Ever noticed that when you’re busy with lots of new things, time feels very short? It’s only afterward, looking back, that it seems long. That’s how 2016 feels for Peerfit. When we started this year our theme was “focus” - and, that’s what we did. We focused on what’s most important: our team, peerfitters, studios, and enterprise partners.
This year is a story about discovering that we all had a common goal - finding an easy way to share fitness.
Same Direction, Different Path
Wellness programs aren’t implemented overnight. HR and Wellness Directors are busy people with a lot on their plates. They work with brokers and their insurance reps to help fund and guide not only their wellness programs, but all the benefits they offer their employees. That meant we needed to bring these brokers and insurance reps into the conversation to make things happen.
So, one of our advisors and investors, Ben Patz, made a suggestion: go to the brokers and insurance carriers first! We didn’t realize what an impact that would make on our business. Within months we had developed a relationship with our first broker, Montoya Benefits Group out of Jacksonville, FL. We knew we’d need forward-thinking partners who were already pushing the boundaries on what “worksite wellness” could be. Will Montoya and the team instantly understood what we were trying to do.
Before long, they weren’t just recommending Peerfit to their clients, they had begun using Peerfit themselves! Their team would take classes together, planning and discussing their favorites over a cup of coffee at the reception desk. We started hearing stories about how infectious Peerfit had become at Montoya. And, they weren’t the only ones who felt that way.
Reimagining Who We Are
When Peerfit first started, we were a direct-to-consumer company. After our experience in an accelerator funded by Florida Blue, we started working with employers to provide Peerfit as a worksite wellness benefit. However, we hadn’t had time to step back and make sure that was the story we were telling. That’s when we got the amazing Jessica DaMassa, our brand strategist, to revisit the work she’d done creating our brand in the first place.
The most surprising thing was that a small shift had made everything fall into place! We were still the same people with the same values. What really happened is that suddenly “community” became the centerpiece. It wasn’t just a community of users and studios. Now, it was a community of employers, brokers, wellness companies, and insurance providers who were all investing in the fitness of the people they work for and with.
When we stepped back, we realized that we were all on the same side. We all were fighting to help people get into a fitness habit - to create a culture of fitness in themselves and in their companies. When Peerfit creates a culture of fitness, studios can focus on people rather than marketing, users have a platform of peers helping them stay active, and both employers and enterprise partners become the heroes who fund and champion a program, which helps people get fit together.
Spotters & the Culture of Fitness
If anything could epitomize this shift in focus it’s a program we created this year called Peerfit Spotters. As with everything our team does, it’s always the collective insights, talent, and passions that move us forward. However, the Spotter program was sparked by my significant other one day saying something interesting:
“I don’t really want to go to this new studio by myself. If there was some sort of Peerfit representative I knew would be there I’d feel way more comfortable trying it the first time.”
Eureka! (Actually, we usually say “Bazinga!” in meetings). I don’t know why that had never struck me before. Folks from our team had been dragging new peerfitters to classes with them. Ed’s Facebook posts are legendary for getting tons of chatter, with people saying which classes they’ll be joining the group for. So, as I digested what Mandi had said in light of what our own internal team was doing, I had a really good feeling. The team all agreed - and so did the peerfitters we spoke to.
After one of my favorite things, brainstorming with the team, I suggested the name “Spotter” and it stuck. So, what’s a Peerfit Spotter? It’s someone who uses Peerfit well. Profound, right? But, it’s really that simple. Spotters are just folks who “get it” a little quicker or easier than the rest. We empower them to “spot” classes that become open invitations for anyone in their city to join them for class. We’re developing Spotters from all different walks of life: moms, dads, younger singles, older singles, super active, more casual, and everything in between!
There are times when we all need a “spotter” for our workouts. That’s what we wanted to provide. Find a Spotter you can relate to and they’ll help you discover a new fitness routine, a new studio, or a new class. We’ve heard so many stories about folks who went to a class with a Spotter and ended up making another friend who became their go-to workout buddy.
