We talked to Megan Smyth of FitReserve about its Unlimited live and on-demand workouts from the top studios and instructors.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Megan Smyth: Life has certainly been an adjustment, but fortunately, we are all safe and healthy at this time.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded FitReserve.
Megan Smyth: I am the CEO and co-founder of FitReserve, a multi-studio fitness membership launched in 2015 to fill a void in the market: accessing all classes at the premier fitness studios while enabling members to mix and match workouts to create a routine that fits their lifestyle. Additionally, FitReserve serves as an effective marketing platform for studios to attract new customers and fill empty spots. By early 2020, we had over 2,000 premier studio and gym partners offering more than 200,000 monthly classes across six major U.S. markets with four additional geographies slated to launch.
A fitness-class enthusiast and marathon runner, I started FitReserve to pursue my passion for entrepreneurship and fitness and inspire others to live healthier, more active lives. Previously, I spent over a decade in the corporate world, ranging from public and investor relations to equity research and investment banking. I earned an MBA in finance from The Wharton School and a BS in French from Georgetown University.
How does FitReserve innovate?
Megan Smyth: My co-founders and I have always stayed close to our customers by doing frequent calls with studio and gym owners, regularly reviewing customer support emails, and speaking with members. This ongoing communication has allowed us to stay ahead of market trends, business owners’ needs, and evolving consumer interests.
For example, surveys showed early on that many members were complementing their studio classes with at-home workouts. This data prompted us to pursue a partnership with Aaptiv, the leading provider of audio-based fitness classes, well before the onset of COVID-19. With the contract already in place and development underway, we were able to quickly offer Aaptiv as a value-add and source of member retention when studios had to pause operations due to the pandemic.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Megan Smyth: We never imagined a day when all of our studio and gym partners would be required to halt operations, resulting in a nearly 100% loss of revenue overnight. Our studio partners turned to offering live stream classes and needed a way to market them; our members wanted to continue their workout routines from home while staying engaged with their instructors and other class participants. To meet these needs, we pivoted quickly and doubled down on product development to launch FitReserve Anywhere. FitReserve Anywhere is a monthly subscription that allows members to choose from thousands of live fitness classes streamed daily and hundreds of on-demand workouts that can be taken at any time. While we are looking forward to safely returning to in-studio classes, we also are excited to be able to offer our members the convenience of experiencing the best instructors and studios from across the country, including CorePower Yoga, Exhale, The Bar Method, Physique 57, 305 Fitness, TITLE Boxing, and more.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Megan Smyth: Absolutely! For one, we were working with amazing teams for advertising, PR, and sales/business development, and we had to put their work on pause. Fortunately, they were all working on a contract basis, but it was still difficult (albeit necessary) to stop allocating resources to these initiatives.
Secondly, we decided to freeze all in-studio memberships for the foreseeable future and double-down on our new virtual membership instead of offering a hybrid model. This was a difficult choice, but our priority was to ensure our members’ safety while maintaining a consistent experience. With the uncertainty of government regulations regarding capacity restrictions, the risk of re-activating in-studio memberships at the wrong time was too great. Hindsight is always 20/20, but with COVID cases on the rise and more lockdowns on the horizon, we are confident we made the right decision. We plan to continue to focus on digital memberships until the pandemic subsides. We are confident that we can deliver a safe and consistent experience to our members and studio partners.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and FitReserve in the future?
Megan Smyth: Especially in uncertain times like these, I always try to take it one day at a time and focus on the things we can control while taking the longer-term view. I believe that optimizing for your success with the resources you have while continually relaying a sense of confidence and optimism for the future is the best path forward.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Megan Smyth: With the onset of the pandemic, nearly the entire fitness industry turned online to host classes on YouTube, Zoom, Instagram Live, and more to maintain consumer engagement and pursue alternative revenue sources. Add this to the already successful and well-funded offerings like Peloton, Mirror, Tonal, Aaptiv, among others. The competition was intense. Additionally, many studios and instructors were offering classes for free, thinking this was a temporary fix. However, reality soon set in that the pandemic would not be short-lived, and the free classes became unsustainable.
FitReserve’s focus has always been to curate the premier fitness experiences and to deliver a wide variety of workouts to our members in the most convenient manner with the best pricing. Our mission remains unchanged; with more quality options available, we can continue to execute this mission and partner with the increasing number of content providers to offer our members the best classes available anytime, anywhere.
Your final thoughts?
Megan Smyth: No one could have been prepared for the effects of this pandemic on our lives or our businesses. However, as an entrepreneur, you must always be prepared to change and adapt. We are true believers in the quote that “sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”
There is no doubt that the fitness world will continue to evolve. Until there is widespread distribution of a vaccine, it is unlikely we will see a packed shoulder-to-shoulder indoor cycling class as we have become so accustomed to in recent years. Despite this, the significance of health, wellness, and staying active has not changed. We would argue that wellness has only become more important, if not the most important aspect of people’s lives. As such, we are excited to continue to grow FitReserve Anywhere and continue to deliver the best experiences that inspire healthier, happier, and more active lives.
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