The Business of Fitness

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A one-two punch of captivation and curiosity hits you when you make eye contact with him. When he speaks, you listen. When he laughs, you laugh. When he takes a sip from his Swole Banana smoothie—a combination of hemp protein, MCT oil, dolce whey protein, grass-fed butter, and cacao nibs—you start to crave one. 

Just like his 3-year-old company, Onnit, Aubrey Marcus has a way of effortlessly replacing whatever thoughts once stood at the forefront of your attention. 

Raised in Austin, he attended the University of Richmond, where he majored in civilization and philosophy. After graduation, he worked in the marketing and investment industry. On paper, there seems to be no similarities shared between his chosen study and career fields, but Marcus said they both taught him one very important thing: how to think. 

“Everything is just a puzzle and philosophy is about solving the biggest puzzles in the world. Marketing and investing are just more puzzles,” he said. “That’s what life is. Identifying the puzzle and trying to solve it.” 

So how, in just three years time, did he get to be the founder and owner of a successful, nationally known supplement company? 

The story starts when Marcus was 2 years old. Now 34, Marcus recalls how he would sit on his grandmother’s lap and tell her stories about how he was going to be a knight in shining armor when he grew up. 

“I’ve always felt that I’m here to inspire people and to lead, so that’s what I wanted to be,” Marcus said. “I didn’t know if that was going to be in sports or nutrition, but somehow I managed to create something that combines everything I love—from MMA to nutrition to athletics. I’m really living the dream. This is the win, you know?”

That something, that dream, that win is Onnit. 

Onnit started in July 2011 with the release of Alpha BRAIN—a natural, plant-based supplement designed to be used as a performance enhancer for athletes as well as a focus enhancer for those clocking long work hours. 

Interestingly enough, Marcus had started creating supplements for people looking to recover from hangovers. “I’ve always created Onnit stuff for what I wanted the most, and at that point in my life I was partying a lot. So that supplement line made a lot of sense to me,” he said.

But Marcus marks the true start of Onnit with Alpha BRAIN. 

“I think the very first [memorable moment]was when we launched Alpha BRAIN and sold out within 24 hours. That was kind of like this ‘awesome, but oh crap’ moment. We didn’t have any of the infrastructure set up yet.”

Now, Onnit hears stories of professional athletes like MMA fighter Tim Kennedy taking the supplement and it helping him knock somebody out or it helping Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith play hockey. “In the MMA world, regardless of the supplement brand that’s labeled on their shorts, Onnit is the one putting supplements in their bodies,” Marcus said.

“But really, it’s about everyday individuals making improvements in their own lives. That’s the most important stuff. This is a product for everybody.”

For a company that—just a few years ago—was operating out of a 300 square foot attic on the eastside of Austin, near Ceaser Chavez and Chicon Street, the move to their current office space in Southeast Austin two years ago was a big step up. 

Outfitted with an in-house volleyball court and basketball court (Marcus was an All-Star basketball player in high school), and pool table, in addition to weekly massage therapy visits and meals stocked by a private chef (the company covers 60 percent of the cost, employees cover the other 40 percent), the Onnit headquarters are equipped to keep employees motivated. 

“We want people to be happy,” Marcus said about his team. “Happy people are more productive. If they’re passionate and they love Onnit, they’re going to do a better job.” 

A lot of that happiness should be credited to Marcus’ unconventional approach to the office place. “I’ve been in a lot of corporate situations where people were not happy and I never wanted to be a part of any of that again. I wanted to create a situation where people could thrive, be proud, and be fired up.” 

Marcus’ unconventional approach extends to his other office, the Onnit Academy Gym, where specialized trainers work with amateur and professional athletes alike to incorporate unique pieces of equipment—from kettlebells and maces to clubs, sandbells, and battle ropes—into their training methods.
 

Onnit Academy Gym stands out from other Austin-area gyms by differentiating between exercise and training, Marcus said. “You can get exercise at any gym, but our gym is focused on training. We have the widest array of tools to help people achieve their goals. Nobody else has as many different options or as much expertise to be able to dial into [giving you]exactly what you need.”

