Up until now, I have featured only female entrepreneurs on this blog. (After all, the name of the blog is The Ladies who Launch!). But at this unprecedented time of COVID-19, like a good entrepreneur, I am pivoting to include male founders, whose stories of how they are adapting to the “new normal” are instructive to budding entrepreneurs everywhere.
Featuring Adam Pawelec and Monika Maj of WhyFit
WhyFit is a wellness app designed to help employers help employees lead healthier lives with a focus on a holistic approach that includes mindfulness, food, nutrition and exercise. WhyFit’s target market is small to medium-sized companies; each company pays a monthly subscription fee for each employee user.
When WhyFit first began (under a different name – Mad Body), it targeted the employee rather than the employer. Mad Body was having difficulty retaining users and founder Adam Pawelec realized that people, despite their good intentions, struggle to keep to their fitness goals. Life gets in the way, and, in particular – work. On average, people commute an average of 2 hours per day, work 8 hours, and return home to domestic responsibilities: dinner, childcare, chores. People spend an average of 90,000 hours at work over the course of their lifetimes – 1/3 of their lives. This was WhyFit’s aha moment – if the typical person has trouble incorporating fitness into their outside-of-work lives, then the answer was to bring health and well-being on site into their inside-of-work lives! With partner Monika Maj, he pivoted and began targeting employers, rather than employees, and WhyFit was born.
If ever there was ever another time for a business pivot, that time is now. Workers are (temporarily?) off-site, working from home. How will WhyFit pivot to face the unique challenges of a work-from-home workforce? I posed the following questions to Adam and Monika. Here are their answers:
What was WhyFit’s pre-pandemic business model?
WhyFit is a platform that helps employers run and manage their employee wellness program and fitness initiatives. Using the platform, employers can find vendors and services such as yoga instructors, massage therapists, fruit and healthy snack delivery to bring to the workplace. The platform was also designed to bring employees together in fun activities and it provides content – employees can participate in challenges, access fitness routines or learn about nutrition and stress management.
How are you turning the hurdle of social distancing into an opportunity? How has your business pivoted?
We have had to re-think the WhyFit platform and create new initiatives that embrace the new work-from-home (WFH) environment. We are pivoting to virtual or live wellness initiatives. We are now offering virtual classes such as yoga or stretching sessions with a live instructor. Employees can join a youtube live stream from the comfort of their own home. For those that miss out, they can re-watch a recorded version. Employees can still participate in various challenges and they can set reminders to help them in adapting healthier nutrition, activity, and stress management habits. Additionally, WhyFit is focusing on creating initiatives that help solve common problems in WFH environments such as isolation, distractions and work-life balance.
We realize that remote-working may be a big adjustment for companies and we are reminding employers to promote a healthy work/life balance. They can still encourage wellness through our initiatives, challenges, and services to a remote workforce. For the next two months, we have decided to waive our subscription fee to make it easier for employers to offer our solution to their employees in these troubling times.
How important is “thinking outside the box” to the survival and growth of your business?
We are closely following LinkedIn, online forums and apps where employers and employees discuss their working conditions and issues relating to the work environment. Initially, all we heard from different sources was how amazing it was to work from home. At that moment, we thought we were going to have a very hard time growing since most of our product was designed for on site wellness and not for a remote business model. Nevertheless, we know that there is always room for improvement! We decided to dive deep into researching the problems associated with working-from-home. We discovered that companies with employees that had been working fully remote, pre-pandemic, had already been talking about the many issues that affect their employees well-being and productivity; issues such as isolation, being distanced from other coworkers, home distractions, and work-life balance. Instead of listening to the initial excitement from crowds praising the WFH model, we looked into the new working patterns and quickly made product development decisions based on these patterns. We were already prepared for employers as WFH issues began to surface. We quickly adapted our product and we are now adjusting our sales process and marketing.
How important is resiliency to you?
The pandemic makes it obvious that we have to adjust our business model and product – it will last at the very least a couple more weeks before people will slowly start going back to their pre-pandemic routines. We also believe that the pandemic is going to permanently change many employers’ and employees’ routines. Some employers may continue to run portions of their employee base from home and employees who have been exposed to working from home may look for new WFH opportunities. We had to be resilient to quickly adapt to the pandemic; otherwise, we would have made no progress from a growth and product development perspective. Once everything returns to “normal”, we will have a much better product that fits both styles of work.
How important are Mentors to you at this time?
We have used the Mentor Match program in the past and we are continuously in touch with all the mentors we have interacted with through this program. They have been essential to our learning and growth, and are always willing to connect us with professionals to help with sales, marketing, and business development. We continue to update our mentors on our progress and value their feedback.
How are you connecting with your peers?
We connect digitally and virtually. We have a Facebook group chat where anyone can set up a time for group calls. This is where we also play games as we had been doing during breaks when we were all on site in Baiada. Additionally, we have had phone calls daily with our peers where we talk about current situations, the economy, and business progress.
What new learning are you planning?
We are focusing on learning about the problems employers and employees experience associated with the WFH environment, particularly in regards to employee well-being.