After spending a couple of years working in gyms, Vanessa Picker discovered an untapped market – people who wanted cheap, short term gym memberships. She would often see people who were ready to work out actually leaving empty gyms after being told the cost of a casual visit tipped $20.
“The model was rigid, it hadn’t changed in a long time,” Picker says. “The traditional model is for gyms to push people towards long term contracts.”
“There were booking sites in other industries, and I wanted to take away the barriers to being fit and healthy.”
Fed up with these ridiculous barriers to a healthy lifestyle, 22-year-old Picker founded FitUsIn, a smartphone app that links casual fitness users to nearby gyms and personal trainers, without the hassles of a long-term contract.
The app was released in March and lets gyms and trainers upload discounted passes and deals. Users can then compare fitness deals and book any health and fitness session they need.
Pitcher first started by approaching gyms to sign up to the integrated booking system, and now it’s now expanded to include personal trainers and specific gym classes.
“In the early days, we were trying to bootstrap and get a website up quickly and test if there was a problem worth solving and putting money into,” she explains.
“A basic website was up quite quickly and didn’t need financing, but as the website took off, people had higher expectations, so there was a lot more needed to put into it.”
Fortunately at that point FitUsIn was chosen for the ANZ Innovyz accelerator program, providing access to ANZ funding as well as a helping handful of mentoring and support. She also scored a free trip to New York as the only Australian finalist in the NYC Next Idea competition and was able to pitch to investors there.
With Australians spending over $2bn last year on health, beauty and fitness, there’s no doubt it’s a lucrative opportunity Picker’s pursuing, especially as spending the money on gym memberships doesn’t always translate into going to the gym and getting the most out of the resources you pay for.
And given that it's being locked into a long-term contract turns a lot of people off joining gyms in the first place, this is the perfect solution.
So far, FitUsIn has received a lot of positive responses, but Picker says there is still a lot of work to do. She wants the business to continue to grow on both sides – from consumers and suppliers – and says international expansion is on the horizon.
And there’s no reason why not – it’s a terrific solution to a very unhealthy problem.
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