Rebecca Perkins is the founder of Perky Athletics. Perky is a app and website where participants can find unique fitness classes taught by freelancers occurring in their neighbourhood. There is a consolidated schedule where you can find and sign up for a variety of affordable fitness classes managed and taught directly by the instructor, not taught in your standard studios! Venue include parks, stores after hours, fitness clothing stores with freelance gyms, pop up venues, brewpubs and much more! There are so many amazing classes being taught by freelancers trainers and instructors throughout the city, however no one knew where they were occurring or how to sign up for them. Perky became the solution, an in turn is creating a fitness community that connects people to people.
Rebecca will be at the Make Lemonade co-working space for a sixth month term to launch her company for their Make your Dream Accelerator Program. Hover is a proud sponsor of Rebecca as she makes her business goals a reality. See our interview with this incredible entrepreneur below to learn how you can launch an app and the truth behind hustling your idea into a full-time endeavour.
Where the idea originally stemmed from was from seeing yoga classes in parks. I wanted to be a part of this community, but I was unsure how to get into these classes. I couldn’t find the classes listed online anywhere, and I didn’t want to just walk up to the class and put down my mat! This is when I recognized the need for a schedule that would help facilitate awareness of these classes as well as managing sign ups. The idea grew from outdoor fitness classes to include all freelance fitness classes occurring throughout the city.
I am originally from Alberta, and I used to instruct some spin classes on the side. I understood the desire to become a freelance fitness instructor, yet the task just seemed so daunting – how do I get participants? How do I manage sign ups? These two factors pushed me into launching Perky Athletics! I wanted to connect the participants who want to attend these classes to the instructors who are hosting them.
It’s not narcissistic, I swear (laughs)! My last name is Perkins, so that’s where the name for the app came from. I was testing out all these fitness app names with friends in Calgary, but we kept landing on ones that weren’t great. My friends kept saying that “everything has been done”. My one friend said, “just call it Perky.” Perky is associated with being high energy and it is also quite random, which I like! Those two things describe my personality, as well.
For the brand as a whole, I wanted it to be relatable – real life, bright, and colourful images, with simplicity in the black and white logo. I wanted real people who were working out. I do a lot of the photography myself with an iPhone in classes to get content and media. I want people to look at our website and social pages and feel a sense of community with no intimidation.
We talk about how this is a great platform for Motivators (fitness instructors), as this helps them generate awareness of their classes and helps manage their participants payment and registration, but there is a huge benefit for participants, too. For participants they get connected to very unique fitness experiences, in fun exciting venues, but most importantly this app allows for affordable fitness. The average cost per class on the app right now is $10, as you are working directly with the instructor and in the process are saving money on the overhead.
Creating a community is key. There are a lot of intimidating fitness environments out there, but we are a very supportive community!
Before the Plunge
I worked at Labatt for five years prior to this. They moved me to Toronto! They were an incredible company to be part of. My manager was initially so shocked that I wanted to leave to run my own company… I guess I should have given more hints around the office (laughs)! However all of my past managers and colleagues have been extremely supportive and happy to help in any way. They are excited for me! They want what is best for me and understand the importance of my personal and professional development. I feel very lucky to have gotten the opportunity to learn and develop with such a fantastic group of people.
My fitness instructors, who I refer to as Motivators, had to be the first people engaged before I launched the app. If there are no classes, there’s obviously no platform or community. I gravitated towards yoga instructors organically, because they were easy to track down in parks! One of my early Motivators that I met, Fernanda, made such a difference in the Perky community. She is such a blessing – she’s so passionate about Perky. I get messages from her almost every day with words of encouragement and about how she can get involved. Those Motivators that really believe in the idea and want to support me have kept this going. Without them the platform is nothing.
My official first launch was with friends and family. I had all my local, Toronto friends attend the first class, which was yoga at Trinity Bellwoods Park with Fernanda. That’s how we started. From there, using parks as free venues the community grew. Parks are easy since the Motivators didn’t need to rent a space and could fill a large class. Transitioning into winter has been interesting as I recognized that there are a lot of freelancers who wanted to host indoor classes and need to find space, so I have been working on some fun partnerships to host classes in unused space – for example the Ollie Quinn glasses stores after hours! There are so many unique fitness venues that host freelance classes, such as RYU, which we have partnered with to help manage the classes in their freelance gym space.
