The Business of Fitness
Backstories behind 15 Austin-based health and fitness companies that are experiencing all-time success in their industries
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WORKING ON IT
Some people see a homeless person at a stoplight and feel uncomfortable. Tim Scott sees the opportunity to do something.
Similar to the business model made famous by Tom’s Shoes, Tim Scott’s company, Mitscoots, gives away one pair of 100 percent, American-made socks for every pair bought.
The idea for Mitscoots started when Scott realized that, besides food and water, people also needed socks. When he would drive around Austin, he started to “take a pair of socks, stuff a water bottle and a granola bar in it, and hand it out the window,” he said. The process soon became a passion. He and his wife, Agata, launched Mitscoots through a crowd funding campaign in 2012.
While Scott knew that socks could help people with short-term needs, he also knew there was much more to do. “We’d love to give away thousands and thousands of socks, which we do, but that’s not how we’re going to judge the long-term success [of the company],” Scott said. “Socks are great, but it’s a Band-Aid to a much deeper problem.”
To help address that much deeper problem, Mitscoots employs people in need, often those who are homeless, for generally about six to eight months. This component of Mitscoots is designed to encourage employees to eventually move on to bigger and better things—even if that means quitting Mitscoots.
Beyond providing employment opportunities, Mitscoots judges their success not by sales, but by how many of its employees it can help get into living situations. Scott has been lucky enough to see this happen, which reminds him of what’s most important. “As long as we are keeping the needs of those we are trying to help at the forefront of every decision we make, it is always going to be a good day,” he said.
Being in a city that he loves only helps matters. “The irony is that I started a company [centered around] socks in a city that rarely wears socks. Go figure,” Scott said. That hasn’t fazed him though. “This is my city. I love the people, and even if they don’t wear socks, they can still comprehend the need for somebody else.”
– Emily Laskowski
After years of suffering from chronic migraines and skin conditions, Danielle Sobel decided to drop the doctors appointments and endless medications to explore how food can benefit and protect your body from health conditions better than any drug. She began to research natural cures for her ailments, experimenting with every diet out there. The most across-the-board solution she found was juicing.
Sobel said she became addicted to making nutrient-packed juices and smoothies, and soon saw her health problems completely disappear. She went back to school to receive her Health Coach Certificate and, after she found herself recommending juicing to all of her clients, decided to devote herself to her passion and start a business that would simplify maintaining a healthy lifestyle through juicing.
Though Sobel was living in Houston at the time, she saw Austin as a better fit for the company and made the move to make her idea, her passion, come to life. In November 2014, JuiceSociety.com opened its virtual doors and began providing Austinites with a beyond-average juice bar experience.
Juice Society juice is cold pressed, extracting up to five times the vitamins, minerals and enzymes of a household juicer. Instead of simply grinding up food, the cold-press method uses hydraulic pressure to slowly extract juice from produce. (It takes three to six pounds of local produce to make one bottle of Juice Society juice.) The fresh-pressed juice is then delivered to your doorstep or office.
With added staff, a brick-and-mortar storefront coming soon, and plans to expand beyond Austin, the future of Juice Society looks sweet.
Sobel said she credits Austin’s startup-friendly atmosphere, health-conscious citizens, and sense of community to her business’ success and knows she made the right choice in moving here. “The entrepreneurial spirit [in this city] is really second to none. I have never been to or lived in another city that has the same sort of vibrancy and energy that Austin has,” she said.
– Lauren Pape
When co-workers Allen Stone and Danielle Mizerak found themselves in need of someone to watch their dogs while they left town on vacation, they didn’t know where to start. From researching local kennels, boarding facilities, and dog walkers, to scheduling pick-up and drop-off times, they had a bone to pick with the complex process. Their idea for PetCru.com was born. The duo started the service as a simple and affordable alternative to traditional boarding, where pets could be cared for and exercised in the comfort of their own homes.
