Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! My name is Charlotte Gardenhire and I am the founder of The Fit Cut, an online fitness solution for corporations, individuals, and group fitness instructors looking to certify. Unlike any other platform, The Fit Cut lets users choose what muscle groups to target, what equipment to use, and what condition to filter by, all combined into one master playlist to play and workout to.
The Fit Cut trains by way of my unique new exercise method, CUTTING, the only exercise format that adapts to the individual through body feedback and modifications. Users experience constant improvement and fitness at their level.
My site went live in early February 2021. It is too early to report any revenue, but I anticipate great profits, especially as employers recognize the value in investing in The Fit Cut as a benefit for their employees.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I grew up doing gymnastics and wanting to coach and own my own gym when I got older. Thanks to a high school English assignment, I interviewed a popular gym owner who suggested that I major in Exercise Science. Without a second thought, that became my field of study and I became a tumbling and gymnastics coach through college. That gym was an extension of the Sports Academy & Racquet Club; as a benefit, I got a free membership and found myself immersed in group fitness. Those classes were AMAZING! The instructors were fun, creative, full of life, and ripped! They were inspiring and they inspired me.
I thought the hard part (designing, filming, editing, and developing) was over. Wrong! Marketing and launching have proved to be just as hard, especially on a budget.
Fast forward a few years, I finished my degree and loved it so much that I stayed to earn a Masters’s Degree in Corporate Wellness. I began a career as a wellness coach and certified as a group fitness instructor. As soon as a new recreation center opened in my neighborhood, I jumped on the chance to teach the 6 am strength training class. It became my dream job. I became one of those instructors that I admired so much. I loved the challenge of never repeating the same workout. I loved my tight-knit class members. I loved the energy and empowering feeling that came from teaching. I loved it all. And I realized I was good at it. I certified in many topics and formats, all of which enhanced my expertise and shaped me as an instructor; but I found that as awesome as some of those classes were, my class members still preferred my workouts to the popular choreographed classes of others.
My idea was born over years of experimenting, brainstorming, and teaching. The inspiration came from wanting to help my mom, who is debilitated by knee pain; from my own experience with pregnancy; and from meeting with clients who didn’t know the slightest thing about exercise and how to start. I wanted a program that appealed to each of those audiences as well as someone like myself- someone who loves group fitness and exercise videos but settled for working out at the instructor’s pace- not my own.
My lightbulb was given to me as an accumulation of study, practice, and research. CUT IT was the result of the best techniques in the industry combined with my personal preferences for self-improvement. When it hit me, I knew it was perfect.
If it weren’t for our current circumstances, I may have never considered turning my passion for teaching into anything more than a hobby. Illness, debt, and unemployment plagued our family and pushed me to unforged waters. It seemed only natural for The Fit Cut to be the answer, especially after combining my knowledge of video editing, website creation, and- of course- my love for exercise and teaching.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I was determined to create a business with zero investment. And I almost did it. In fact, I was so determined that I looked into schools that needed projects for their students. I even considered learning how to code so I wouldn’t have to hire out.
If I can start a business, anyone can. Be brave and go for it! Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and be vulnerable.
I did as much as I could with YouTube, my phone, and a free Wix Site. Believe me, I got pretty far, but e-commerce is impossible without a domain and an SSL certificate. That’s when things got real. I hired an independent contractor who turned my site into an interactive customer experience on WordPress. She underestimated the complexity of my vision and I ended up hiring other developers to perfect my site. DOI Webworks worked with me to create a better user experience, including a band, registration, and most especially organization of my videos.
Transferring files was probably the most difficult task during the developing stages because of the size of the files. Dropbox and WeTransfer were helpful tools, but still, set limits on my transferability. The only solution was to upgrade my Dropbox and get everything done during the free two-week trial period.
It’s amazing what effort goes into creating a brand. And it’s amazing what you can do with what resources you have on hand. I designed my logo and favicon in Paint. My photos are all taken on my cell phone by myself or by my 5-year old. My videos were shot in my home with my kids running around. (I can’t count the number of outtakes and interruptions because of my three munchkins.) I even bought a cheap shirt and fabric paint from Walmart to DIY screenprint branded apparel.
I ended up paying $250 for a camcorder (which isn’t as good as my phone but has more memory), $36 for a backdrop that could be better, and $2k towards contractors. That’s about it besides paying AFAA $200 to become an approved CEU provider and the monthly fees for hosting.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I just launched and I hope to see paid customers soon. I thought the hard part (designing, filming, editing, and developing) was over. Wrong! Marketing and launching have proved to be just as hard, especially on a budget.
My original business plan was to take advantage of social media influencers and have them promote my product. This has proved most difficult because influencers either, A) seem to have their own agenda or B) do not have the values I seek in someone representing my brand. I should have started to build my own social media presence earlier instead of waiting to launch. That too is slow.
Networking on LinkedIn has been another strategy to target companies. I max out on my connections quickly and am finding that advertising for free is more than a full-time job and is quite inefficient.