I was very much in the corporate bubble and I hadn’t heard of Make Lemonade or the Accelerator program beforehand. It was actually due to one of my friends who was on Bumble Bizz and found the Make your Dream Accelerator opportunity, which she forwarded to me.
On the night of my first big pitch I was excited, as I had never pitched my idea before publicly. It was exciting to share my ideas and receive professional feedback. At the time, I had wished that I would get even more challenging questions from the judges, because they really made me think about my platform and my goals. Now, those judges are my mentors and I get the thought-provoking questions all the time! It was cool to see everyone else pitch that night and I definitely fell in love with the office space and knew that I wanted to work there.
I love how much I am engaged within the worlds of the 9 other companies alongside me at Make Lemonade. When Niu Body celebrates wins, I feel as much pride as though they were my own wins! I cannot wait to see where the 11 of us (Niu body has 2 co-founders) end up in the next 6 months. With all of the Make Lemonade members, employees, and accelerator members, I get the privilege of working in such a collaborative environment. When you need support, it is there for you! The founder of Make Lemonade, Rachel Kelly has done a fantastic job not just running a business, but creating a community. It isn’t your typical co-working space where people are working in silos. Ideas are bounding around, it doesn’t matter what you do and what your background is, it is a open office of collaboration.
Start your Day-to-Day Right
To be honest, every morning is a bit different. Sometimes I have very early morning tech calls that I jump on right away from my couch, some days I fit in a workout, and other days I get into Make Lemonade right away! However, no matter how my day starts there there will always be coffee and a huge breakfast. I am a big breakfast person and have a “weekend” breakfast near daily! If I don’t have a giant breakfast, my whole day is thrown off. I am serious (laughs).
After this, I come to Make Lemonade. Make Lemonade is my office. I spend the majority of my workday here, and let me tell you, having a desk and office space sure does make a huge difference in the startup world.
The Next Six Months
I have six months at make lemonade, and I am using this deadline for many of my professional goals involving investors, growth and community engagement. At our accelerator we are very open with our goals as a group and have many check-in points throughout the 6 month period. I have specific growth rate goals, but my most exciting goal involves community engagement. This is a key company value, and I am looking forward to bringing numerous fitness initiatives to Toronto soon!
All three of the mentors, Emily Foucault, Lisa Zamparo, and Katrina McKay are very invested. Each company in the accelerator program has the same amount of time allocated for each mentor. It’s still new and early in the program, so I’ve only had full session with each, but they are so personally invested in all ten companies. That’s a lot of work. I get emails from them at all hours, whenever ideas relevant to our companies pop into their heads. Each mentor brings an a different perspective and outlook to the table; we have a well balanced dream team!
The Work-Life Balance
It is really hard for me to even try and think about boundaries right now. Are Perky classes work, or personal? I take time for myself when I need time, but my personal and professional life are too closely interwoven at the moment to truly break apart. There’s a lot of pressure on differentiating between work and personal life, but I’m happy. And if I’m happy, it’s not a bad thing! Right now it is only me driving things forward, so I can’t really take a break. I’ll take a break when Perky is where I want it to be.
The Aha Moments
I’ve had a lot of aha moments – trying to think of which ones would be most interesting to tell you about! I feel like with start ups you have aha moments weekly! I had an aha moment when I first launched this platform, I knew there was a gap between finding freelancer’s classes. There’s a gap too for freelancers to find a space to teach their classes. That is when I started Partnering with venues, like glasses store, affordable places. There are so many expensive places for freelancers to rent out, but they need something reasonable. The aha moment was connecting all the dots and knowing I had to solve two problems. Not only driving awareness to freelancers classes, but making it as easy as possible for them to hold their classes.
Make sure to continue following Perky Athletics on Instagram and watch Rebecca Perkins’ journey as she launches her idea into the company she imagined. Hover will have a follow up interview in 2019 to gather her perspective on her experience… stay tuned!