Travis Steffen’s passion for fitness began during youth sports, and his determination and drive to succeed has taken him far. After an injury ended his college football career, Travis began competing in other areas of sport. He has competed in professional mixed martial arts, has fought Muay Thai in Thailand, was a collegiate national qualifier in Olympic weightlifting, and has run marathons and triathlons.
In 2009, Travis created WorkoutBOX ™, a website devoted to providing the quality of training usually reserved for elite athletes and celebrities to anyone wanting to get in shape. He has made it his goal to take all of his knowledge and put it together for you in an ultra-effective, easy to use format the likes of which has never been available to the general public – until now.
WorkoutBOX is currently a large online vendor of digital personalized fitness programs, and will soon open its doors allowing all trainers to use the platform to create their own interactive online fitness companies.
MO: How did you come up with the idea for WorkoutBOX?
Travis: WorkoutBOX was the product of a problem I had when I was first starting out. I was a strength coach and I wanted to start an online training service, but I didn’t know much about anything aside from fitness. I had no business, marketing, or software experience whatsoever, so I spent a ton of money for a really bad, barely functional website.
I started asking other entrepreneurs for help on online forums, and my current business partner contacted me. We started as a simple online training service and we were playing catch-up to get the same features that our biggest competitors had, but over the last few years the vision has evolved so much and we’ve really begun to innovate. We’ve got some amazing new things on the way that will be unlike anything available right now.
After receiving so much feedback from other trainers wishing they knew how to create something like WorkoutBOX, I decided that I wanted to solve the issue I had when I was just getting started – so as of next month, we’ll be opening our doors to all trainers and becoming a platform for trainers to create their own interactive fitness companies without ever hiring a staff, shooting any videos, or spending any money.
MO: Can you talk about the process from having the initial idea for WorkoutBOX to creating a product and getting it to market? What were some of the challenges you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?
Travis: The initial idea for WorkoutBOX was so much different than what it is now. It was tough early on because we didn’t really know what we were doing. We were getting some decent traffic in the beginning because my business partner (Simon Turner) is an SEO genius, so we assumed that when we launched our first product we’d start making money hand over fist. Boy, were we wrong.
After doing a ton of research on copywriting, conversion rate optimization, and some of the various intricate techniques we began making some positive changes – but there were a lot of changes we spent a lot of time on that didn’t work at all, which was frustrating. Over time, things started coming together, and now we’re doing pretty well.
The most powerful thing I ever did was build a team that’s as motivated as I am. Once you’ve created the team, it doesn’t matter what your vision is and how much it changes (and it will change). You’ll be able to handle it. The main thing to remember is nobody knows what they’re doing when they start. Nobody.
MO: What can the average user expect from using WorkOutBOX?
Travis: Expect a lot of things that you haven’t ever seen before to launch fairly regularly within the next few months. We used to be a run-of-the-mill online training service, but earlier this year we decided that we were going to start coming out with some of the more innovative, creative features that we’ve always wanted to try out.
The main thing we want to create is a service in which the user doesn’t have to think at all, and they put all of their health and fitness decisions in the hands of the experts. You can also expect real 1-on-1 interactions with real fitness experts. 2012 will show the biggest evolution of WorkoutBOX to date, and we hope to impact the future of the fitness industry in a big way.
MO: Congratulations on being ranked as one of the top 5 online fitness services of 2012 by toptenreviews.com. Why do you think that you were chosen over big brands like DailyBurn, Livestrong and Weight Watchers?
Travis: We’re still technically in Beta as we haven’t released the innovative features that I believe will set us apart from the rest. We’re testing them internally right now, and we plan to release them bit by bit over the next few months, which I think, in a way, was a reason we’ve been reviewed so well.
The fact that we’ve been so focused on developing new, useful products rather than the marketing of a basic existing product is a big difference I think. Most of our competitors focus on selling what they have and aren’t really innovating at all. They have to – they’ve got a ton of investors to please. As we’ve decided not to take any investment money so far, so we make all of our decisions based on our vision and nothing else.
We also don’t spend a dime on marketing yet, which allows us to place our focus on listening to our customers and what they want. This is helping us establish the most optimal direction for our product development.
MO: Can you tell us about the brand new nutrition tracking system you’re about to launch and some of the advantages of using it?
Travis: We have a system right now called DietBOX that allows users to enter their info, after which we provide them with the exact number of calories and nutrients they need to be eating each and every day. This depends on their lean body mass, the specifics of the program they’re on, the speed of their metabolism, and whether it’s a workout day or not. From there, they can drag and drop their foods into their meals to see how closely what they’re eating matches their recommendations.
The system sounded great to us when we launched it, and it worked well in testing. However, we soon found that it was too labor intensive for our users to really adopt it as a daily tool – which is what we wanted.
The most powerful thing about our programs, they said, was the fact that we told them exactly what exercises to do each and every day, how many sets and reps, and in some cases how much weight to use. We also had videos that taught them how to perform everything correctly. Everything changed every day based on their goals, their ability level, and the equipment they had available. All they had to do was go down the list and do what we told them to do, and they would see pretty awesome results. In short, they didn’t want to think.
I wanted to take this approach with our nutritional component. Our new system is really cool. Users will enter the same info when they get started, but this time they won’t have to do any work at all. We’ll tell them exactly what to eat for each meal based on their preferences, and the recommended nutrient composition of each meal. For example, you should be having a completely different nutritional balance for breakfast or for a pre-workout meal than you would for a post-workout meal or for dinner. We factor that it with this system. If users don’t like the meal they’ve been shown, they’ll be able to swap in a new one with one click until they’re satisfied.
We’re going to have a lot of extensions of this system as well. Users will soon be able to customize their menus for their preferences – such as vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, paleo, diabetic, or a variety of other preferences. Menus will also be catered to the goals of the training program they’re on. If they’re on a muscle building program, they’ll get a muscle building diet. If they’re on a program to elicit optimal performance levels for endurance athletes, they’ll get a diet that caters to that. They’ll be able to print a grocery list for their diet, the whole works. It’s really exciting.
MO: You’re also about to launch your trainers system soon. Can you talk about the inspiration for the system and why you’ve decided to offer it for free?
Travis: The trainers system has been the main goal of WorkoutBOX since the very beginning – though we took a roundabout way of getting there. We decided to perfect our platform using in-house programs and work the bugs out that way, and have kept the fact that it’s actually meant to be a platform secret until now.
Trainers will be able to follow our template process to create their own unique landing pages, then use their fitness knowledge to create an evidence-based goal-specific fitness plan for their users and clients. They can get all this done in about 15 minutes or so depending on the length of the program. They can then share their landing page with their social networks and local client base to sign up users, and they’ll keep the vast majority of the revenue generated from their users (subscriptions will be $14.95/month). Users will rate how effective trainers’ programs are, how responsive they are personally, etc. so the best and most knowledgeable trainers will be ranked higher. This helps users determine who to listen to, and tells trainers what they need to work on.
We’re offering it for free for them because we don’t want to exclude any knowledgeable trainers who have simply fallen on financial hardship, or have families and don’t have a ton of extra money to spend on developing a website. It will also help get more trainers to try the system, as if they try it and decide to go a different way, they’re not out any money as a result.
We’re also launching a charitable component along with the trainers system. We’re working with Donors Choose to allow trainers to donate a percentage of their revenue to their local charities, which helps build their brand and awareness in their local area. In addition, when users complete a certain number of workouts in a row, a certain percentage of their membership fee gets donated to the WorkoutBOX Foundation, which builds free outdoor weather-proof fitness facilities in under privileged communities to keep bringing fitness to places that really need it.