Marcus first became aware of unconventional training methods simply out of curiosity. 

“I started to hear things like how George Foreman would train for his fights by taking an axe and going out into the woods and chopping trees, or how MMA fighters like Roger Huerta were training with ropes and kettlebells,” he said. “Ideas of people doing things in a different way stuck in my head, and that’s when the unconventional training method all clicked.” 

“I wanted to see what other [unconventional training]methods there were, so I started doing research on what the old warrior traditions would train with. That’s how I found the clubs and the maces.”

Onnit Academy’s unconventional training method is all about harnessing and strengthening one’s functional movements—those primal movement types that are most important to us in the real world. 

“If everybody is lifting with dumbells, barbells, and pulleys, they’re missing out,” Marcus said. 

One piece of equipment the Onnit Academy Gym is renowned for is their kettlebells. 

“It started with the monkeys,” Marcus said. “[The kettlebells are] a celebration of both the animal and the spiritual side of humans, and living the optimized life is a celebration of both.” The gym molds and casts three product lines of the kettlebells—monkeys and zombies (aka the “primal bells”), and legend bells. 

The Sasquatch is the biggest of the primal bells, weighing in at 90 pounds. 

The Howler is the smallest, weighing in at 18 pounds. 

The Onnit Academy Gym currently has 120 members, an impressive client base when you consider the gym just opened last November—the same month they acquired Black Swan Yoga. 

For Onnit, ushering in Black Swan further supports and advances their mission to focus on total human optimization. 

“Yoga is one of the best ways to get that,” Marcus said. “[The practice] provides lessons in stillness, surrendering, and pushing through adversity,” Marcus said. 

Even MMA fighters can understand the importance of incorporating an activity like yoga into their training. 

“You talk with some of the best [fighters]and they fight from a place of stillness and a place of peace. That’s what you see from champions—they surrender to the present moment,” he said. 

But Black Swan wasn’t the only business to find a new home under Onnit’s ever-expanding roof. 

Joe DeFranco, a name heralded in the training world as one of the best to work with WWE fighters and NFL players, moved his training gym from New Jersey to Austin last fall to join the Onnit Academy. The partnership was (and is) a testament to the pedestal Onnit has been placed on by those in the competitive sports world. 

“Joe is one of those guys that wants to provide the best for his athletes,” Marcus said of DeFranco. “He found us because he identified us as having the best supplements out there, and we recognized him as having some of the best training methods for preparing high power athletes to perform. Having his expertise in more traditional athletic preparation is invaluable [to us].”

Another established partnership Marcus has cultivated is with his friend and podcast host, Joe Rogan. He first met the comedian-slash-sports commentator at a lunch to discuss the business matter of advertising Rogan’s podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. “What was supposed to be a 30 minute lunch turned into a 3 hour dinner,” Marcus confesses. “We were talking about aliens and super volcanoes and psychedelics; everything [Rogan] likes to talk about.” 

The two hit it off so well that now, about once every quarter, they host a 3-hour podcast—together—in a way, re-creating that dinner—to discuss anything and everything; “normally unplanned talking topics,” Marcus said. 

One topic that Marcus gets questioned on quite a bit is fortunately one he is more than happy to discuss. 

Ayahuasca. 

The medicinal meditation retreats have taken him from the remote mountains of Mexico to the lush, tropical forests of Costa Rica and Peru. “Ayahuasca provides an opportunity to go out and find truth. Part of that is a spiritual component, and part of the ayahuasca is seeing things from a different perspective,” Marcus said of the shaman-led experience. 

Marcus credits the retreats for helping him to see where he was making mistakes—in business, in life—and realign his goals. 

“Everything that is happening now I envisioned when I was down in Peru,” he said. 

“Meditation is a way to stop the momentum of your mind; to get things still for a second; to quiet down and give you a little space for your consciousness to breathe. In one way or another, you have to find a way to get to stillness. That could be spending time in nature; it could be floatation tanks; it could be yoga. Whatever it is, you have to find a way to get still. It’s the most crucial thing in life,” Marcus said.  

