Hanging With Kimberly McIntosh from Buddee.Fitness

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Gen caught up with Kimberly from Buddee.Fitness. Buddee saw a couple of problems within the fitness industry: Clients were struggling to find fitness assistance & didn’t know where to start. And, Fitness professionals were battling to maintain a sustainable career. So they decided to fix it by launching a marketplace for trainers and clients to connect.

Watch our interview or read the transcript below:


Gen: Hi guys, my name's Gen. I'm from tamme, LMBDW etc, you all know the drill. Today we're here or here. I'm here in San Francisco, and Kim's in Sydney?
Kim: Sydney. Sydney.
Gen: Sydney. Awesome. And, who the hell are you?
Kim: Who the hell am I? That's a good question, I ask myself that sometimes.
Gen: [inaudible 00:00:18] who are you?
Kim: Who are you?
Gen: No in the water, Lion King style, you know?
Kim: Yeah. Totally, totally. Hello everyone. So, yes I'm Kim and I am in Sydney, Australia. My background is all over the place really. I was sort of on the fitness side, stuck into ski boots before I could walk, being from Canada. Did the ski mountains and the gym junkie in university, and the crossfit and the spin and the PT up until present day, on the side. It's just what I live and breathe, and my hobby, hobby time. Career-wise, I was in finance in Canada. Then moving to Australia six years ago, I found myself at Twitter. Then most recently at Telstra on a big data team. Now, I'm working full-time for Buddee.Fitness.
Gen: Awesome. How did you come up with the idea to then where it is today. How did you do those first tests to really figure out if this is what you want to do?
Kim: Yeah, good question. Well, Buddee.Fitness, is pretty much very simply, a tool or platform that matches people with fitness professionals on demand. That sort of, aha, moment came when ... I normally took clients myself at six a.m. to seven a.m. before I went to work my nine to five office job. I remember at 5:55 I was standing in the park. I had lugged all my weights to the park. My dog was running around, and my client did the good old, "I slept in, I'm not gonna make it" text, which happens a lot. It was 5:55, and I thought, it's a shame. I'm here, I got all my gear. Surely there's someone in suburbia around me who slept in, missed their yoga class, and could skedaddle down in 15 minutes and train.
Kim: Then I started asking around, everyone I knew in the industry. Full-time PTs, Yoga, Pilates, everyone, kind of going, "How do you find clients? How do you keep them? What happens when they cancel on you? What happens when people go away for four or five weeks over the holiday season?" There seemed to be consistent pinpoints, going, It's hard to find new clients. It's hard to market to them. It's hard to train the ones you do have, and focus on the business admin stuff. Especially, the pinpoint that I found was sort of sad, was the more you got into your career, and the older you got towards your 30s and 40s, and wanted to start a family, that's when the struggle hits where you don't wanna work at six a.m. or six p.m., 'cause that's when you wanna spend time with your family. How do you find those clients in the daytime hours, who are looking for trainers, but there seemed to be a disconnect, so thus Buddee Fitness, the connector.
Gen: Nice. Then from going, okay this is ... obviously you're living and breathing the model yourself, what were the first things you did to try and get those first clients on? Was it a blog? Did you build the website at ... How'd you approach that?
Kim: Yeah, so we, my co founder and I, put up this ridiculous pilot website in a day. Very, very simple with Google Forums, and we just said, hey, if you're in Bondi, Which is where I'm from, and kind of where my network was, if you're a trainer, and you wanna find clients, fill in your details. Then we had one for clients as well going, if you are in the area, and you are struggling to find a fitness professional, get in touch and we'll match you, no strings attached. I literally was sitting there with my Google Forums, and my phone, calling people, asking what kind of training they wanted to do, and then calling the trainers. Within three weeks we had over 50 fitness professionals sign up-
Gen: That's great. Yeah.
Kim: Across all different disciplines.
Gen: [crosstalk 00:03:55] that's insane.
Kim: We had the martial arts, and the ... yeah. The people were really interesting to talk to, and we literally talked to over 25 people, understanding their pinpoints. We kind of jotted them all down, and saw the similarities. Some couldn't find ... Sorry got a motorbike leaving.
Gen: No it's fine.
Kim: Yeah, so the pinpoints we thought were there were really justified by those first users. Some of those ones are actually the first ones on our app, which is really exciting.
Gen: Then, obviously the very smart matching algorithm that you have working between, [crosstalk 00:04:30] you.
