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Disrupt Fitness helps personal trainers manage the business of fitness

Cameron Kilberg is founder of Disrupt Fitness a tech start-up that has created software to help trainers market their services, facilitate client payments and keep track of other business functions, in Arlington, VA on March.6, 2014.( Photo by Jeffrey MacMillan)

Business ideas sometimes strike at the most peculiar moments. For Arlington resident Cameron Kilberg, the concept behind Disrupt Fitness hit during a workout with her personal trainer last summer.

Fareed Stephens was lamenting the difficulty personal trainers face in effectively managing themselves as a small business: keeping track of payments, completing accounting and tax forms, and marketing their expertise to prospective clients.

It was then that the two hatched plans for Disrupt Fitness, a Web site and software platform where personal trainers create profiles with pictures, location information, certifications, awards and a list of their specialties, such as nutrition, youth fitness or martial arts.

What’s more, Disrupt Fitness allows trainers to maintain calendars of their availability, collect electronic payments from clients and receive an IRS Form 1099 at the end of the calendar year.

“Basically, we handle all the business side for them,” Kilberg said.

Some professionals can feel lost when striking out on their own. Many personal trainers pursue continuing education in fitness and nutrition, but they don’t take advantage of business seminars that might be available to them.

“As a trainer, we’re not taught to be business people, but we’re put in those situations at times,” said Ted Vickey, senior consultant on innovation and emerging technology at the American Council on Exercise. “Can technology help a trainer run their business better? Absolutely.”

Solving problems with technology is nothing new for Kilberg.

Until Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s term ended in January, Kilberg served as his assistant secretary of technology and senior policy adviser. She is also the daughter of Northern Virginia Technology Council president Bobbie Kilberg.

It’s a professional and personal pedigree that gives Cameron Kilberg an appreciation for technology and a Rolodex of helpful contacts. But with the exception of an online handbag and accessories business, her career to date has centered on politics, law and policy rather than entre­pre­neur­ship.

“It’s nice to have a lot more freedom when you run a business,” she said. “It’s nice not to do it with the checks and balances that are needed in government but can sometimes slow you down.”

“Every government has bureaucracy,” Kilberg continued. “It can be a little frustrating, especially when you work in technology and want things to move really fast. It’s a nice change of pace.”

Disrupt Fitness takes 20 to 30 percent of the fees paid by clients, a cut that Kilberg said falls below those taken by professional gyms, where trainers may be staff members or independent contractors.

A survey conducted last year by IDEA Health and Fitness Association, a for-profit group that provides education and training to fitness professionals, found that gyms take an average of 48 percent of client fees from personal trainers classified as employees and 40 percent from those classified as independent contractors.

Kilberg said at some facilities, that number can skew as high as 70 or 80 percent of the client’s payment, forcing trainers to either take on a greater number of clients or start side businesses where they can collect a larger commission.

“I wasn’t aware of . . . what the price differential was for what you paid [to the gym] versus what the trainer made” before starting Disrupt Fitness, Kilberg said.

The Web site has profiles for just 14 trainers to date, but Kilberg said the company aims to raise awareness through local fitness classes and trade events attended by personal trainers. It will focus first on the Washington region, though trainers all around the country can create profiles.

Disrupt Fitness is “open to any trainer, whether they’re brand new or have been doing this for 20 years,” Kilberg said. “[We] stress to the trainers, the more you put out there, the more new prospective clients can learn about you.”

Steven Overly is a national reporter covering federal technology and energy policy with a focus on Capitol Hill. He previously covered the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital.



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