Spotters are like seeds we help plant, but any peerfitter can act like a Spotter - sharing their workout schedule, inviting friends, and helping others find their fit. We’ve learned that a culture of fitness must be grown - allowing it to spread from person to person and friend group to friend group. Landsouth Construction sent us a picture of their white board in the breakroom filled with classes they were planning on attending together. When people can connect around something as fun and positive as a workout class it opens up a whole new dynamic in relationships. “Fitness” really includes our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing.
This year we’ve watching Spotters help people fall in love with group fitness. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of what we do.
A Growing Family
As we started down this path of broker and carrier-driven growth we rapidly needed to expand our team. We nearly doubled this year! Between salespeople, developers, and marketing/engagement gurus, we’ve become a family with broad skills and talents. Seriously, these are some of the kindest, most passionate, and capable people I’ve ever met. We take our culture very seriously, so we don’t bring people on haphazardly. Whether it’s goofing around at Peerfit class or busting out laughing at GIFs we post on Slack, these people are a big part of why I love my job - and I think they feel the same.
Okay, I need a sidebar to brag on our dev team. Everyone from our product/design team, Abe, Stephen, Chris, Joe, Otis, Nicole, and Miquel, are all former Groovesharkers. Since we started in Gainesville, we have a special place in our heart for Grooveshark. We did a formal code audit in December. It came back flawless! The reviewer said he could count on one hand the number of times he’s done a code review without being able to find a single problem. This team is amazing, and the work they do is absolutely some of the best in the industry. A completely rebuilt version of the site is coming in January and I’m so excited to share it with our whole Peerfit community!
And, every one of our teams is like that. Oh, and did you know our team works almost completely remotely? We still find ways to meet up for mini-reunions, but the vast majority of our conversations are on the phone, our UberConference line, Google Hangouts, Snapchat, Slack, or Trello. Communication and collaboration are just deeply embedded in who we are. And, of course, we Peerfit together.
Stats for 2016 and Eyes on a New Year
This year we doubled our studio network, grew our user-base by over 150%, and raised a $1.5MM Series A that allowed us to expand our team. Thanks to my co-founder/counterpart, and the CEO of Peerfit, Ed Buckley - along with the tireless work of Chris Patton and Andre Ortega - we have established relationships with almost every major insurance carrier and the best of the national brokerages in the country. In true Peerfit fashion, these guys broke down doors to make these connections happen. In doing so they’ve many times earned ‘props’ for being “politely persistent”.
We track a lot of data to gauge how successfully we’re creating a culture of fitness. Fitness is usually a very cyclical and seasonal thing. We want fitness to become a year-round habit for peerfitters. So, while new user sign ups each month may vary, or the total number of active users might spike here or there, two stats we were most concerned were classes booked each month and users who are active every month.
I am thrilled to announce that both “classes booked” and “total users active every month” have continued to grow steadily in 2016. In fact, now over 60% of our “active users” each month are active the month before as well! This is a huge deal in the fitness industry because most people really struggle to stay consistent in their workout routines.
So, as we ring in the New Year, we have a lot to celebrate and be thankful for at Peerfit. Our clients, investors, partners, studios, peerfitters, and coworkers have made this the year that Peerfit firmly planted its feet, preparing to make a big leap into 2017 - to become the national industry standard for fitness in the workplace. Here’s a few highlights you can look forward to in 2017:
- Full MINDBODY integration (that means more studios, more quickly, with searchable schedules and easy, real-time class bookings for users)
- National studio partnerships. I’m talking about Orangetheory (more details coming soon!) and Life Time Fitness (Peerfit’s first gym membership offering!)
- New Social Features (follow/unfollow friends and Spotters to customize your friend group, live feed of what studios and classes are being booked in your area, easy schedule collaboration to plan your workout-week with friends!)
- More secret projects in the works...shhhhh!
Note: As of November 2018, the Peerfit Spotter program has been sunsetted.