Kim: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Of course.
Gen: Which is very [crosstalk 00:04:33] the place to start right? It's a manual process.
Kim: Oh totally, totally. But, it's hands on it and it's great.
Gen: Oh exactly, and you see a lot of markup for all of the businesses and start ups in general I guess, that waste too much money on that first [inaudible 00:04:47] lots of manual work and now that you've been through it, what's your view on that?
Kim: Yeah, it's definitely very manual I'd say, which isn't a bad thing. We probably made that mistake only for a couple of weeks where we started to go down the rabbit hole of, how can we automate everything? And you know, after about a week of research I realized, wow, that's a week where we haven't really been productive and we don't have the numbers to automate yet.
Kim: So let's just do the down and dirty. Even some of our stuff right now is fairly manual but that's the best part is you learn and you get to connect with those people. And I'm a PT, I live to connect with people, so I love it. [crosstalk 00:05:28] Don't, don't automate, I still want to talk to people! But, yeah definitely the down and dirty you know, Google Forum, even walking around and talking to people. Don't invest in anything too high tech until you get the solutions-
Gen: You know the process right? [crosstalk 00:05:45] Yeah, of course. And then those first users and trying to then take it that next level of an automated platform, et cetera, where are you at with that? And kind of, what are the decisions you've made around that?
Kim: Yeah so right now we've got our beta apps live in the app store right now, we sent those out in September and you know that whole, you always hit go before you're ready, mantra. That's what we did. We all kind of shivered and went, live.
Gen: Run.
Kim: Yeah. We got just under 30 fitness professionals on the platform at the moment, and they're all really high quality fitness professionals, which I kind of thought whoever we get on will be fantastic. The ones who are on board, just years of experience and just super keen to help.
Gen: That's great.
Kim: They all want to give feedback and have ideas on how to make it a community feel which is fantastic, so we've logged all of this feedback. We've also had just under a hundred downloads on the client side where we've spoken to them as well. And we're at the stage where we've got sort of our skeleton app, shall I say, in the app store. We're going through all of this feedback and reading between the lines and really understand the viral features that people want. A lot of it is around, it's probably no surprise, but they want to share it, and refer it, and kind of boast about it, so how can we best automate that process? The sharing, and the network effect through Buddee.Fitness. That's kind of where we're at, designing all of that and thank God my co-founder, her expertise is UX and product design so ...
Gen: That's awesome, and how do you go about finding a co-founder? 'Cause, you know, it is marriage.
Kim: It is marriage, 100%. I call her first thing in the morning before I even hit snooze I think. So, I was actually really fortunate. I started off as a sole founder for the first couple of months where I literally just had this 50 page, really bad business plan. Running around, talking to everyone I could, going "This is my idea, how do I get it built? How do I get the funding to get it built? Where do I start?" Cause I don't have the technical background. Literally through networking, which I can't express enough is so important to do, and I don't like calling it networking, just talk to people.
Gen: Yeah.
Kim: Make friends with people, that's all it is. Networking has this daunting, sort of, meaning around it-
Gen: Business [00:08:12]
Kim: Yeah, yeah! I literally was telling a co-worker when I was at Twitter at the time about my project, just to see what she thought, and she was the one who connected me with my co-founder. She said, "I know a really amazing UX designer, she has her own studio, you should just talk to her." And so I did! I just talked to her, and she loved the idea and she understood it from a different perspective from me, which was really valuable, as I'm the trainer, rah-rah, everyone needs to train and she came from that client perspective, where she wasn't really into fitness. She has three kids, she knows she needs to get more active, doesn't know where to start, and saw the value in it. So, that's kind of how I... about my co-founder.
Kim: We had all the hard conversations at the beginning, which is something I think a lot of co-founders don't do. They just, they get along and they're so ken to hit the ground running. They miss those conversations, and my co-founder and I kind of said, lets have a chat, lets talk about all the hard things, if we have a fight, if we disagree, if I ... knock on wood [crosstalk 00:09:16]
Gen: Go crazy tomorrow and you-
Kim: Yeah-
Gen: You know, what does separation look like?
Kim: Exactly, if I disappear of the planet, how do we make sure that you have access to everything I have access too, so those are sort of key things you want to talk about first I'd say.
Gen: Yeah.
Kim: It also has helped with investor conversations now, were about to enter a seed race in the new year. And those are the questions they get. What happens if you and your con-founder don't get along and we've got all the answers. And they're in our share holders agreement. And we know them, so, yeah.
