Remember a few weeks ago, when I went to the 7,000-person Massachusetts Conference for Women?
Well, the very first person that I met at the conference was a recent Harvard graduate named Yifan. When she told me what she does for a living with her two business partners, it felt like such a happy coincidence! Not only is Yifan’s business idea very creative, but her story of starting a small business straight out of college is pretty neat, too. And you know I love a great small business story.
Yifan is one of the co-creators of an AMAZING iPhone app (coming soon to the Android) called GymPact. I’ve been using GymPact for two weeks now and am obsessed. You guys know that I don’t do a lot (hardly any!) product reviews because, well, I think most products aren’t that special. But GymPact is really neat.
Basically, GymPact is an incentive-based program to motivate you to go to the gym. Each week, you pledge to hit the gym a certain number of days a week (one to seven) and you ‘stake’ a cash amount (starting at $5 for every workout you miss). If you meet your goal, you get paid via PayPal by the other GymPacters who didn’t meet their goal.
GymPact works by using the GPS in your phone to ‘check in’ to the gym. And it doesn’t have to be a traditional gym, either. I added my pool to the system’s gym list, and you can also check in at any fixed fitness location, like a tennis court or track. Yifan is working on creating a way you can log outdoor runs, but as of right now, it has to be a fixed location.
So – I’ve been using Gympact to stick to my swimming goals. Each week, I pledge to do two workouts with $5 at stake. When I get to the pool, I ‘check in’ and when I leave, I ‘check out’ (the workout has to be 30 minutes long to count). It’s REALLY fun and VERY motivating! A few times, I didn’t want to go swimming, but I thought, “Man, I don’t want to lose $5!” and headed out the door. You guys know that I love star charts – I think GymPact appeals to me because it’s kind of a mobile version of star chart.
And I earned $4 each week for the past two weeks for meeting my goal. If I keep it up, I’ll make $16 from GymPact this month – nearly half the cost of my pool membership (you don’t make more if you pledge more; all GymPacters who reached their goal make the same amount). Pretty neat, huh?
When I was talking to Yifan at the conference, I was so impressed by her. She told me that she had recently graduated from Harvard and instead of getting a traditional job, had decided to put all her time and energy into making GymPact big. I asked her to write a little guest post so you guys could learn more about Yifan and her self-employment path…. Here she is!
Yifan said, “I was born in Nanjing, China and immigrated to the US when I was 7. I grew up in Indiana and had always done the ‘right’ thing – good grades, varsity lacrosse, first chair flute, valedictorian, etc etc. During college, I studied international politics and finance before joining the Entrepreneurship Forum and really finding my fit. I was Co-President of the Forum my senior year, and at the same time I started a fashion nonprofit called Styleta that created a online market for designer clothing donations. I ended up turning down two prestigious jobs from JP Morgan and Boston Consulting Group to work full-time on Styleta for a year after graduation.
My parents thought I was crazy at first because as an immigrant, a stable, high-paying job is always top priority. Styleta was never any of that. But my parents had brought me up to be independent as well – they were the least strict of any of the Asian parents I knew! I was a real go-getter, and my parents trusted me and supported my decisions. Styleta taught me a ton about managing a team, streamlining customer processes, and the general logistics of running an organization and living an entrepreneur’s lifestyle. I freelanced as an SAT/GMAT tutor for spending money on top of the meager stipend I received from Styleta.
Meanwhile, my friend Geoff and I started to develop the idea for GymPact. The initial idea for GymPact came from my last behavioral economics class at Harvard, where we were looking at ways financial incentives could motivate difficult actions. Geoff was a gym buff; on the other hand, I had always struggled to stick with a fitness plan. We came up with the initial GymPact concept and presented it to our class. And then, a few months after graduation, we decided to take GymPact from academic theory to reality, with a 1-month pilot in Boston with some brave trial users from Craigslist… When the story got picked up by the Boston Globe last year and we received worldwide attention, it was such a shock to both of us!
After our second 6-month pilot, we needed to build the mobile platform so GymPact could scale nationally. We got the awesome opportunity to go to Chile and were given $40,000 in resources to build our product. Although we worried a bit about being left our of the US startup loop, we decided to take the leap because when else do you have the opportunity to be paid to live in a foreign country and build your own company?
Being an entrepreneur has definitely not been a completely smooth ride. Sometimes I forget how crazy my life sounds when I explain it to other friends from Harvard, most of whom pursued a more normal career path after graduation. But I have absolutely no regrets! They say you’re either challenged or bored, and while building GymPact has been the most challenging thing I have ever done, I love my never-a-boring-minute life, especially as a young 20-something with way too much energy for my own good!”
I am so enamored by GymPact and Yifan that I’ve joined their team, too! I’ll be hosting a fun #GymPact Twitter party tonight from 7 – 9 PM EST! If you’d like to kick off the New Year with some fun (and funny) fitness motivation, as well as the chance to win fun prizes, please join us at the #GymPact hashtag, @GymPact, and @CaitlinHTP.
If you want to check out GymPact, head on over to www.gympact.com or download the GymPact app from your iPhone!
What’s your plan to stay motivated through 2012?