Physiclo's design for compression tights with built-in resistance bands for a more robust workout came about as a medical school project, not a business venture. Co-founders Keeth Smart and Frank Yao were looking for a way to help clinic patients be more active. As the idea developed, Smart and Yao accumulated $120,000 in prizes and grants from development programs and competitions. Less than a year later, Physiclo was an incorporated company and, in August 2015, officially launched its product. Smart went behind the business plan with Business News Daily to discuss their success launching Physiclo and the factors that made it possible.
Business News Daily: In a nutshell, what service does your business provide?
Keeth Smart: We design functional activewear with built-in resistance designed to help runners and athletes maximize workout efficiency.
BND: How long have you been in business?
Smart: The concept began as a med school project in fall 2013. As a company, we were officially incorporated in June 2014 and launched into the market via a crowdfunding campaign in August 2015.
BND: Did you start with a formal business plan? If not, how did you lay the groundwork for your business?
Smart: The concept started with a team of medical students trying to help patients in clinics become more active. Over the next few months, the team participated in several NYU-sponsored entrepreneurial programs that helped refine the model, generate a business plan and begin customer discovery.
BND: How did you finance your endeavors, both initially and as your business grew?
Smart: The business was primarily funded through $120k in prizes and grants that we won from the following business plan competitions and programs:
- NYU's $200K Entrepreneurs Challenge
- Innovention 2014
BND: How much did you invest personally?
Smart: It is difficult to fully quantify the amount invested personally across the entire team, but it is probably several thousand dollars. This amount includes expenses for prototyping, travel, marketing and lost wages.
BND: Is your business today what you originally envisioned at the outset or has it changed significantly over time?
Smart: The business has shifted from the original concept as a tool to help patients in medical clinics be more active to a fitness technology startup. However, we still plan to pursue that original concept in a few years.
BND: What are some lessons you've learned? Is there anything you would'vedone differently?
Smart: The key lesson that we have learned is creating a hardware startup is very difficult and it takes a long time to get to the point we're at now. Finding the right garment manufacturer was very difficult and we learned that despite New York City having a fashion district, it no longer has the capability to make activewear. To develop Physiclo we created countless prototypes to find the perfect one. Even today, we are still learning things on how to improve future product iterations as it relates to the materials we're using and sizing.
BND: What were the most important factors that contributed to your success?
Smart: The most important factor that has contributed to our success is having a strong team. We have built a team around complementary skill sets, which is critical. Additionally, our team operates under an open line of communication. It is only natural that there will be several ups and downs throughout business and we work well together pushing through the challenges we face.
BND: What are the next steps you want to take as a business owner? How do you see yourself achieving those goals?
Smart: The next step for us as a business is to continue to grow sales and expand our product line. In early 2016, we plan to attend several road races and host a variety of pop-up shops to further expand our brand awareness. We have already begun to reach out to race organizers and small fitness studios about selling our product via their distribution channels. In addition, we will be working to expand our product line with the introduction of a resistance-upper-body garment and new features in our resistance leggings. This will require us to work very closely with our manufacturer on the design of our resistance products to ensure we have a perfect look and fit.
BND: What is your best advice to someone with a great business idea who is ready to give it a shot?
Smart: Start with an idea and begin talking to potential customers to see if they want the service and or product. There really is no substitute for performing a thorough customer discovery. This will prevent entrepreneurs from wasting a lot of time and energy building something people don't value or want.
Once that process is complete, try to build a minimum viable product (MVP) and test it. Also, seek out mentors and-or advisers for feedback. Lastly, dream big and don't get discouraged. Life is a marathon not a sprint.