About two weeks ago my company, GymBro processed more orders than our cash flow could handle. This was really, really cool. For anyone who has started up a company this is the type of problem you never want to run into, yet are somewhat accepting of. I’m here today to outline the path we’ve taken to grow GymBro to this point.
A little background about myself before we begin. I am a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh, I’m studying Business Information Systems and Information System Design. I’m not really sure what all that means but I work on programming and business, win-win right? My partner, Martin is a Pitt sophomore as well, finance major, I think. We co-founded GymBro in our dorm room during the second semester of last year, January 2014 to be exact.
Developing our idea
We didn’t really see a problem that we set out to fix, rather I pitched the idea of a subscription service for bodybuilding supplements to Martin. He liked it, kind of. Neither of us were really sure if people wanted a subscription service, but I built a website to test it out. This was our assumption, and we had to try to get real people to either validate it or prove to us it was false.
Three months of testing on our MVP proved that there might be potential. We initially laid out our website like any other supplement website (check bodybuilding.com if you are unfamiliar). It was cluttered, there was sensory overload, cognitive dissonance at every turn, and then when you wanted to buy something you had to enter extra information such as the length of your subscription, how frequently you wanted it to come, etc. The whole process of ordering a product from our website took too long, too many clicks involved.
At this point our customers were my mom, Martin’s friends from high school, and a few of my buddies at Pitt. Seriously, we sold product to maybe 15 people. The number is irrelevant, it is the feedback you get from these people that is invaluable. We learned the following…
- People want simple
- Our subscription service suggests “convenience”, our website needs to emulate that
- People want the truth
- People buy supplements with goals in mind
- People want quality
For us, as college freshman we went into this process with hundreds of assumptions. It is only through talking with your early adopters and initial customers that you can learn how to refine your product or service. This is an ongoing process. The list above is a short summary of what we learned from our initial launch. The next step was to take this information and apply it. We freelanced out to a Pitt Senior who is an extremely impressive back end developer. This was a mistake. We trusted a college senior to build our website on a freelance contract. What we didn’t think about was the fact that he was a college student, and (no offense to other college students reading this) he didn’t care. He didn’t share the vision that Martin and I had. He made a website, essentially another MVP. There were errors, bugs, issues left and right, but somehow, someway we increased our customer count close to 100 over the next five months. This was more friends and family, we had yet to get a customer that we didn’t know through someone.
That all changed about two weeks ago. Martin and I both knew that if GymBro was ever to scale we would need a different website, something simpler, easier to use, more convenient. We decided to have a promotion on a new product in the market to drive a lot of traffic to our design prototype and watch in real time how users reacted. The result was our highest grossing two days of sales ever.
Our objective with this new design was to give customers the opportunity to checkout and complete their purchase in under 5 “clicks”. On our old site, the minimum was 17 to just get to checkout… We watched in real-time as people went from the homepage to checkout, to confirmation email. We had people checking out, giving us their hard earned money in under 5 clicks, and it worked.
Again, the same process as before with my mom would occur after a purchase-we asked all these people about their experience. I actually gave people my personal phone number in the confirmation email, and I ended up having multiple conversations about what we did right and what we did wrong. We are currently taking all this information, which was surprisingly positive, and applying it to what we do next.
That is the process, learn from your customers and adapt.
Where we are at today
We have refined our concept and vision. GymBro started out with no problem to solve. We have learned from all of our interactions with users, and customers that there is a problem, a problem that we are getting closer to solving every day. People want what was outlined above, they want a service that is simple, modern, and honest, not Bodybuilding.com, not GNC.
Martin and I are college sophomores who are working a field we are extremely passionate about, learning everyday about how to better our service and fill the void that our target market sees. It helps that we love supplements and that we love working out-we want to create this solution for ourselves as personal users as much as we want to as businessmen.
My bedroom serves as our warehouse, we have had freight trucks come to our college house to deliver goods. Martin and I spend a few hours each week working on GymBro, either packing boxes, calling sales reps, or sampling products. We love doing this, it’s fun, and it keeps us out of trouble.
AlphaLab is a startup accelerator in Pittsburgh, PA that Martin and I plan to apply for the winter term. I have already gone to a few information sessions and met with the program manager. The response we get when we talk to people about GymBro and our philosophy is resoundingly positive.
The hope and goal is to get a seed investment to put towards improving our distribution channels, branding, and our online infrastructure.
Hopefully this time next year I will be writing a post about our series A round of funding, but until then this is all I have to share.