The Onnit headquarters aren’t the only place you’ll find Marcus indulging his unconventional, human optimization side this summer. He plans to return to the Amazonian jungle for his third ayahuasca retreat.

When he returns from his travels, his team and gym members know where to find him. 

“I come straight back, and my first stop is the Onnit Café,” he said.  

Marcus, who jokingly refers to himself as “the shake master,” created all the recipes for the drinks you see at the Onnit Café. All the shakes, he said, were born out of “experiments with the most delicious, healthy things” he could find. 

“When I travel,” Marcus said, pivoting the straw in his Swole Banana smoothie, in search of one last sip, “these shakes are what I miss the most.” 

Well, the shakes and his staff.

“I love coming into the office. I get to see all of these people who are all happy and enjoying what they do. I also love meeting the people who our products are benefitting. There are a lot of cool moments here. Every time I walk into the office is another cool moment,” he said. 

Out of the 60 employees that work at Onnit, Marcus said they have nobody that’s counting hours. 

“If you’re that employee that wants to show up and complain about your job,” Marcus said hesitantly, “We’ve had a couple of those and they quit. They were like, ‘I can’t handle this.

Everybody’s too happy.’ Some people aren’t ready for us yet.” 

There’s no average day in the life of Aubrey Marcus, but generally it starts with:

  • A high protein lunch for breakfast. “I’m not a big eggs guy,” Marcus said.
  • In the office, ordering one of his blended coffees. “I try not to have coffee until after breakfast.” 
  • Getting into the workflow of the day. 
  • Lunch at Thai Fresh. 
  • Winding down the workday around 4:35 p.m. “Then it’s time for me to have some fun in the gym.” 

“You know how some people have smoke breaks? I take a walk through the gym and it refreshes me. I get to engage with people and talk with them,” Marcus said. “Things are simple in the gym. I mean, things can get complicated in the office. There’s a lot of planning.” 

Marcus strives to live an optimal life, and talks a lot about being truthful and authentic as a person. To him, being the CEO of Onnit means being one with his employees and members. 

“People will drive up to Onnit and they’ll see me doing something in the gym, and say ‘Oh, you’re here?’ and I’m like ‘Of course I’m here. This is where I work,’” Marcus said, contorting his face to imitate their look of confusion. 

“Why would I [workout anywhere else]?” Marcus asked rhetorically. “This is what I’ve hand created to be the best experience for me. There’s not a single thing I designed knowing I wouldn’t benefit from it personally. Everything we have is something I stand by 100 percent.” 

Asked about the future growth he sees for the company, Marcus smiled, squinting his eyes. “There’s always something in the works,” he said.

Onnit most recently released a personal care line that includes a Zen Spice body wash, cedar and lavender scented organic deodorant, a healing body salve, and a lip balm called Lip Food. 

The inspiration behind the product line came from the realization that skin absorption rates can reach as high as 80 percent on different areas of your body—especially your armpits. 

“People don’t realize that what you put on your skin gets in your body. They’re putting all these chemicals on [their skin]that they wouldn’t dare eat. Nobody is going to take a bite of their RightGuard or Speed Stick,” Marcus said, uncapping a bar of Onnit deodorant to prove his point. 

“Nobody would dare do that with their regular deodorant, but yet they’ll put it on their skin,” he said. 

The possibility of a future DogOnnit pet line is one Marcus won’t denounce. “They need optimization too,” he said with a laugh. 

While Onnit supplements are available anywhere in reach of a strong Internet connection, expansion of the Austin-based Onnit Academy Gym is still in the works. 

“We just want to make sure we have master trainers that can provide the same level of quality training that we have here. I want people who go to an Onnit gym to have the full Onnit experience. As soon as we’re able to do that, we’ll start franchising,” Marcus said.

The chances of him starting another company, one unrelated to Onnit, is as likely as seeing the CEO successfully pull off Side Crow (an advanced-level yoga pose). Which, he would agree to say, is not any time soon.  

