If you’re an entrepreneur, then you can definitely relate to the following. You’re faced with a problem, over and over again. Sometimes irritated, more than likely frustrated, you’re eager to find the ultimate solution. Ideas come to you in waves—sometimes off, then sometimes on. Then one day, it finally hits you. While mulling it over in your head, you decide to take action and draft your business idea.
Meet Catherine Chan, the founder of FitIn, an online portal providing gym-goers and health enthusiasts with the opportunity to search for and try different workout experiences. We’ve taken some time to capture what her new business journey has been like for her.
How did you get your idea for FitIn?
It came from trying to find myself a Yin Yoga class (after I blew out my knee, I couldn’t run as much). I had to do a google search to find the gyms, then I had to go through every single one of their websites separately to find the class times. I ended up making myself a spreadsheet so I knew who had classes when and where, and it drove me crazy that it took so long! A week later I had to do a similar exercise for my daughter, and at that point, I thought that THERE MUST BE A BETTER WAY. I wished there was a Trip Advisor for fitness classes; the other apps out there just weren’t cutting it – they only went halfway. After talking to enough people who all said, “HOW does this not exist yet?!”, I decided to build it myself!
FitIn is…well, imagine you could go to ONE website to find ANY type of movement or fitness class or activity. Now imagine you could search easily through different types of classes, and filter by area, amenities or price. You could also read reviews, class descriptions and instructor bios to make sure you’d be happy going there. Imagine you could even investigate a Personal Trainer and see what they each had to offer. And you could simply, easily book that final decision without having to go anywhere else. And when you DO know what you’re looking for, you can search and book in only 2 clicks!
What types of challenges are you facing as an entrepreneur?
Where to start? But I think the biggest challenge is that of time…it’s important to me to keep a good work-life balance, even though that’s not what’s expected of an entrepreneur; and yet there’s always more work to be done. As a sole proprietorship, I need to be the expert at everything, I need to do every single thing myself (whether it’s pitching to a crowd or data entry), but I still have to make time for my kid and myself. It could also look like: I have a partner meeting tomorrow but I really need it to be next month, because I don’t have enough stats yet. Or it could be roadblocks that slow you down and sets your carefully-crafted business plan back 6 months.
Are there any tools or tips you could share with other budding entrepreneurs and start-ups?
To be honest, the most valuable tip is the MaRS Entrepreneurship 101 course. Aside from that, it’s to get out there and learn. Go to panel discussions. Go to fireside chats. Go to lectures. My favourite has always been the pitch nights, because I’m so inspired by hearing all these other great ideas that people are having and working towards. The passion they speak with when they’re in front of an investor panel holds a mirror to what I’m doing, and it re-invigorates my own love for FitIn.
“I guess, coming from the fittech space, it would have to be to JUST DO IT! Don’t worry about next month, even if you don’t know how to do that thing that’s looming next month. Because you don’t know how to do it YET; in the future, you will.”
Company culture at FitIn
It’s inclusive. We acknowledge that everyone is different, has come from different experiences, and wants different things for their lives. We respect diversity and celebrate it, because it brings so much more to our world than homogeny. The amount of choice that this brings to our fitness options is just incredible…diversity means having dozens of different martial arts to learn. Or how many different types of dance? Other forms of movement and wellness come from varied cultures and countries, and we are made the better from them, physically and spiritually. This is why our company slogan is “FitIn as yourself.”
Growth & expansion — where do you see yourself in the following 12 months?
Tons! We just launched our Beta on June 1st, so over the next 12 months is where you will see FitIn grow into its final form. We are also excited to be looking for strategic partnerships with other fitness and health/mental health services. (Shoutout because #mentalhealthishealth)
What is the best advice you can give to new entrepreneurs?
I guess, coming from the fittech space, it would have to be “JUST DO IT!!” The corollary to that, though, is to remember that you can only do today’s work today. Don’t worry about next month, even if you don’t know how to do that thing that’s looming next month. You don’t know how to do it YET; future you will.
Just for fun—how would you describe the colour yellow?
It’s the colour you feel when your service dog gets its harness off and finally gets to shower you with sloppy hugs and kisses of love.
Can you recommend any fun activities that smaller companies could take part in to build team morale?
Definitely an activity of some kind…there are fitness events all over the city and some are perfect for small teams, and we aim to make it easier for you to find them! The best part about physical activity is that it DOES bring people together, working towards a common goal, even if that goal is simply “fun”. Active movement is the opposite of what is done in a traditional office, where everyone sits, so getting up and out is a wonderful break and can’t help but get everyone smiling.
What’s the worst piece of advice any other entrepreneur has given you? What’s the best?
Perhaps I’m just a little risk-adverse, but I tossed the advice to not have people sign an NDA during the research phase (protect yourself!). The best advice was to launch the beta way before my ego was prepared to. An acquaintance reminded me yesterday of the famous Reid Hoffman quote “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
Starting a new business is exciting—can you tell us some of the things you’ve had to consider as an entrepreneur that aren’t directly related to your business but are exceptionally critical to it?
It was incredibly important to me that I did things properly, so I made sure that I sourced the right companies for some of the business foundations. Example: I took the time to interview and find the right lawyer, the right payment platform. I did the same with my insurance company, Zensurance. Each company has its own specialty, and aligning yourself with someone who not just understands and provides a service to startups but also supports and can grow with them is crucial. I can’t imagine how much time it will save me in the future when I know I’m already in good hands.