There seem to be many other great resources for lead generation, like HR.com but even “free” resources require payment for the services that would elicit a result. I realize that word of mouth and recognition of the product or brand seem to be the best way to build a network. Regardless, I’m exploring all possible avenues to attract customers while continuing to keep my advertising costs near zero until I have built equity.
My best advice would be to assume the worst of your customers. It is likely they will make impulsive decisions and will want to know everything at first glance. Sadly, people are lazy and don’t do a lot of digging on their own. I have everything listed on my website, but I still, get lots of questions because people don’t take the time to look through the menu or scroll through the banner.
My next bit of advice would be to widen your customer reach. I started my business by thinking I was only going to create a certification course. Little by little I was inspired to broaden that reach to individuals and then to corporate. I’m sure there are still more niches for my product just as there could be for yours. Just keep your mind open to the possibilities!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Once I have customers, I’ll have more to report! But in only one week, it is evident that people are most interested in social media posts where they get teasers, freebies, and sample products. It makes sense, doesn’t it? I divide my posts into these categories:
- Sneak peeks
- Users say
- Brand awareness
My goal is to get people interested, separate my brand from others, and give them something to work towards. As much as I hate social media, I was advised by an advertising expert to have a strong presence online, if only to prove the legitimacy of my business. I am trying to be accessible everywhere: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn.
It is easy to get intimidated by the competition out there and so it is important to remember your business values and what makes you stand out as a brand. There is a fine balance between learning from the best and copying what others are doing. I think it wise to be your own instead of becoming one of the many.
My advertising expert also advised me to join as many groups and discussions as I could. Becoming known is one step to introducing your product; having a platform is another. I have found that many groups prohibit promotional posts or advertising, but you can get around it by offering free services or goods (certifications and memberships in my case) or by hosting events, training, or something similar.
What doesn’t work is simply directing people to your website. It seems you have to give them a reason to click or entice them to look and every little thing counts, from your favicon to the picture that generates with hyperlinks.
While I am doing things on a strictly zero budget, one of my favorite tools has become Canva. For a one-man-show, it is a lifesaver to have pre-sized templates for every media outlet. It makes it possible for a girl who knows nothing about marketing to get away without hiring out. A previous job impressed upon me the importance of keeping to your “look.” Every flier, post, and a bit of media should be recognizably your brand without having to stop and look. Why? People scroll.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I plan to constantly add content to my site so users get more and more out of their membership. As my business grows, I also hope to specialize in certifications and expand my service to offer shorter programs. The dream is to grow from a mobile site into an app and from there into a franchise where group fitness CUT IT classes are taught.
Right now, it’s just a dream, but anyone can have dreams come true with enough dedication and the right vision to make it happen. The goal is to keep sole proprietorship and trade services so costs remain low until business booms and I have real numbers to share.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I don’t regret a thing. I only wish I started sooner.
Then again, ideas blossom with time, trial, and error. My advice? Keep everything! Even my early footage that didn’t get published has come in handy on social media. I would also advise you to do something- even something small- every day. As a mom, I prioritize my family over my work and that balance can be difficult! It’s important to set doable goals and to let go of expectations whether those expectations are upset by your family or by others.
Website development is a slow, tedious process. I wish I would have known just how slow and redundant that process was when I started. A word of wisdom: don’t jump the gun until every little kink, process, button, and then some has been tested ten times. Stay on top of your developer! Communicate well and communicate often. And then say it again three more times. In my experience, deadlines don’t exist for developers. Getting one thing done makes one more thing to do. So follow up often and remember they are on your side.
My site got a virus and was majorly bugged at least two or three times. We had to change hosting, add security, and invest quite a bit in cleaning things out. It was all worth it. Security is a necessary feature that I would suggest everyone get from the beginning. You’ll save yourself a headache and money by protecting anything online. Just do it.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
To summarize my experience. These are the tools I have utilized in the development and marketing of my business:
- Powerpoint and Paint (picture editor)
- Canva (social media templates)
- LinkedIn (networking)
- Facebook (social media)
- YouTube (social media)
- Instagram (social media)
- HR.com (lead generation)
- Alice(small business advice)
- Crunchbase (company listing)
- Google Business listing (company listing)
- Product Hunt (increase SEO)
- Groupon (product listing)
- BEEPro (email marketing)
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints offers free Self Reliance courses. I attended one of these 12-week courses on How to Start and Grow Your Business. For someone who knew nothing about entrepreneurship, it was a great asset and inspired me to set weekly goals and seek counsel from others. I learned valuable lessons about how to stand out, add value, and govern a business. That was the most influential resource in my journey of beginning a business.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
I’m a complete novice. If I can start a business, anyone can. Be brave and go for it! Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and be vulnerable. Talk to as many people as you can and be open to advise. Feedback is crucial for building a brand that people want and love.
Credibility adds a lot to your brand, but I learned from Natalie Hodson that you don’t have to be an expert. You just need a good story.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I’m always looking for affiliates to join me in promoting The Fit Cut for a profit and for group fitness instructors who want to certify.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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