“It was funny, I had somebody mention something to me the other day about being a serial entrepreneur—which I’m really not,” Marcus said. “I’ve just been trying to figure out how to get to here, until I got to here.”

“But I was curious about that concept. Like, why would you want to be a serial entrepreneur? For me, [Onnit] is my dream. This is absolutely everything I’ve ever wanted to build and be a part of, so why would I want to do this again? What weird compulsion would that be. To be like, ‘Oh yeah, that was fun. Let’s sell that and move on.’”

“It’s not about the money. That’s not how I’m keeping score here. I’m keeping score by how much I love this. And [right now], I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
-April Cumming


How did the name “Onnit” come about?

Onnit is something that Marcus and his friend, and Olympic skier, Bode Miller would say to each other. “If he skied a good race, I would say, ‘Man that was on it.’ If I did something good, he would say, ‘That was on it.’ It could be used in the gym or in competition.” So that’s what Marcus decided to call the company. “Throw an extra ‘n’ in there and make it a brand,” he said. 

As a self-proclaimed “warrior poet,” Marcus has many favorite quotes. His top three?

“No man steps in the same river twice, because it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” 
– Heraclitus 
“We choose only once. To be warriors or to be ordinary.” – Carlos Castaneda
“Do not wait to strike until the iron is hot. Instead, make the iron hot by striking.” – W.B. Yeats

As a leader, is there anyone you follow?

“I follow everybody. The leader is a good follower and the master is a good student,” Marcus said. “I learn from my employees, and from people in the gym. I’m always learning. The minute you stop learning, you’re done.” 

Top pet peeve?

When people are too busy in their own mind and aren’t listening to what you’re saying. I’d rather sit in silence with them than sit in chatter. 

If you could workout with 4 people, living or dead, who would they be?

Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD), Lao Tzu, Jesus, and The Rock (Dwayne Johnson). 

Top 3 books:

 “Island” by Aldous Huxley
“Mastery of Love” by Don Miguel Ruiz
“You Are the Placebo” by Joe Dispenza

You’re stranded on a desert island and can request three things. What would they be?

A beautiful philosopher queen, a satellite phone, and a good spear. 

 

MADE IT

DYNAMAX

Step into any local gym, Crossfit box, or outdoor bootcamp, and you’re likely to see the familiar black-and-gray Dynamax medicine balls being used in creative ways.  

Founded in 1985 by Bruce Evans, an athletic trainer at the University of Texas, and Jim Cawley, the fitness director at the Austin YMCA, the ball was born out of a search for a piece of equipment that could be utilized for high velocity, partner-based training. The two founders wanted a product they could use outside of the gym that was durable enough to withstand the high impact of training, but soft enough not to injure the hands of a training partner. 

The University of Texas provided the perfect testing grounds, and the creators were soon able to launch the product out of the collegiate arena and into the professional market. 

With such an organic beginning in Austin, Dynamax continues to grow and expand as a thriving international business. Having outgrown their original warehouse in Buda, the company’s manufacturing center is now housed near the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. 

With a strong commitment to being an American-made product, the company has witnessed many market trend shifts and imitation products, but has stood by its rich heritage of being the original, American made, soft-shelled medicine ball. Dynamax balls now come in many different styles—including the latest Trey Hardee Limited Edition ball that says, “This is my medicine.”
  – Kristen Turner 


Camp Gladiator 

Ally Davidson, co-founder of Camp Gladiator, took a big risk—on her wedding day of all days—and little did she know that risk would later evolve into a bootcamp empire.

“The night before our wedding, my sister found out that the TV show American Gladiator was holding tryouts at a nearby gym the next day,” Davidson said. That morning, she snuck out of the house without Jeff [Davidson’s soon-to-be husband] finding out. “I was afraid he would think I was getting cold feet,” she recalled.

Nevertheless, Davidson made it to the tryout only to find 2,000 people in line.

“I knew I couldn't wait and make it to the church on time. So I threw on my veil and garter and ran up to the producer at the door. He loved that I was a real-life runaway bride and let me in,” she said. “I did 14 pull-ups and ran a 40-yard dash, then raced to the church drenched in sweat. I didn't even have time to shower before the ceremony.”