Gen: Well you hope you do.
Kim: Yeah, yeah. And I'll throw in that we do have a third co-founder as well. We brought in our CTO about a year in. Who is absolutely amazing, but he's done all the build and he's absolutely amazing as well. And a swing dancer so he likes to move-
Gen: That's good-
Kim: Yeah, yeah.
Gen: That's great. And so from raising the seed round, how have you approached this?
Kim: There's that word networking again. I've been going to a lot of events. And just speaking to people-
Gen: Fancy events-
Kim: ... yeah, fancy events, and less fancy events. Again, being a trainer I tend to drag people out for a run on the beach. Which lets me talk most of the time.
Gen: Yes and so the-
Kim: Yeah, exactly. Yeah it's been interesting, just going to a lot of meetings, talking to people again, a lot of research, a lot, a lot of research at crunchbase.com, and those, sort of websites to understand not just any leasing firm or any [inaudible 00:10:48], but people who really understand market places. Who understand health and fitness. Who understand mental health, that's big component of what were doing as well in our long term plans. And ones who have the risk appetite of, you do follow in the trap of people who are interested, but all they do is ask questions and give you work to answer back, but they haven't invested. They haven't connected you with anyone. I'm sure they don't mean too.
Gen: Yeah.
Kim: But, you kind of need to learn how to filter that out and know that your times very valuable on the product and to know the key ones who actually might be interested in this next round and keeping them up to date with your monthly reports and just checking in now and then. Again, it's just building relationships.
Gen: Yeah, definitely.
Kim: Yeah.
Gen: Your cultures quite unique as you are the, rah-rah trainer, and you know you got the other side, it's a unique blend of people personality, backgrounds, experience et cetera.
Kim: Yeah.
Gen: Which is your special source at the end of the day, right?
Kim: Yeah.
Gen: The magic behind the scenes.
Kim: Yeah.
Gen: How do you create your culture? How do you view that you guys are going to emulate this to your next high as you want co-founders?
Kim: Yeah.
Gen: How do you approach all this?
Kim: That's a veery good question.
Gen: That's the billion dollar question.
Kim: I know, and I guess I kind of see my job as making sure that my other two co-founders have all the tools they need to do what they do best. I don't have a tech background, like I said, so I'm forever grateful to my CTO who's a co-founder and product design. I can only go so far in keynote and then it looks like the dogs breakfast so ...
Gen: Yeah
Kim: She pulls in that branch of it. We are a remote team, were all in Sydney.
Gen: Yeah.
Kim: But, just with schedules and lifestyles were all over 30, as well. So we do a weekly check in call, every week. We always try and put face time in at least once a week. Even if it's on face time, on your phone. And little check-ins when ever we have a second or we've got slack. I'll try and check in and go, how are you. I include their spouses as well, I see their spouses as part of our team. People might have different opinions, but our teams support each other and I think their spouses support them. And it's all part of the eco system. I mean, if you don't have people around you who understand that you're going to be on your laptop at 11:00 at night before bed. Having that support is just so expensive, it's not expensive, it's important.
Gen: Critical, yeah [crosstalk 00:13:17]
Kim: So kind of treating it like a family, yeah.
Gen: Yeah, especially at this young age in the infancy of the business it's really important to get this right, so that's great. What are some of the challenges that you've had whether it's from team, culture, tech, marketing, I don't know-
Kim: Yeah.
Gen: What are the biggest challenges?
Kim: All of it. I think our biggest challenge is going to be getting the word out there. Were relatively new.
Gen: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Kim: And we don't have the brand awareness yet. I don't think it's, well, it's not going to be a show stopper, but that will just be the challenge is getting people to trust and I think the way the market is going, especially in Australia the US is a little more advanced with at home services. Bringing people to your home. Australia is getting there, you know you got sort of, flexible studio classes now with class pass and mind body, so it's sort of getting people comfortable with that behavior shift of, someone can actually come to your home and you can do Yoga in your backyard and it will actually take 45 minutes.
Gen: Yeah.
Kim: I... instead of the two hours to get there, come home, shower, get ready again, so-
Gen: And go back.
Kim: Yeah that will be a challenge, but a good challenge.
Gen: Yeah.
Kim: We've got a lot of fun sort of marketing plans and stories were going to try and tell and get people involved, to kind of break down that barrier, but-
Gen: Yeah.
