The success of health and fitness startups like ClassPass and SoulCycle (who reported revenue of a whopping $112 million last year!) have inspired thousands of entrepreneurs to launch their own wellness-side hustles, in hopes of getting a piece of the multi-billion dollar industry. However, getting started can feel daunting, which is why we spoke with some female founders who have successfully carved out their own businesses in the fitness space. If you’re hoping to be the next Payal Kadakia, keep scrolling.
Talk to your customers from day one.
No matter how brilliant you think your idea is, the only opinion that really matters is that of the customer. Before you start developing your website or designing your product, go out and speak to friends, family, and even complete strangers about your idea, and take on as much feedback as possible. Ask hard questions about whether they would pay for your service or product, and how much. Then, use those insights to tweak your original concept, before you waste time and money creating something no body is willing to pay for. Many seasoned founders and venture capitalists will tell you not to worry about someone stealing your idea at this early stage—it’s incredibly unlikely that you’re the only person on the planet with that exact concept, and what will make you successful is how you execute, not just the idea. Early feedback is everything.
Katie Bogue Miller and Justine Lassoff, the founders of nontoxic, all-natural, vegan subscription box, Love Goodly, both recommend this tactic. “When Katie and I were first starting out, we held a series of focus groups to get feedback directly from women,” Justine told us. Now, the pair have introduced thousands of women to nontoxic beauty, wellness, healthy snacks, and more, consequently tapping into a $30 billion industry.
Find a cofounder who balances your strengths and weaknesses.
There are many benefits to starting a business with a partner rather than going solo – particularly if you manage to find someone who balances both your skill-set and your temperament. Camille Roegiers de Silva and Alexandra Vanthournout are the women behind London’s chicest activewear e-boutique, Fashercise, a business they’ve successfully scaled together, they say, because of their complementary personalities. “While Cam’s more likely to stress about a situation, I might approach it more calmly. We balance each other out really well in both temperament and skills. I look after the content side of the company while she’s more of the business,” explained Alexandra, who was a fashion blogger before launching the fitness venture.
There are sites established to help you find a cofounder, such as FounderDating.com, and startup events on Meetup, and Startup Grind are both great places to find a potential business partner. However, don’t just limit yourself to the entrepreneurship crowd; events within your specific industry are also a great meeting place, as is your current office – which the Love Goodly’s founders discovered. “Justine and I met at a start-up in the eco ecommerce space in which she cofounded,” Katie explained, adding that shared values are important. “We worked together and stayed friends ever since. Trust, inspiration, and respect are key factors in choosing a cofounder. Being able to be yourself, express your own opinions, and to be heard is very important as well. Having someone you can have a little fun with or laugh with doesn’t hurt either.”
Both Fashercise and Love Goodly sold their first products to friends and family, who they urged to spread to the word – and it worked! “Our first customers and (guinea pigs) were our friends and family, and they are still some of our most loyal customers to date,” Kate said. “After that, tapping into our networks and local community really helped to get the word out at a grassroots level. Word-of-mouth and treating every customer as if they are our first customer is key to building loyal clientele.”
Ellie Burrows, cofounder of New York’s buzzy new meditation studio,MNDFL, believes that inviting your personal network to become customers early-on can actually benefit the company long-term. “In the beginning we relied heavily on word of mouth and I think that organic process is what lead us to build such a strong community in a short amount of time,” she told us.
Use content to build an audience.
Before Fashercise was a global online store, it was a humble fashion blog. Starting with a content platform allowed the founders instant access to a loyal following of wellness-minded women who soon become early paying customers.
While you’re building your company, dedicate some time to publishing relevant content to a blog and social platforms under the same name. “Fashercise was functioning as a normal blog for over a year whilst behind the scenes we were busy turning it into an ecommerce platform,” Camille said. Even today, content continues to play a large role in their sales process. “[Content] provides a context for the customer, allows them to see the brands in action and creates a more personal relationship with the individual brands and Fashercise as a retailer.”
On the website, each of the brands has its own page with a designer interview, their latest look books, and any blog posts they may have been featured in. It’s then all about making it easy for the customer to shop directly from the blog. “The posts where we mention any of our brands have a custom-built widget where you can buy the item straight from the post. It’s all about interaction between the two parts of the business.”