Davidson made the cut—and so did her new husband, Jeff—when the producers called them up after their honeymoon to invite them on a newlywed episode. Their American Gladiator debut inspired a movement.

“After we returned to our day jobs, Ally was restless. She was in ad sales, but she dreamed of gladiators and adventure,” Jeff Davidson said. “In the two months before the show aired, she realized we could leverage the publicity and prize money. We talked and prayed about it, and came up with the idea for gladiator-themed outdoor fitness classes and launched Camp Gladiator in Dallas a month after the show's finale. Within three months, 100 people had signed up.”

Ally hit the front lines, leading campers through workouts in their church parking lot and city park. 

The duo moved to Austin when Jeff’s job relocated him. Soon after, the couple founded their indoor headquarters location (or ‘CG Arena’). Now, six years into the business, Camp Gladiator enlists more than 20,000 campers in four states (Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Florida), in addition to 1,500 at their arena. They also host an annual Camp Gladiator Games, as well as two annual seminar weekends for their trainers—of which, they have a total of about 300. 

The couple’s vision for Camp Gladiator’s future?

“We want to continue to grow in every major city throughout the country,” Jeff said. Their mission is simple: Deliver a quality workout—60 minutes of amazing energy and attitude—in a way that is fun and affordable for everyone. 
– Lauryn Lax 

 


YETI

What was once seen as a niche need for only the most serious of outdoor enthusiasts, these super-insulated coolers can now be spotted in the beds of most pick-up trucks around the state. 

Started by Roy and Ryan Seiders, brothers who grew up down the road from The Salt Lick in Driftwood, Yeti Coolers has become a household name to anyone in Texas who hunts, fishes, hikes, camps, or enjoys nothing more than relaxing with an ice-cold beer. 

As the national leader in the premium cooler marker, Yeti, founded in 2006, has a loyal customer following.

That loyalty is what inspires the Yeti team to develop new, innovative products ideas like the Yeti Ramblers—personal drink coolers made with double-wall vacuum insulation. 

The company’s ultimate goal has always been to offer a premium customer experience. At the Yeti office in South Austin, an entire hallway is dedicated to customer feedback. 

 “We don’t tend to focus a whole lot on if we’ve made it or not. Instead, we focus on improving every day, trying to take care of our customers, innovate, and get great products to the marketplace,” said Yeti COO Andy Hollen.

Being based in Austin is the “cherry on top” of working at Yeti, Hollen said. 

Just like Yeti, Austin is growing, but its laid-back vibe continues to help the company and its employees stay cool and focused on what matters. 
– Emily Laskowski  


Golfsmith 

Founded in Edison, New Jersey, in 1967, Golfsmith has revolutionized the golf industry. The company began as a typewritten, hand illustrated catalog founded by Carl Paul and his wife, Barbara. A golf aficionado himself, Carl noticed the lack of distribution of the essentials in golf and set out to fulfill a need. 

It wasn’t until his brother, Frank Paul, joined the family business that Carl moved the company to Austin. The first Golfsmith storefront was set in 6,000 square feet of unused army barracks space. 

In 1992, the company moved its headquarters to its present location in North Austin. In 2012, Golfsmith joined Canada’s largest golf retailer, GolfTown, to form Golfsmith International, the largest golf-only retailer in the world. The Austin-based company now delivers custom golf club components to likeminded aficionados, amateurs, and pros around the world. 
 

Golfsmith currently operates more than 150 retail stores in 30 states and runs an online store that offers merchandise including golf clubs from 18 different brands, shoes, apparel, carts, and putting greens. Stores are even equipped with training stations where you can work on improving your game. But the uniqueness of the company doesn’t stop there. 

According to the Golfsmith website, they are the only ones in the golf club industry to employ a swing robot to test club heads and shafts for strength, accuracy, and distance.