Kim: ... I think that's the biggest challenge, everything else is just normal operations challenges that everyone faces that's just life of having a start up.
Gen: Definitely, as your role as a leader how do you ensure that you'll continually developing to stay ahead of the curve, what your team actually needs?
Kim: I'm reading a lot. I subscribed to probably more than I should-
Gen: Yep-
Kim: ... just articles and news sources, and not just tech related. You want to get in the heads of, we've got two sides of our market place, right. So I need to keep on top of what's happening in the fitness industry, I also need to keep track of who our users are and what they're doing, so you know if they're stay at home parents, maybe moms and dads groups, if they're travelers, you know, follow and see what the trends are with Kepa and Airlines, and then also Fitness Australia. What are they doing? What's the market doing in the US? Just research, research, and then also technologies.
Kim: I think I've mentioned it three times now, I'm not a tech background so, I don't want to frustrate my team with answering really dumb questions, or asking really dumb questions, so I'll try my best to research stuff so if they suggest we use new platform, I'll go research and go, "Oh what is mixed panel." I really need to understand everything about it and why they want to use it so I can support their decision and we can just move quickly and go, yep, lets buy it, I'll put it in, create everyone accounts and they go of in running and can do their jobs. I think that's it, just keeping on top of both industries, on both sides of the market place and educating yourself around your weaknesses, to a point. You don't need to master it, that why you have co-founders.
Gen: Yeah that's fair enough. And that balance is really important, `cause your skill sets are completely different and have as purpose, verses their skill sets. [crosstalk 00:16:31]
Kim: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Gen: With that, what are sort of some of the books, the ones that have had a massive impact in the decisions you've made [crosstalk 00:16:41] business?
Kim: Some of the books?
Gen: Yeah, or even podcast, or ...
Kim: Yep. I have actually podcast, I wish I had time for podcasts. I've been doing audible.
Gen: Yeah.
Kim: They summarize a book in minutes and you can read it in two times speed. Don't suggest that. Don't understand a word they're saying. The Lean Start Up is a good one. Good to Great I've read. There was another really good one, what is it, it's by a ex sniper in the US. It had a different approach, but I like reading ones that have different approaches to leadership.
Gen: Yeah.
Kim: That are short, not too long.
Gen: Yes.
Kim: My theory is, that if it's 600 or 700 page book, that's the editor trying to make it really worth the value they're selling to for. I think really books have key points and if you can get those out and run, which audible does really well.
Gen: Yeah.
Kim: Yeah
Gen: That's great.
Kim: Yeah.
Gen: And then with I guess the next steps of the business, you got the [inaudible 00:17:44] what are the sort of metrics as a two side [inaudible 00:17:46] that you were really focusing on to really understand what's working in the business[crosstalk 00:17:50] is to really [inaudible 00:17:52] that two sided place for it?
Kim: Yeah it's a balance. We never had the chicken or egg question, which think a lot of market places struggle with my theory was, you never open a shop with no inventory on the shelf's. So we've spent a lot of time getting our key supply side there. So our trainers, making sure that they're profiles are at a certain standard, that we are able to show the value they can offer and experience, they can offer to their clients. So that's our number one in building that up first. And then we release it to the clients, and then the metrics we want to measure are the sessions booked ... at the end of the day. And those are the ones that we plugged into our financial forecast to make sure in two years time we've got this many sessions happening per month and we got this much supply available to do that.
Kim: The client count is important, but it'll be really interesting to know our numbers in two years and watch if were hitting the monthly numbers we need whether it's, we just have an influx of new clients every month, or do we have a smaller base of clients that are doing repeat bookings. Those are two scenarios. And you kind of have to put two or three scenarios into your model and then just see which ones start picking up.
Gen: And assume a lot of portion from [inaudible 00:19:08] as well-
Kim: ... yeah-
Gen: Always had that base, plus newbies coming through on top, right?
Kim: Exactly, exactly.
Gen: And I guess you starting to look at your cost to acquire customer your lifetime values, all though its only a few months in term rates and things like that?
Kim: Yeah definitely. It's usually at the beginning you've got some statistics and some numbers you're putting it against, but it's a little bit [crosstalk 00:19:28] finger in the air and we just keep sort of a tight ship of ... numbers are my baby, I love Excel. So you just check in sort of every day, every week going, okay what's it look like? Where are the numbers moving, and then once we get our launch out of the way and the new year and we get some more substantial numbers, we'll really be able to test our hypothesis and do a little bit of a retro to see what worked, what didn't work, if we need to iterate. Yeah that's just the cycle, yeah.
