We are very excited to be able to bring you exclusive interviews with the best and brightest young entrepreneurs from The Young Entrepreneur Council. In our first interview of this series, we talked to Travis Steffen from WorkoutBOX. Travis shared with us the story behind his fitness program and how he went from beyond broke to being a successful young entrepreneur.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
It was partially an SEO move. We wanted to target workout related keywords, and having the word “workout” in our domain name would definitely help. As far as the “box” part goes, we wanted a short word that was easy to spell if heard briefly, and also something that implied a product that contained a bunch of great value. We thought “box” satisfied all of that.
What’s the very first thing you do at work everyday?
I get a workout in before diving into my email inbox. We encourage all of our employees to get a workout in while on the clock. We’re a tech company, yes, but we’re also a fitness company. It’s important that we practice what we preach.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
We started with two people. Now we’ve got seven full time, another two part time, and we’re about to add quite a few more.
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describe the struggle you went through?
We had no idea what we were doing. I knew fitness, my business partner knew SEO and some basic development, and that was about it. We had to figure everything out on the fly.
I remember early on when we threw our first product live. We were getting some decent traffic already from our free content, so we assumed we’d just start making a ton of money. Boy were we wrong. It took us about a year and a half of research, study, and heads-down work to get a decent enough sales funnel to even sustain the two of us full time.
How do you handle frustration? When/how was the last time you dealt with frustration?
I’d say I go to the gym, but honestly I don’t get all that frustrated anymore. I’ve recently had the privilege of getting mentored by one of the premiere life coaches and experts in the Law of Attraction in the world, Christine Meyer. She’s pretty much rewired my brain and made me aware how unproductive frustration can be, and how it can prevent you from reaching your goals. I’d say that regular meditation, physical activity, and a great diet prevents frustration entirely for me.
What’s your office environment like? Is it the kind of place where everyone is bumpin’ away to house music or is it more traditional?
Early on we were so productive working remotely from home or from wherever we were currently traveling that we never wanted to give that up. A few of our employees are with me in LA, but most of them are scattered across the globe, and that’s how we prefer it. Right now my business partner is in Fiji, I’m doing this interview right before climbing Mt. Massive in Colorado, and we’re extremely productive like this. I’ve been approached to write a book about this kind of corporate environment and theory before, but I’m not quite ready for that yet as I feel like our theories are still unfinished.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
WorkoutBOX is already doing very well, but we’re about to launch a few features that I really do believe will revolutionize the fitness industry forever. In five years, WorkoutBOX will be one of the largest and most innovative names in fitness. There’s just no other possibility in my opinion.
Who or what inspires YOU?
I’m a sucker for motivational quotes and images (as you’ll see if you’re a fan of WorkoutBOX on facebook). Those are great. However, I think the greatest source of inspiration is hearing the story of groundbreaking achievements. It’s pretty amazing how much of an impact individuals driven by a purpose can accomplish. Don’t like the way something is run or made? Save the complaining and find a way to improve it, then act.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowd-funded? Where’d you get the money, man?
I had about 3 bucks in my pocket when I started. Actually, that’s a lie – I had a LOT less than that. I was still in college when I started, so I was beyond broke. I funded things through money I made fighting, playing online poker, and through VCs (and by VCs, I mean visa cards). I also took a hefty chunk from my student loans.
I didn’t know how to seek funding, and in all honesty, investors would have been idiots to touch me when I was getting started because I was so clueless. Thankfully, our product was good enough to sell to enough people early on, so we reinvested everything for a couple years.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Don’t focus on the money, and don’t let a lack of it prevent you from making progress. If you have passion, tenacity, and you believe in your product, the money will come. Find an incubator and keep costs low. If you need a ton of money to start, rethink things and try to start your company in a different way. Pre-sell to as many people as possible. Set sales goals for yourself, then focus on the next one while putting the others out of your mind.
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend (and you couldn’t spend it on your current startup / projects)?
I think I’d use about $450k to become an angel investor, and I’d use the last $50k to travel the world. Seeing all sorts of different cultures and ways of life would fuel the constant idea machine in my head so the second that one year was up I could start something new and awesome.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now? If not, what’s it gonna take to make you feel successful?
I definitely think I’m successful, though I also feel that I’ve got a lot more I want to accomplish. Many entrepreneurs need to reach certain milestones to feel validated, successful, or credible. However, if you’ve already created something of value and you’ve made a difference, that’s a sign of success. It’s such a subjective term that it’s often difficult to define, but if you’re happy doing what you’re doing and other people have benefited from what you’re doing as well, I think that’s a start.
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
I think WorkoutBOX.com would be the obvious answer here – but other than that, I think it’s a tie between Skype and Dropbox. Without both of these services, none of my companies would exist.
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
I’ve got an app called MindSnacks that’s attempting to teach me Mandarin right now. I’m not sure how effective it is, but it sure is fun!
Dogs or cats?
I’m okay with both, though I probably wouldn’t buy a cat. Dogs make decent jogging buddies, so I’ll say dogs.
iOS or Android?
iOS – mainly because I think more innovation is occurring on that platform, and Apple products are pretty much superior in every way. That said, I really wish the iPhone had a keyboard…
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website/idea?
The features we’re about to launch are going to allow the greatest fitness minds in the world to share their methods and teachings to our users. The days of the TV-friendly barely certified trainers teaching the masses will be gone. We’re all about the science, and our platform is all about providing that info to our users in the most easy-to-use format, so the fact that we’re opening our service up to all other trainers is going to spark a massive jump in the quality of fitness info and programming online.
Where can our readers get ahold of you?
What else are you working on?
A business that one of my mentors and I are working on, Lessons On Becoming A Millionaire, is going to be really cool. I can’t give too many details on that yet other than that we’ll be sharing the secrets and insights of some of the world’s most successful people – so stay tuned!
One last thing… What’s up with this TV show you’re producing?
I’m glad you asked! I’m working with my awesome agent over at ICM and a number of other kickass people on a competition reality show called World’s Toughest. We’ve partnered with some really great brands already, and we’re working on a few more. The goal is to find out who the world’s toughest man and the world’s toughest woman truly are. I can’t give a ton of details on it yet, but we’re going to be taking these people to the very edge of what their bodies are capable of every single week via some of the most insane events on the planet, and you get to watch!