The number of new players to the sport of golf may have seen a slump in the past few years, but Golfsmith continues to grow, innovate, and improve the face of their industry. 
– Mercedes Cordero

 

MAKING IT

FloSports

There’s no shortage of media coverage for the sport of football in Texas. But there’s a huge gap between what’s available news-wise for sports like football and for other sports like wrestling or track. That was, until now. Brothers Martin and Mark Floreani are the founders of FloSports, a company based in Austin that provides live-streaming services for sporting events across the country. 

Martin, who wrestled at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), and Mark, who ran track at the University of Texas at Austin, realized that there was an opportunity to provide live video coverage of niche, or less dominant, sports. “When we were in college, there was no on our sports,” Martin said.

In 2003, Martin started covering wrestling events across the country while Mark finished his senior year at Texas. Shortly after graduating, Mark joined Martin on the road and began adding his own footage of track events.

The two brothers trekked across the country in a van to capture live sporting events, and FloSports was born. The response to their coverage was enormous. Most of the athletes they filmed had never seen live coverage of their sport before. The athletic communities were so thankful that they often gave the brothers a place to stay, saving them from sleeping in their van.

A turning point for FloSports came when Mark and Martin filmed Ryan Hall win the Houston Half Marathon in 2007. Hall set the U.S. half marathon record and became the first American to break the one-hour mark for a half marathon. Mark and Martin’s YouTube video of the event, which included commentary and an interview with Hall’s wife, generated more likes than any FloSports video had before.

Fast-forward to today, and FloSports operates out of an East Austin office with a growing team of more than 100 reporters, video editors, and other operational staff members. The company has expanded to include coverage for specific areas of track and long-distance running, gymnastics, and even CrossFit. In June, the company launched their FloSoftball website.

While niche sports are the primary source of content coverage right now, the Floreani brothers are open to covering all sports—as long as they fit the FloSports model. “We’re not going to cover sports the way everyone else covers them,” Mark said, echoing their tagline—“Sports coverage for athletes by athletes.”

Martin and Mark agree that the business climate of Texas matched with the entrepreneurial spirit and centralized location of Austin “makes life easier” for their growing company. The laid-back Austin culture also sits well with the athletes that work at FloSports. Active sports competitors themselves, employees will often wear their workout clothes to the office. 

“We are the fittest company in Austin,” Martin said confidently. For a company composed of former collegiate and professional swimmers, runners, wrestlers, gymnasts, and more, he just might be right.
– Emily Laskowski 


Paleo f(x) 

By now, most have heard of the new (but actually very old) way of eating called Paleo—a diet consisting of foods our ancestors likely ate, such as meat, nuts, and berries, and excluding processed, high-carb foods and dairy products. Austinites may be even more familiar with the term since the largest Paleo conference in the world is held right in our own backyard.

Keith and Michelle Norris decided to create an experience in Austin to help people explore the functional side of Paleo, and in March of 2012, the first Paleo f(x) conference was held. In 2013 and 2014, the conference doubled in size each year, and in 2015 the crowd of attendees more than tripled. The quickly growing conference now has a team of employees, and almost 100 volunteers are needed to run each year’s event. Speakers and visitors have traveled from across the world to teach, learn, sell, buy, and taste all things Paleo.

While the Paleo f(x) conference plans to expand to more cities around the world, Michelle said that Austin was the perfect place to launch the project because of its growing culture of fit-minded people, adding that Austin has one of the largest Paleo meetup groups in the country, with more than 1,700 people attending weekly events. 

“We call [Austin] the epicenter of physical culture,” Michelle said, “and it’s also the epicenter of the Paleo-sphere.”
 – Lauren Pape 

 


Vital Farms 

“Going local” is a highly touted belief system here in the heart of Texas. Local restaurants, gyms, beers and even local eggs are placed on a pedestal among Austinites who appreciate the heart and soul behind startups.  

So when Matt O’Hayer and his wife, Catherine Stewart, thought about starting a company devoted to “going local”—with an emphasis on sustainability—they couldn’t think of a better place to start a business than Austin. 

In 2007, O’Hayer proposed the idea to his wife about getting back to their roots and living the farm life. Vital Farms, a hen farm and egg supplier, was born. 

