Manufacturing fitness products can be serious business for entrepreneurs in an age of extreme athletic awareness.
Paul Nicholas invented the Core Flyte while looking for safer stability options for himself and his fitness clients. He started Flyte Fitness with Jeremy Greenberg in 2013.
The success of its main product, the stability trainer, has seen Flyte Fitness flying high – it clocked $US3 million in revenue over three years of operation and is now projecting annual sales of $US2 million for the 2018-2019 financial year.
Coming up with Core Flyte
New York-based Nicholas says while working as a personal trainer, after retiring from playing rugby because of shoulder injuries, he was looking for a safer stability training option for his clients’ workouts as well as his own rehabilitation.
“I knew that stability training was the holy grail for rehabilitating joint injuries and strengthening your core muscles, but the only equipment available for this type of training all had you elevated off the floor, making it somewhat dangerous for a beginner, and there's limited exercises you can perform with them.”
He says he imagined something unstable, “with the ability to roll around the floor freely while you have your hands on them”.
That’s how he came to invent Core Flyte. Nicholas says what makes the product “unique and different from any other gliding, sliding, or rolling product is the BTUs [ball transfer units] plus the low-profile design that provides a safe option for stability training with almost frictionless omni-directional motion.”
Nicholas says Flyte Fitness is the only manufacturer of this product and holds the patents for the Core Flyte device.
Another successful niche fitness product manufacturer, former Navy officer Anthony Richardson, makes the torsion bar, a staple in physical training in the military.
Sydney-based Richardson’s clients include the Royal Australian Navy and the Pentagon.
Among the elite athletes who use Flyte Fitness’ signature product, says Nicholas, are Australian surfer Sally Fitzgibbons, NRL team the Penrith Panthers and Italian tennis star Fabio Fognini.
Cracking the US market
Nicholas, who had previously played rugby union and league for local teams in Nambucca Heads, and rep games for a rugby union mid-far north coast team, says he originally went to New York to play rugby and travel for a few months but decided to stay.
He went on to compete in the New York Golden Gloves, a boxing tournament. Eventually, he started his own personal training business.
Nicholas says the company’s sales demographics is around 30 per cent to gyms and fitness professionals (team conditioning coaches and personal trainers), and 70 per cent to the average consumer for home workout use.
While the product is available globally, he says the company is selling a lot of units in the US.
“The product has been very well received by the fitness industry overall,” he says.
“Our customers range from average Joes looking to get in shape, to professional athletes and sport teams looking to optimise their on-field performance and/or use the Core Flytes for rehab or injury prevention exercises.
“There are also a lot of gyms using them for group fitness classes and the list is growing.”
So how did he go about cracking the US market? “We started out with a zero-marketing budget for the first year or so,” Nicholas says.
“Everlast was our first major distribution partner, we also sent a lot of free product samples to NBA/NFL teams as well as social media influencers in the fitness business.
“These things helped us gain credibility for the Core Flyte as a serious training tool from the beginning, and we received plenty of positive feedback through customer testimonials.
“The thing that really made sales take off was when we posted a compilation of videos that our customers had sent us – it showed people of all ages, fitness levels, shapes and sizes using their Core Flytes. It seems that people prefer real customer testimonials from real people, not actors.”
Alternative equipment on the rise
Tegan Haining, who has been a fitness trainer for 10 years, and has had celebrity clients such as David Beckham, Natalie Imbruglia and Jessica Gomes, says equipment that is “multifunctional, easy to use and travel with, could give rise to the next entrepreneurial growth area, in alignment with the current boom of online fitness apps and available programs.
“Being able to take your gym with you anywhere would be highly convenient for many customers.”
Sydney-based Haining says group fitness has boomed all over the world in recent years. She says if customers cannot get to these sessions, the online fitness world has proved popular with stay-at-home mums, gym-phobics, or people who are time poor.
“These people are therefore the ones who are looking for alternative equipment that they can use in the home or on the go.”