Today, I am honored to share the second interview of my monthly series… What it Means to be an Entrepreneur in 2017.
I have had the pleasure of getting to know the co-founders of FitKit. The company markets both direct to consumer as well as to businesses across the globe. FitKit offers employers an affordable corporate fitness solution that includes wellness resources, tools, and materials to engage and motivate employees to ensure ongoing wellness participation. Amie Hoff and Beth Wieczorek are sisters who share their passion for fitness, healthy living, and achieving goals.
For this article, I interviewed them separately as I wanted to see where their views were the same and where they diverged. Through my research on innovation, it has become crystal clear that diversity of thought and talent drive creativity and innovation. “Innovation is fostered by information gathered from new connections; from insights gained by journeys into other disciplines or places; from active, collegial networks and fluid, open boundaries.” (Meg Wheatley, author and management consultant.)
Amie brings with her a career rich with fitness experience both on and off camera, while Beth has a background in business and sales. This article will show how they built FitKit on their mutual belief in trust, hard work, and a focus on the numbers.
Q – What inspired you to start FitKit and to go into business together?
AMIE – I’ve been passionate about fitness, health and wellness my entire life. It was important for me to develop a career doing something that gave back and to find a job that didn’t feel like “work.” I learned to use existing opportunities to create new opportunities, followed my passion, and never took no for an answer. This winning combination led me to my dream job.
As a fitness consultant, media spokesperson, corporate lecturer, and personal trainer, I help people change their bodies and change their lives. The reward is they continue to change mine! Someone once told me I measure success in smiles, and I do. I also have come to realize that wealth and abundance can broaden that smile even more. My sister Beth and I were always looking for a business to start together. She has a much stronger business head, so having someone complement my strengths was a perfect fit. We wanted something related to health/wellness/fitness and bounced around ideas, but nothing really gave me that deep driving passion that I’ve known. Ultimately, I realized I wanted to develop an easy, affordable fitness solution that gives people who can’t work directly with me the ability to get fit, be healthy and take control of their lives. After a great deal of research, we created a product that filled the gaps of what the market was missing. We developed FitKit – Total Fitness in a Kit.
BETH – I had left my corporate job with Cardinal Health and had started a consulting company which allowed me the opportunity and flexibility to do something with Amie. We had always talked about doing something together. I have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and marketing/operations background, and with her fitness experience and media talent, we thought we would make a great team. Amie had the idea of making fitness portable, and we started with that concept and it grew from there.
Q – What were your biggest fears in launching your company and how have you overcome them?
AMIE – There was more excitement than fear when we first set out on this journey. It was a fun project, much like a hobby. Because I didn’t quit my “day job,” I still had an income. The anxiety set in when things started to take off and people were relying on us to deliver. Having Beth as a business partner and sister was a huge sense of stability. It’s about trust. I know she always has my back, and I have hers. Don’t let the calm veneer fool you. Some days, I wake up feeling like I can conquer the world, and other days I feel we will never get the company to a financially secure place. What I have learned on this journey is that I have trouble feeling that I deserve to succeed. The reality is that we already have.
BETH – The financials were obviously a key concern. We were lucky because my husband owned a business with a local warehouse and resources that we could utilize for free at the time. I am proud to say that since that time we have reimbursed him for those expenses. We were also able to secure the funding to build the website to get us going. From there, all we had to do was make money! Since I had an established career and knew I could go back to it, I personally just wanted to create something that could be a full-time thing for Amie. If it worked out that I could do it full time as well, that was a bonus. The great thing is that it was much less scary having someone in it with you. Having someone you trust to bounce ideas off, and commiserate with takes the edge off the fear. I have tremendous admiration for people who “go it” on their own. At the end of the day, we are both high achievers and wanted the business to be a success.
Q – What advice would you give other people when starting their own business?
AMIE – Do it! Envision your biggest dream and create a plan by starting small and taking action every day to achieve the larger goal. Trust yourself and know you are going to make mistakes and that mistakes are part of the process. It’s how you learn. The beauty of starting your own business is that if it does not work out, you can always try something else. It took me 3 tries before I found what I was meant to do. Also, know your numbers. I was lucky enough to gain insight and wisdom from Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran. We were not seeking a financial investment, but for her to advise us on the growth of our company, we needed to know the numbers inside and out. Beth is the business brains and handles the details when it comes to numbers, so it was a real eye opener when she needed to get me up to speed to meet with Barbara.
BETH – There are two things I learned that I believe are critical. The first is proof of concept. You must make sure the product or service is something people will want to buy. If it is a service, you must make sure you have a market for your service and experience in that area. Having a few customers out of the gate is the best way to start. If you are selling a product, you need to create a prototype and even try to sell some inventory before you make the commitment to invest in production and inventory. Find people who will be brutally honest with you – friends will tell you what you want to hear. The key question is – will you buy one? If so, why? If not, how could it be changed so you will? The other key learning is you must understand your financials and create a business plan that identifies product cost, expenses, and revenue you will need to make money. You should have realistic goals. Fortunately, we both had full time jobs that supported us. The flip side is we could not dedicate the time we both would have wanted in FitKit, so the growth has been slow. I’m thrilled to say that we have never lost money, and this year we were able to pay off all our debt which is a great feeling. Finally, always remember that it takes time to grow a business. Very few businesses are overnight successes. Be patient.
Q – How do you support and motivate one another given your disparate backgrounds?
AMIE – The level of trust I have in Beth is stronger than almost anybody. I respect her opinion and value her skill set and abilities. She knows that, and I would hope that offers her a little motivation and support. I should probably tell her that more often!
BETH – We both have a lot of passion for what we do and find that our different backgrounds are a strength. We bring different ideas to the table and share a similar in work ethic. The most important this is that we trust each other completely, and we both take feedback well.
Q – How do you define success in business and when will you know that you’ve “made it”?
AMIE – As mentioned earlier, I’ve been told I measure success in smiles, which I think is true. I think success is also when you can live your life knowing you make a difference in someone else’s life. Of course, there also is the financial success of knowing your bills are going to be paid with enough extra to have some fun.
BETH – I would say getting in the black and being able to really expand is exciting. We have had great customer feedback, but I know there is a lot of opportunity for improvement on current and new products.
Q – Finally, how has fitness impacted your lives, and how do you inspire others?
AMIE – I learned early on that exercise fueled my body and my brain. Sure, it was about body image and toning and weight loss, but when I experienced what exercise could do for my mood, confidence and emotional state, I wanted more. I wanted others to feel the same way. The reward I experience from helping others get healthy and happy is better than any paycheck. There is no doubt, however, that I am happy to have found a way to make a living at it!
BETH – I am a big believer that as you age fitness is critical to having a healthy lifestyle and longevity. I did not grow up in the fitness industry, but I live this way and surround myself with others who feel the same.
As you can see from Amie and Beth, the six keys to building a successful business are:
- Trust your partners
- Know and research your market opportunity
- Understand your numbers backwards and forwards
- Make mistakes
- Work hard
- Follow your passion
If you want to hear more about their story and company, please visit www.fitkit.com.
You can also learn more specific details by focusing any of the links below…
Sisters Amie and Beth – http://fitkit.com/team/
Amie Hoff – http://fitkit.com/about-amie/
FitKit Corporate – http://fitkit.com/corporate-fitkit/
FitKit – http://fitkit.com/