O’Hayer had raised chickens in his youth and got his start in the egg business as a teenager in 1968 by selling eggs door-to-door on the Brown University campus. 

Thirty-nine years (and much business experience) later, he was ready for a new adventure—particularly with the heightened awareness around “buying organic” and “cage-free” eggs.
After conceptualizing their business idea, the couple moved to Austin, purchased a small piece of land, and began raising their first flock of 50 rescued, organic laying hens.

Within months, the pasture-raised, organic eggs were being sold to farmers markets around the metro area, and were soon selected to stock the shelves at the king of healthy grocers: Whole Foods Market in Austin. 

Vital Farms only continued to grow from there.  

The entrepreneur in O’Hayer saw the opportunity to do something more than just sell eggs to a few stores, and with encouragement from his wife and the help of a Whole Food’s Local Producer Loan, he transformed a backyard pastime into a transformational business. 

One by one, Vital Farms started to supply their pastured eggs to hundreds of grocery stores and restaurants coast to coast. The couple worked hard with new farmers around the country to create the highest level of quality and accountability on their own farms.

Today, Vital Farms is in partnership with approximately 90 independent small family farmers in six states and has set the national standard for the hen welfare with their authentic, pasture-raised product (not to mention eye-catching graphics and design on their egg cartons). 

In doing so, Vital Farms has sparked a movement of conscious consumerism. They now spread the endeared Texas belief system of “going local” nationwide—encouraging consumers to migrate from their traditional egg choices while creating opportunities for more family farms to move away from harmful industrial practices.
– Lauryn Lax 


Austin Sports & Social Club 

What do you get when you combine a city of singles (approximately one-third of Austin’s adult population is single) who have a love for fitness and keeping active with social events practically every night of the week?

You get Austin Sports & Social Club. 

Founded in September 2005 by Marc Tucci, the club started out with kickball teams before expanding to include flag football and volleyball. Today, it boasts up to 14 different sports leagues, plus regular group fitness classes and a jam-packed social scene at various locations throughout the city (think happy hours, kickball and softball pick-ups, and restaurant outings). 

Even the non-athletic can find a sense of community. All Sunday Funday games are followed by an official, post-game happy hour. The club website states, “Professionals need not apply. This one is for the masters of the 12-ounce curls!”

For the more sports-driven folks, the competition scene is what you make it, and there are plenty of opportunities to be “on top.” 

Tucci’s Austin Sports and Social Club is busy making fun happen here in Austin—serving our city of fitness enthusiasts and social butterflies alike. 

– Lauryn Lax 


Tommy’s Superfoods 

Ever since childhood, Austinite Tommy Williams knew he would be involved in the food business. A professed “foodie,” he grew up walking the aisles of the original Whole Foods Market.

His childhood hobbies included slicing, dicing, stirring, and cooking meals with his parents in their kitchen.  

After Williams graduated from Concordia University in 2010, he felt a passionate call to enter the food industry with his best friend, and co-founder, Justin Yeager. With support from his father and brother, the family business was launched as Tommy’s Superfoods: all natural products made from recipes created by Williams and derived from fresh and organic ingredients. 

Described by Yeager as a “bootstrap business,” the company has continued to expand on a small budget. Striving to “innovate an outdated category,” the duo decided to redirect their products from salsas and seasonings to focus on frozen foods. After making the shift, Tommy’s Superfoods was fortuitously picked up by Whole Foods and H-E-B and is quickly expanding to the national market. 

Their current frozen meals include: Santa Fe Rice Vegetable Medley, Fiesta Quinoa Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Cajun Potatoes, and Super Greens (Spinach and Kale Medley).

Vegan, healthy, all-natural, and easily cooked, each side dish boasts a unique blend of Williams’ spice mixes.

This Austin-based family business has become the poster child of a boy having a dream and making it come to fruition.  
– Kristen Turner 

 

 

WORKING ON IT

Mitscoots 

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 


Juice Society 

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 


Petcru.com 

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 


PatientIO.com 

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 

 

 

 

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