With PetCru.com, pet owners can conveniently schedule and pay for dog walking or pet-sitting services right from their computer or smartphone and a trusty “Cru Member” will stop by their home to care for their furry friend, making sure they are fed and let outside. Stone said that beside the obvious benefit of letting your pet relax in a familiar, stress-free environment, at-home boarding also eliminates introductions to unknown animals and the risks of illness and fleas that are often associated with group boarding.
While many of the company’s clients are people who travel often, others are folks who work jobs that prevent them from letting their pets out during the day. Stone said that just like people, dogs (and cats) need exercise and fresh air to stay fit and healthy, and many Austinites recognize the importance of not keeping their pets locked up all day.
When the company started in 2014, the two-person operation required the owners to wear many hats. Stone said they spent the first few months talking with pet owners, asking for feedback, and taking note of frustrations their clients had experienced in the past.
“When you’re in startup mode, you’re very hyper-focused on the customer, and honestly I don’t know if we’ll ever want to change that because the customer is who we’re here for,” he said.
“It’s why we exist.”
Today, PetCru.com has hired more employees and continues to see their client base grow in Austin and its surrounding suburbs.
– Lauren Pape
Fit Fit Activewear
One thing all new business owners can agree on is that it takes passion to succeed. And there is certainly no lack of passion when it comes to the power duo behind Fit Fit, Joy and Gui Torres. Joy, a yoga teacher, and Gui, a martial arts master, both hail from São Paolo, Brazil. With their activewear company, they have brought their passion for fitness, vibrant colors, and culture to Austin.
The idea for Fit Fit came about from Joy’s struggle to find fitness apparel that expressed her personality. When she got tired of wearing black and gray tights, she decided it was time to combine her graphic design skills and passion for yoga to create her own leggings. She and Gui moved to Austin in 2013 to start their activewear line. It’s been less than two years since they made their first sale, and Joy credits Austin and the local yoga community for her company’s success.
“Austin is such a unique city. It’s so welcoming and supportive to small businesses, and it’s such a healthy town. I thought this was the perfect place to launch Fit Fit,” Joy said.
In the highly competitive clothing and fitness wear industry, it hasn’t always been easy to put Fit Fit on the map. But Joy’s passion for yoga and making women feel great in their own bodies keeps her focused and motivated to move forward.
Austinites aren’t the only ones doing cartwheels over Fit Fit’s high-performing active apparel. The fade-resistant, breathable, and fast drying leggings are now sold in yoga studios nationwide, and most recently, the company made its debut in Sweden.
With an average of 10 new prints released every six to eight weeks, there really is a pair of leggings for everyone. This fall Fit Fit will launch their new lifestyle line, which will include pants, tanks, and T-shirts.
“It’s about expressing who you really are,” Joy said of her eye-catching active wear line. “I want women to feel good about their bodies and not be afraid to express themselves.”
– Nancy Zambrano
Bridging the gap between patients and their medical providers is the mission behind this Austin-based app. The in-between visits and aftercare platform is the flagship of Filament Labs, a health care technology company.
Founded in 2013, Filament Labs started to focus on general health and wellness by marketing the Patient IO app to medical care providers. Before patients can take advantage of the app, medical providers must first subscribe and pay a fee.
Since its launch, Patient IO has reached tens of thousands of patients who are now using the app.
“The two big features are the care plans—where the provider is able to provide reminders and the patient records data that comes back in real time to the provider,” Patient IO co-founder Colin Anawaty said. “The second component is messaging. Through a HIPPAA compliant, we make it really easy and secure to communicate with providers under all the regulations.”
Big health systems are challenging to work with, so Patient IO started off by collaborating with smaller clinics in order to focus on consumer quality. “We started small since [those clinics] are easier to work with. Now, [we’re focused on] improving the experience for both providers and patients, and we’re focused on growing. We want to make Patient IO accessible to as many patients as possible,” Anawaty said.
Patient IO is nationally available on the Apple App Store, and the company is getting ready to launch the app in the Southeast Asia region.
– Mercedes Cordero