This week, an expert at the D.C. chapter of the business mentoring nonprofit SCORE helps a fitness guru strengthen her business.
— Dan Beyers

The entrepreneur

Kim Bercovitz’s idea for producing multi-media fitness micro-breaks started by accident. An adjunct professor in public health, equipped with a Ph.D. in

behavioral science and health and a postdoctoral fellowship, she delivered a conference wellness talk on bone health to chief executives, chief financial officers, and human resources directors that included a stretch-and-strengthening break. There was a burst of energy in the room leaving participants alert and engaged. One of the attendees even asked if she would fly out West to deliver a live fitness break at an event he was organizing. “Dr. Kim” began to explore the viability of video-delivered fitness and wellness breaks that offer the on demand flexibility of video at an affordable cost.

She began her business in Toronto, and had some initial success selling licenses to her videos. A pharmaceutical company and a university executive MBA program signed up for annual agreements. One executive MBA student who saw the video identified a need at his factory and the idea of a factory fitness program for both office staff and shop floor workers was born.

The opportunity

“People at conferences and work sit too much. Muscles become stiff and posture slouched. Concentration and focus plummet – especially mid-morning and mid-afternoon. The Exercise Bytes solution is a new ‘byte’-size approach to fitness that integrates micro-breaks throughout the day to combat fatigue, boost energy and increase alertness,” Bercovitz said.

Bercovitz’s exercise routines are easy-to-follow, sweat-free and done at participants’ seats, workstations or on the shop floor. The videos can be custom branded and included as part of a turnkey workplace or conference wellness program that includes fitness/wellness tips and tip sheets, wellness challenges and talks. In addition, the  Potomac, Md. company has a blog “Sitting is the new smoking” and a monthly wellness newsletter.

The challenge

Since moving from Toronto to the Washington D.C. area last year, Dr. Kim said it was like the “Red Sea opened up” with opportunity. Her biggest challenge is defining what market to target. With limited marketing resources, the bootstrapped company cannot yet afford to secure good sales and marketing help. It needs an effective and affordable plan to go after the opportunities offering the highest potential.

The advice

“Kim’s problem is often encountered by small businesses that are limited in resources (both qualified personnel and capital). The entrepreneur is struggling to do everything, and do it well. The challenge is picking that initial target market that can result in quick success, is scalable, and can be the stepping stone for long-term profitable growth,” said Bruce Gitlin, a SCORE mentor.

Gitlin asked Kim for more details on the target markets so they could be broken up into niches (size, type of products, location etc.)

The next step was to evaluate the alternatives against key criteria. In this case, the categories included:

• Level of Pain – Are you solving a big, recognized problem?
• Long-term sales potential
• Competition (strength)
• Time and cost to execute the marketing plan
• Likelihood of early sales success
• Ability to establish the brand

Answering these questions required Kim to investigate the markets in greater detail and to critically evaluate where and why she had been successful or unsuccessful in the past.

The result was a hybrid strategy building on her success as a speaker at conferences.

Step one: Continue showcasing an integrated wellness platform at conferences and trade shows to establish the X bytes wellness brand.

Next: Target events that are attended by high-potential manufacturing industries to increase the likelihood of getting qualified leads with long-term sales potential. Furthermore, narrow the focus to lean manufacturing, healthand safety and human resources events. As qualified leads develop, shift marketing efforts to companies in these niche markets.

The reaction

“The hybrid strategy with a focus on the manufacturing sector (through conferences, trade shows and manufacturing consortia) is practical and scalable,” Bercovtiz said. “This sector includes both office and shop floor workers, solving the problem of ‘sitting syndrome’ for office workers and soft-tissue injuries for shop floor workers. I like the idea of offering a standardized program comprised of stretch and mind-body video micro-breaks pre-shift (as part of a group ‘huddle’) and/or during the workday to keep employees alert, productive and injury-free. Our video program fits well with a lean manufacturing culture focused on people and process.”

Bercovitz said she plans hire an employee to sustain and grow the conference business while shifting her sales and marketing efforts to engage the manufacturing sector and follow up on the leads generated from the conferences, trade shows and consortia meetings.

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to entrepreneur education. Looking for some advice on a new business, or need help fixing an existing one? The Greater Washington DC Chapter provides confidential counseling and mentoring from more than 50 executives across the region. Contact us at capbiznews@washpost.com or request a mentor at www.washingtondc.score.org.