Big Ideas: “A Yoga instructor can go to you anytime, anyplace” With FitNFlow co-founder Madison Chappell

Do something that is extremely valuable to at least a few people. Valuable things never die. A quote I loved from a lecture at Y Combinator is “it’s better to have 100 people who love you than 1 million people who just kind of like you”. If you can find 100 people who believes that […]

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Do something that is extremely valuable to at least a few people. Valuable things never die. A quote I loved from a lecture at Y Combinator is “it’s better to have 100 people who love you than 1 million people who just kind of like you”. If you can find 100 people who believes that what you are doing is extremely valuable, they will keep coming back for more. This is how you will know that what you are doing is sustainable.

As a part of my series about “Ideas That Can Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Madison Chappell, co-founder and CEO of FitNFlow, an app that brings a yoga instructor right to you.

Thank you so much for joining us! Tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was a yoga instructor and personal trainer, and I was frustrated with the high margins’ gyms take. Gyms and studios take more than 70% of revenues, even when the instructor is the one driving the attendance.

At the same time, most yoga teachers hop from studio to studio, some working for ten different studios at a time, just to fill their schedule. I experienced this myself, hopping from gym to gym, and I felt disempowered in my workplace. I felt like I had no control over my schedule, my teaching method, or how I was paid. When I talked to other instructors, I discovered that I was not the only one who felt this way. I knew there was a serious problem in the industry. So, I took matters into my own hands.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When we first launched FitNFlow, we gained yoga instructors on the app pretty quickly. I wanted to meet our instructions in person and learn more about them. So, I threw a yoga instructor event. Only a few instructors came, but after the event, I learned that over 75% of the instructors were single mothers. They shared stories of their challengers in the industry, and the struggles of balancing teaching yoga classes with parenting.

At that moment, I realized that FitNFlow has a broader mission than I had originally imagined; we give mothers, fathers, and families a way to make a living and build a business on their terms.

Can you tell us about your “Idea That Might Change The World”?

I believe that self-care is health care. FitNFlow strives to make self-care easily accessible and provide jobs to fitness freelancers. We’ve built an app called FitNFlow, which is similar to an Uber platform but for yoga. Users can book a verified yoga instructor anytime and anywhere.

This will have an impact for many reasons. First, the customer will never have to worry about finding a yoga class that fits their schedule. With the app, they can decide what day, where and what time they would like their class to be. They can schedule the class in their home, in a nearby park, in a community center, or any other convenient and comfortable location.

They can also maintain the in-person instruction customers truly need. Generalized class, whether in the studio or online, can be hazardous on the body. When a teacher isn’t there to evaluate and correct forms, poses can be done incorrectly and lead to injury. Having an in-person instructor will also increase motivation and focus.

I believe our app helps combat many of the issues we are facing as a society today. We have more inactivity, loneliness, anxiety, and decreased in person social interaction. Our app also disrupts the current over-generalized fitness industry.

Your body has different pain points, whether its back pains, neck pains, or a targeted area you wish to improve. You have specific desires, whether it is to be less stressed, to enjoy the little things, or to feel a greater clarity. You have specific needs, whether you are a working professional, a busy parent, a student, or pursuing any number of endeavors.

Now imagine a yoga instructor who can listen to the exact pain points you have in your body, understand your spiritual and mental goals, and tailor to your specific lifestyle dynamics.

How do you think this will change the world?

FitNFlow will disrupt the existing industry. It will provide a convenient, comfortable, affordable and personalized yoga instructions. Instructors gain more control over their schedule and teaching methods. Practitioners can take the class they want in the most customized fashion.

With our convenience and personalized instruction, yoga will become even more liberating. We want to empower our instructors and our students.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

When I was working as a personal trainer, I accepted a job way below my pay grade. The gym promised that, although I am starting with $14 an hour, my pay will raise $4 an hour each month until I reach $32 an hour. I took the job, but the pay raises never came.

Conversely, I found out that my clients were charged $700 a month to train with me. Something was going on — my client is overcharged for training, and I am underpaid. I knew there had to be a better way.

We often do not think about the reasons why we return to a yoga class, or a gym class or a personal training session. The #1 reason we return is because of the instructor. After this experience, I felt that there need to be a better way for instructors and clients to connect.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Since FitNFlow is a two-sided marketplace, the areas we go into need to have high demand from both sides. We know yoga instructors need FitNFlow, and we know practitioners need a better way to practice self-care, so we need to connect the dots. Though funds may help with important aspects like online advertising, we feel the best way to gain widespread adoption is by providing an important solution to a widespread problem. We know the real value of word of mouth and believe nothing is more potent in leading to widespread adoption than a user having a great experience.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

1. Always test your hypotheses. I wish someone told me to test ideas with users before building anything. This means asking questions about the framework, the app, and the marketing messages. When we initially launched, we did not structure the homepage the way users wanted. It took us a little while to figure it out, and when we did, we spent more time revamping the app. So, it is important to always consider why you are building something, and if it makes sense for your customers. Recognize when you are building something based on theory or based on data. That way, you can be open to learning what you don’t know, and test theories before acting on them.

