We talked to Jonas Urbonas of Orfi Active on how to organize sessions or teams of your own and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jonas Urbonas: We’re doing great. We had our first baby this year, so it added another dimension to the challenge of 2020. But as a family, we embrace challenges. The only thing that we miss, though, both being immigrants, is our family. Not being able to travel back home to Lithuania and show the baby, spend Christmas together, etc.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Orfi Active.
Jonas Urbonas: Originally from Lithuania, I was always interested in tech, sport, and design. At 18 years old, I went to study in Aarhus, Denmark, for a few years before coming to London, UK, where I achieved a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. During my last year at university is where the idea for Orfi Active started brewing. I am a basketball fanatic who regularly plays the sport, but as an immigrant who didn’t know anyone in London, I struggle to find places and people to play the sport. I couldn’t find any solution out there, so I decided to start designing my idea for it.
So it started as one of my university projects that turned into a side hustle while having a full-time job at a financial institution to becoming my main business. I have a few failed attempts at this but persevered. We are now confident that Orfi Active will become the go-to place for people to discover, join, organize, and manage their sports and fitness activities worldwide, starting with the UK.
How does Orfi Active innovate?
Jonas Urbonas: Orfi Active began as a solution to a problem. If you move to a new area, how do you find sports teams and fitness activities? How do you discover new sports you’ve never tried before? And if you want to organize these events yourself, how do you draw in participants?
The app can either organize or participate. As an organizer, you create sports and fitness events, manage payments, and ensure drop-outs don’t affect your sessions’ quality through waiting lists and group chats. Plus, recurring events cut down on admin, leaving you free to enjoy your sessions. As a participant, you can see what is happening near you and around the country and quickly book your place.
We are the matchmakers of organizers and participants to make sure people can get active and healthy wherever they are.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jonas Urbonas: The pandemic has affected significantly as our core business is getting people together to get them active and healthy. Once lockdown began, all of our sports sessions have stopped, so we became entirely irrelevant. However, we’ve adapted by introducing live online workouts and exclusive video workouts with our fitness and sports partners to help people get active and healthy at the comfort of their homes.
Also, what the pandemic has highlighted is the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Next year, we are in an excellent position to offer attendance tracking, cashless payments, in-app communications, and other features helping sports teams, big or small, adapt to the new world and contribute to participants multiple ways to get active.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jonas Urbonas: There are difficult choices to be made every single day. That’s the nature of a startup. One of the most difficult decisions we had to make this year was understanding how much of a pivot is needed for us to stay alive as a startup. Do we completely transfer to online workouts, or do we keep the fundamental idea and mission and make sure we are ready for when sport comes back to normal. So while we introduced a few online features to keep our current users engaged, we are wholly focused on making sure we are there when people are ready to come back to the sport. Otherwise, it would merely become a distraction.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Orfi Active in the future?
Jonas Urbonas: A healthy diet, sleep, meditation, exercise, and purposeful downtime. Together, all these things put me in a position to deal with stress effectively and with a clear mind, helping me make quick decisions and carry on without looking back.
In the future, we aim to become the app you would use to get active anywhere in the world. Whether you travel for work, holiday, or just moved to a new city, we would be there to offer you an easy way to discover and join a multitude of sport and fitness activities near you.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Jonas Urbonas: A few startups are trying to do something similar. But we see Facebook Groups, Meetup.com, and WhatsApp Groups as our main competitors as that is where most of our users currently hang out. They have a terrible experience as those platforms are not tailored for this purpose.
Your final thoughts?
Jonas Urbonas: Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. The word and idea of entrepreneurship are widely known to a point where people start businesses for the sake of either being ‘cool’ or for the freedom it brings of being your boss. That’s a false narrative. Entrepreneurship is hard, lonely, requiring thick skin, patience, and dedication. The success rate of a startup is meager. So unless you genuinely cannot live without building something of your own, do not underestimate being a 3rd or 4th person in a young company or an employee in an established company with brilliant culture, community, and idea in which you genuinely believe.
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