Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! My name is Kyle Bergman and I am the Co-Founder and CEO of Sweat from Home. Sweat from Home’s mission is to deliver the world’s best two-way, interactive, and live-streaming group fitness workout from wherever you are. We combine personable, experienced coaches who actually SEE you, with a fun, feel-good community and giveback promise in each class designed to give anyone and everyone the best workout of their life.
Along with my Co-Founders Brendan and Bethany, we now have a total of 9 amazing coaches on our staff, and over offer over 45+ classes a week across bodyweight-only classes (no equipment needed), spin/cardio-based classes, HIIT classes with weights, as well as mobility and yoga focused classes as well. We all have backgrounds as certified group fitness trainers at some of the best studios in the world and are focused on providing a premium, a boutique-level workout that is challenging, yet doable, and accessible to anyone.
All of our group workout classes are held online and are live-streamed through Zoom, so you can see the coaches and the coaches see you in real-time. We have a signature 2-coach class experience where one coach is always physically doing the movements with you (so you can reference their form) and another coach is keeping time, providing form cues, and positive encouragement.
Our headquarters are in Brooklyn, New York but we have coaches that are based all around the US, and have members all across the globe! Our target audience is really anyone who loves the connection and feeling of a great group fitness class.
Milestones and product facts: Since holding our first class in March of 2020, we have now held over 800 classes, created over 10,300 sweaty, endorphin-filled bodies :), and are averaging $25K in monthly recurring revenue.
Additionally, we have a unique giveback story too. For every class credit purchased, we donate a class to an individual or community in need of a great workout. We also hold two classes per week that are completely free and donation-based only, with 100% of the proceeds going to nonprofits we believe in. Since March we have donated over $7,000 to 6 different charities, and have donated over 5,000 class passes.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Sweat from Home was born out of the Pandemic in late March 2020. On March 21st, my Co-Founder Brendan and I received an email from the fitness studio we both worked at telling us we had been laid-off due to the pandemic. Exactly 17 minutes later Brendan texted me and said, “What business are we starting?” and Sweat from Home was born!
Initially, Brendan and I were trying to solve a personal problem as well as a problem for the members we had who used to take our classes in person. We needed to pay our rent and quickly replace the income we made from our NYC fitness studio gigs, and our members still needed to workout. The gap in the market was enormous as gyms across the city and country closed due to the pandemic, but everyone still wanted to get a great workout in.
We were able to hit the ground running because we had an existing, loyal community that loved taking our classes in person.
While there was a bunch of noise in the market, we realized quickly that we were on to something special because of the approach and style of classes we offered paired with the existing community we had started to create a word of mouth trend via our existing members telling their friends and families about our classes.
What made our classes differently? Well, from day 1 we utilized two coaches and Zoom’s breakout room functionality to create a “switch-block” atmosphere in our online workouts. Most online classes only have 1 coach in them, and it can be very difficult for a coach to properly demo the exercise, keep time, and also give their clients the necessary attention they deserve.
With two coaches, we’re able to create a semi-private workout experience where members are guaranteed to hear their name called out positively at least twice per class. With the breakout rooms, it also creates a dynamic sense of “changing rooms” in class that is difficult to replicate in person, and impossible to do with one coach.
Using Zoom’s breakout room functionality was a no-brainer to enhance the class experience because I used it weekly in my online classes as an Adjunct Professor at NYU (where I teach an undergraduate supply chain management class). It was this previous knowledge of Zoom’s capabilities that allowed us to hit the ground running.
We were able to scale from a business operations standpoint quickly because of the experience I had developed as an eCommerce entrepreneur for another brand that was featured on here :). Creating a website, email flows, marketing strategy, and financial plan were all skills and tasks I did every day already, so it was a matter of just reapplying the tasks to our new concept.
The brand name was actually crowd-sourced from our community. We were initially called, “Let’s Sweat” but we found out that was already trademarked. We sent out an IG poll to our members and asked them what our brand name should be. Sweat from Home one, and it luckily wasn’t trademarked already (but now we trademarked it).
I think our logo is really incredible. It is a sweat drop that signifies our workouts, which then morphs into a house, which signifies the convenience of how you can sweat with us anywhere. The coolest part though is that the entire logo also resembles a fingerprint which signifies our commitment to the community. Essentially the logo says, “we love to sweat together from wherever you are.” which is exactly what we do!
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The beautiful thing about offering online fitness classes with “off-the-shelf” state of the art software technology (Zoom) is that you bypass any manufacturing challenges/costs/delays. Our startup costs were initially zero. As an adjunct professor at NYU, I was able to use my Zoom account with the school to hold online classes. As a graduate of NYU’s business school and current part-time professor, I hope the institution is OK with one of their alums and current entrepreneur professors using their Zoom account to launch a new business mid-pandemic :) (we have since migrated and pay for our own account now, but that helped keep our startup costs at $0).
A huge form of acquisition for us was bringing on amazing coaches who also had a strong and loyal following from their pre-COVID coaching days.
The design of our workouts was a combination of our previous experience as group fitness instructors at some of the best studios in the world and our own coaching approach and philosophy. We intend to make every workout help our members find the intersection of what is incredibly challenging, yet still doable. The cool thing about his “intersection” is that it is dynamic and can change over time as people progress on their personal fitness journey.
We were able to hit the ground running because we had an existing, loyal community that loved taking our classes in person. So right from class 1, we had 20+ people paying and attending our workouts. We knew we were on to something special when our existing members who knew us from pre-COVID times started referring friends, and then their friends starting referring friends. A huge milestone was when we brought on Bethany as our third Co-Founder in July. Bethany had an existing amazing member community as well, and almost overnight our membership community doubled. Since Bethany, we have brought on 6 other amazing and member-focused coaches in Alex, Courtney, Scott, Becca, Matt, and Carly.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Currently, our best form of custom acquisition is our refer-a-friend program. Members can refer a friend and then both people will receive a $5 credit which automatically gets applied to their next purchase with us. Before we had the referral program, word of mouth was and continues to be, a really strong acquisition channel.