2. Similar to the one before, always listen to users first, and act second. With a startup, it is very hard to know what the right move is. You often feel like you are stumbling in the dark. But your customers are your north star, and they will guide you in the right direction. Pay attention to how users interact on the platform, what they want to see. When we first launched, I sat down with a user and observe them using the app. I was blown away by all the things they did not understand, and my co-founder and I had erroneously thought was simple. However, after listening to the user, we were able to make the needed adjustments.

3. Things get real very fast. There is no greater feeling than experiencing positive results, and the growth of something you’ve built. But, there is no worse feeling than when you’re not getting the growth you expected, or when you get negative feedback from a customer. Although we do not want to admit it, we always start our startup expecting everything to go well. No one will go into a startup expecting it to fail. But every startup will fail on some level. There will never be 100% success all the time. Even large firms like Apple, Microsoft, Facebook experience failed ventures. It’s very important to acknowledge that there will be failures and be prepared for them The second week of our launch, we only had yoga instructors in Orange County, California. We received a booking request from a student in Boston. The instructor accepted the request without checking the location, and this resulted in both parties disappointed with the app. From this experience, we learned two things: first, we need to “geolock” the locations, and second, not everything will always go according to plan. Once you launch, the control of your company is in the customers’ hands, and you have to be prepared for all possibilities.

4. Not everyone thinks the same way as you. What may be logical for you may be illogical to someone else. As someone with a big idea, you will have to explain yourself many times. Focus on clear thinking, and practice explaining your idea in just one sentence. Explaining things simply and in a clear and concise way will help rally others to believe in what you are doing. When potential users ask what it is FitNFlow does, I say “we are an app that brings yoga to you.” It’s simple, easy to understand, and can start a conversation if the person wants to learn more.

5. You don’t have to take everyone’s advice. When I first started, I set out to get advice from as many experts as possible. The problem is that sometimes people give terrible advice. This isn’t because they are not experts in what they do, but that their experiences may not apply to you. It’s okay to pick and choose what you will listen to.

The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?

Do something that is extremely valuable to at least a few people. Valuable things never die. A quote I loved from a lecture at Y Combinator is “it’s better to have 100 people who love you than 1 million people who just kind of like you”. If you can find 100 people who believes that what you are doing is extremely valuable, they will keep coming back for more. This is how you will know that what you are doing is sustainable.

If you have one million people who ‘sort of’ likes you, nothing will keep them there when the tide changes.

Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?

I would invest in FitNFlow! Just kidding, but one thing I wouldn’t put my investments towards in the yoga industry is the trend in “on demand yoga video apps.” I see this as a very unsustainable path, and even now we can see that the trend is declining. This is because what causes someone to stick to an exercise plan is convenience with their schedule and in-person interaction.

Many people look to Peloton for inspiration in the yoga industry, but I do not see Peloton’s model to be applicable to yoga. This is because yoga has many different styles, poses, and teaching philosophies — no one video can fit it all. If you do not practice a pose that fits with your unique needs, you can obtain serious injury. If there isn’t a live instructor to guide you and correct your poses, it can be dangerous to practice.

I think the things we should invest in are the science behind yoga and how to apply that to the yoga companies. There are many studies proving the power of meditation, mindfulness, and overall body awareness and balance. Companies who take these studies and apply them to their business, with the intentions of helping others, are the companies to invest in.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I strongly feel that health is wealth. I have always been fascinated by what we can do to elevate other’s health. This began early on due to my mother’s career. My mother is a gerontologist and has devoted her career to the aging population.

I feel that as a society, we do not value self-care enough. There is immense pressure, and we tend to look down on those who do take care of themselves. I have seen this with many of the mothers I used to train with — they believe that they cannot take care of themselves until everyone else around them is taken care of. This can be a very dangerous mindset. If you are not taking care of yourself, how can you give your best self to others?

Self-care is healthcare, and it is an essential part of us hear that most people may not take seriously.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

I am still learning every day. When I speak to people I believe are successful, I realize that they have an attitude of always learning. They always want to learn more about their users, what they can do better, how they can help more people. I think if you approach something from a mindset of always learning there is so much to improve upon.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might see this if we tag them 🙂

I would tell VCs about the industry studies and market gap. While 8.7% of Americans currently practice yoga, IBIS World states that 35% of Americans want to practice yoga but haven’t yet. We believe this is because they have not found a solution that fits. It could be due to a busy schedule, a lack of motivation without a live instructor, or insecurity going into a studio. FitNFlow could be the solution for this 35% of Americans. Your favorite yoga instructor can be right there at your convenience and create a class just for you. This level of self-care, guidance, convenience and customization truly motivate people to continue their practice. Our customer return rate proves this!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow FitNFlow by visiting, going to @fitnflow on Instagram and Facebook, or by downloading FitNFlow on the iOS app store. You can follow my journey at @madichapp on Instagram.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thank you as well! I am grateful to have an opportunity to talk about my idea.

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