Gen: And if you were starting again, tomorrow-
Kim: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Gen: ... What are the things that you would do or the things that you would skip that you wish you knew about?
Kim: I think I would have come on full time a lot sooner. It's a struggle being a ... if your single living in an expensive city you need to pull an income. It's just not rocket science and I don't think living on the streets is success for a start up model. But, I probably would have tried to hustle and somehow, gotten on full time a lot sooner. But, other than that, that was it ... we found our co-founders pretty quickly, we acted really quickly on getting to make sure that everyone was in agreement and where were going, just speed on getting full time I think is the biggest learning, yeah-
Gen: Awesome that's exciting. And so, what's next for you guys at Buddee.Fitness?
Gen: Yes, what's coming? 2019 is a big year. I'm already living in 2019 in my head.
Kim: Were not there yet.
Gen: I know, I know. So yeah what's next? Were just trying to get more and more clients on the platform, booking sessions is a key one, and talking to people if they're ever able to get in touch with us. We really want that actual voice time with them, scaling out to new cities is a big one. So were pushing right now for a Sydney area Northern Beaches and then in the new year we want to hit, obviously Melbourne, and we'll do a couple cities in Queensland as well.
Kim: Yeah.
Gen: And then look to take the model overseas, once we sort of have that proof that we've got a market fit and people are using it, we did want to offer it elsewhere. 'Cause it's a platform that I think is beneficial to a lot of other places.
Kim: Definitely, and is there any in particular direction that you would look to go too? Us, UK etcetera or is it al still up in the air at this point?
Gen: Yeah I think the easiest [inaudible 00:21:46] other countries that speak english just to avoid those barriers of course off the bat. So, you know, UK- I'm Canadian, but that will be inevitable at some stage [crosstalk 00:21:56] Yeah the US, definitely is on the maps. And my co-founders New Zealand I think that might just ... happen sooner than later it just-
Kim: It's like another state [crosstalk 00:22:07]-
Gen: Exactly, exactly.
Kim: The question I ask everyone is, if you could have a super power, what would it be and why?
Gen: Ah.
Kim: Yes this is the tough one, the real hard hitting question.
Gen: I know. I actually, I know that if I could turn into a whale.
Kim: A whale?
Gen: Yes.
Kim: Why a whale?
Gen: 'Cause it's similar to the question I always ask people if they'd want to be either eagle or a whale, what would they be? And I think the answers obvious. People say eagle and I don't get that. I say whale-
Kim: [crosstalk 00:22:39] water, yeah-
Gen: ... you can you just enter a different world and whales can go places humans have never been before [crosstalk 00:22:46] and I just think that is amazing. So if I could just be a whale for a few days a week and explore and whales have more emotions than humans. [crosstalk 00:22:56] which could be dangerous-
Kim: Motions or emotions?
Gen: Emotions, probably motions too [crosstalk 00:23:00]
Kim: They have more emotions. Well definitely more than me, but ...
Gen: Yeah so, I think that would be really good intellect to bring back into the human-
Kim: Definitely. That's interesting I've now learned something very different so thank you very much.
Gen: There you go.
Kim: You can't say super human strength, 'cause you've already got that.
Gen: My co-founders five year old is putting me to the test on that one, she's in gymnastics now.
Kim: No way?
Gen: Yeah.
Kim: [inaudible 00:23:29] competition all the way.
Gen: I know I need to pick up my game on that now.
Kim: And if anyone was to support Buddee.Fitness, where do they need to go?
Gen: Go to Health@Buddee.Fitness, that will come to me, or you can just reach me directly, I'll be happy to give my mobile, can I do that here?
Kim: Yeah, it'll be typed up in a transcript so go for it.
Gen: 0418962213 and that's my mobile not our customer service line, so get in touch, use the app, give us your feedback, share it with your friends. I'm on the app as well as a trainer so if you want to have a handstand competition [crosstalk 00:24:05]
Kim: Get your butt kicked.
Gen: Lets do it. Lets do lunges all the way down by the beach. And also were heading to the US in December and early January so any networks you have out there I'd love to chat and just get some relationships built.
Kim: Amazing, thank you so much-
Gen: Yeah-
Kim: Thanks for coming-
Gen: Thank you.
Kim: Thanks Gen.
Gen: We can click pause now.