Another huge form of acquisition for us was bringing on amazing coaches who also had a strong and loyal following from their pre-COVID coaching days. In July, we brought on Bethany who is our incredible 3rd Co-Founder. Bethany’s audience came over to Sweat from Home, and since then we’ve been able to bring on more incredibly talented coaches who share our same coaching philosophy and giveback mission.
Our customer retention is really strong because we strive to greet everyone as they enter class, we see and speak to them during class, and then congratulate them after as they leave. We put a lot of effort into creating an in-person experience. While a Peloton class can be incredible from a technology and production value standpoint… you’re never going to hear a peloton instructor specifically encourage you, and that dopamine rush that you receive when a coach celebrates a great rep or challenge you did is everything to us (and our members).
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We continue to grow, and November will be our strongest month yet. We have ambitious plans for 2021 and look to grow our member audience and coaching staff to a point where we have 15,000 monthly attendances and 600 classes/month by this time next year.
As far as our vision goes, today, we are 100% focused on becoming the world’s best two-way live streaming group fitness workout. Tomorrow, we intend to become the first 100% digital fitness studio that also offers 1:1 personal fitness training, as well as more holistic offerings like nutrition and health counseling as well. Imagine if your local community center and the best group fitness workout you’ve ever taken had a digital online child - that’s what we strive to become :)
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
This is the 3rd business I’ve started, and I think 2 big lessons I’ve learned along the way are:
You have to ride the waves - Although I think more experience has made some things about building a business easier...it is still really really really hard, and you’re going to have days or weeks where you question everything you do.
Always be kind, and never stop opening doors - it’s crazy how small the world is, and I’ve been so fortunate to have met so many smart, hard-working, and generous individuals who have taught me more than any class or book ever could. My ability to network and put myself out there is not unique or special… I just know that the more people I meet the more doors I open, and you never know who may want to help you...or know someone else that does.
Lastly, being a group fitness coach has taught me to always be kind. You never know what type of stuff people are dealing with on a given day, and the last year has been absolutely bananas. Listening to individuals and communities, and showing empathy I believe go farther than any discount or clever marketing campaign can. At the end of the day, my purpose is directly tied to my company’s purpose, which is all about helping people feel good! A little corny? Yes. Is it true? Absolutely.
Things to be wary of…
Always always always test before going live - as we grew we had to switch to scheduling platforms and websites that could better meet our needs. While we did a good job researching different options, we should have been more thorough in testing potential partners. Although I feel like we ultimately chose the right partner, there could have been a lot of stress avoided if we spent more time testing the platform switch before going live.
Always talk to your customers - we have been relentless in asking our customers for feedback. We used to send a survey after every class and that became a little too much :), but we still send out a monthly survey, and anytime we test a new coach or class we always send a survey to understand what people liked and didn’t like. We are only as good as our members and value their feedback more than anything else.
Go against the grain - We’re in a really crowded market right now, and we’ve been able to gain traction in some alternative awareness channels. One example is through our nonprofit partners. Because we partner with different organizations each month whose purpose we believe in and thus want to support, we can share our story with new audiences. While everyone else is spending money on FB ads, we are helping raise money and support for nonprofits while also tapping into their audience.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use Zoom to host our workouts right now so they’re a pretty important software partner. In addition to Zoom, we partner with two really cool tech companies that help enhance our digital workouts. One is called Exer, which uses AI to help people track their kinetic movement during class so you can measure your maximum output. IntervalCam is a fancy Zoom layover that allows us to effectively communicate rep count, time, and exercises clearly to our members.
Additionally, we use an amazing scheduling software called Dibs which also acts as our CRM software. Prospr.work is a great tool we are just getting ramped up with that helps growing teams communicate and organize.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Related to fitness, there are two brothers (Anthony & Joe Vennare) that run a newsletter and podcast called Fitt Insider. Their research, insights, and experience in the space are refreshing and incredibly helpful.
Probably the best management book I’ve read was referred to me by an advisor/mentor and it's called High Output Management by Andy Grove.Highly recommend for anyone building or managing a team.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
The longer you’re able to work for someone else, the more ready you’ll be for your own venture. The only reason we’ve had any success with Sweat from Home is that we paid our dues for YEARS in the fitness industry. When COVID happened, we were able to apply so many skill sets that only come with time: like how to program countless amazing classes that are familiar, yet unique and challenging, how to utilize technology to enhance the workout (and not let it take over), and how to connect with individuals and communities in a way that makes them feel seen, and thus accountable.
I remember hearing once that the average age of a successful entrepreneur is mid-40’s. This makes sense to me because a person can spend decades developing industry expertise, relationships, and a holistic understanding of a business or environment. Then, when the opportunity arises, whether it be a lightbulb moment or a global pandemic, people who have the most knowledge and experience are in the best position to succeed.
In short, don’t feel ashamed or be afraid to learn the tricks of the trade on someone else’s dime :) if you have the entrepreneurial itch, I believe there will be plenty of opportunities for you to spread your wings.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes! We are always looking for amazing coaches, and we’re also currently looking for an amazing community manager (someone who can manage our monthly challenges, Facebook groups, etc.).
Our biggest focus right now though is fundraising. We are in the process right now of closing our seed round of financing. We are looking to raise $200K in a seed SAFE - if anyone is interested in discussing investor opportunities we would love to chat with them.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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