitness into fat profits

- July 16, 2014 4 MIN READ

We’ve all seen the boom in the fitness sector in the past few years and along with it the influx of flashy retail chains spruiking the latest tools, supplements and health fads.

The WOD Life is one of the freshest incarnations of this rapidly growing trend but with a vastly different approach to muscling in (see what we did there) on this crowding market.

Credited to the fact that shipping fitness goods to Australia generally costs more than the product itself, this Australian startup is targeted specifically at the 21st century gym junkie – a person who never ventures further than the home to the gym (and maybe sometimes to Costco’s meat department).

“The WOD Life goes against traditional theory by opening up our business in a completely virtual and online environment,” explains Andy Lee, co-founder of The WOD Life.

“While many brands in our industry, plied their trade through first establishing a customer base at local events, we were excited by the idea of tackling the global marketplace via e-commerce and opened up as a strictly online-only business.”

The WOD LIFE, which is an acronym for ‘Workout Of the Day’, aims to be a fitness community as much as it does an e-commerce store. It pitches itself on providing access to “quality athletes, information, networks, events and products” alongside its hardcore dedication to the sport of CrossFit and all of its injury prone athletes – including Andy and co-founder Ben, who are both CrossFit aficionados themselves.

This approach taken by the duo has seen the business grow significantly since its inception in 2013. Lee explains that utilising technology to drive their business has allowed them to connect with their community directly at a faster rate than usual. More importantly, Lee says that this has allowed them to facilitate the global growth and expanding customer base beyond Australian shores.

“We would not have been able to achieve this reach without leveraging the ecommerce and social media platforms that are readily available today,” he says.

“In the age of social media, it is a very powerful tool. It has the ability to make or break you.”

And one thing The WOD Life is doing very well seems to be social media. With their bricks and mortar competitor Rebel Sport garnering approximately 50,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook and The WOD Life sitting at around 28,000 within a year of its inception, it will only be a matter of time before the their profile exceeds that of any traditional Australian retail fitness chain as smarter global consumers move online.

“We have developed a strong following on Facebook and Instagram. These social media platforms act as our voice and our communication channel to and from the community,” says Lee. “In the future, we will be working towards having a stronger presence at events around Australia.” 

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Naturally, it wouldn’t be a startup without the grassroots story of hustling and moonlighting to get one’s passion off the ground.

As Lee explains, “When we established The WOD Life, we were both working full time jobs, wearing a suit and tie to our respective professions in Politics and Corporate Finance.”

“Throughout our journey from conceptualisation to commercialisation, we have been able to apply our skills obtained throughout our studies, work experience and travel.”

“From our beginnings at the local supermarket stocking shelves as part time students through to our professional roles, the suit and tie may have been swapped out for gym shorts and a tank top, but we have been able to successfully leverage our experience and knowledge and apply it to our passionate enterprise.”

The most (over) used excuse for any Australian not working out regularly is that their job usually takes up too much time and stress for one to have the energy to lob into a gym and run 20km whilst watching Man vs Food. Lee also has an answer to this.

“Owning and running a growing business presents many daily challenges. We are constantly juggling finances or managing production schedules, doing late nights at the warehouse or in front of the computer. We undoubtedly have significant stress and unrelenting demands placed on our shoulders,” he says.

“[But] often through enduring a tough workout, we find ourselves with renewed energy and passion to apply to our business. The tougher the workout, the easier everything else in the day becomes.”

“While other businesses might have a meeting down at the local coffee shop, we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to head down to the local CrossFit gym and workout. It’s all down to building our brand, embracing the community and living the dream we are so passionate about.”

Are the duo worried about stiff competition in the market?

“It is our aim to grow the pie as a whole, rather than take a competitor’s slice,” explains Lee.

“We aim to work together with other brands and identities to drive exposure. We also want to motivate people to get up and moving, and to enjoy a positive and healthy lifestyle. We are confident that if we do this, The WOD Life will attract new customers and continue to grow.”

So what crucial tips does Lee have for starting up an online store in a highly competitive market?

“When establishing a business with a lean model, time and resources will always be a challenge,” he says.

“As our business continues to grow, so do the requirements related to staffing, warehousing and logistics. We are constantly identifying the most efficient and economical means to achieve success.”

“With any business, cash flow is the key and requires careful management and now that our first annual reports are nearing completion, we are now at a stage to consider future funding opportunities. Whether that be through debt or equity, we are currently assessing our options to provide us with some breathing room so we can focus on scaling the business and capitalising on the exciting opportunities presented.”

Lee also adds that remembering that nothing will ever be perfect in a startup is the key.

“Starting up a new business, you will always battle between the pursuit of perfectionism and releasing the business in current form into the wild. It is important to weigh up the additional benefit of perfection, against the time and resources it takes to achieve.”

Within a span of 12 months, The WOD Life has been able to move their operations out of a bedroom, and into a floor space at their local CrossFit Affiliate, and to now into their independent warehouse facility. Orders are being shipped not across Australia, but also the US, UK, New Zealand, Europe, Asia, and South America, on a daily basis.

So what’s next on the horizon for the duo who just keep lifting?

“We have another sneaky side project we are working on which pairs our passion for fitness and coffee. Rebel Coffee Co. – Australia’s own highly caffeinated performance blend set to be released later in 2014.”