Meet Rebecca, founder of Perky Athletics which aims to turn workouts into affordable, fun experiences. By partnering with unique venues throughout the city, and some of the best fitness instructors in Toronto, they bring a diverse schedule of fun pop up fitness classes.
1. Rebecca, tell us about the concept behind Perky Athletics.
There are so many unique spaces around Toronto that are empty for parts of the day: stores, restaurants, coffee shops, brewpubs – the list goes on. Ollie Quinn is a perfect example of a store that is such a beautiful space, and is available for alternative use after store hours.
When it comes to Perky, I was inspired to create an app that could connect fitness entrepreneurs to these beautiful, unused spaces where they could teach their fitness classes. Now, Perky hosts fitness classes in a variety of spaces with an awesome team of instructors. Participants benefit as they receive quality fitness experiences that shake up their standard workout routines, at around half the price of a typical Toronto fitness class.
Ollie Quinn Ossington is one of our favourite spaces. There is a spacious backroom where we host both yoga and pilates classes once the store’s closed for the day. The team is wonderful and accommodating, and it really creates a “speakeasy” fitness experience for participants.
2. Explain your journey to becoming your own boss.
Prior to taking on Perky full-time, I worked at Labatt breweries for five years. During this time, I developed the beverage brand’s app and website, while also launching Perky. I would work a full day at Labatt, then go home and settle in for an evening of my own app-refinement. After Perky launched, the reality set in — when you launch an app, it needs even more attention to continue running, than it does during the development phase!
When things went wrong with Perky during the day and I was in an important meeting at Labatt, it became difficult to manage both, so I took the leap and four months after launching Perky, I made it my full time job. Making that jump was a little nerve-racking of course, but to me, it was the only option! I knew I would always regret it, if I didn’t give Perky a proper chance.
Right around the time I left Labatt, I had been pitching to get into a start-up accelerator program at a coworking space called Make Lemonade in Toronto. I got accepted into the program alongside nine other start-up companies, which was an amazing opportunity. This gave me access to three mentors, a community of start-up entrepreneurs and an office to go to every day, which made the transition from Labatt to becoming my own boss, much easier.
3. What is the most important lesson you've learned since starting Perky Athletics?
Don’t be afraid to pivot away from your original idea. If something is working well, but strays from your first idea, just lean into it. The beginning stages of your business are about testing what works and what doesn’t. The trick is to not get discouraged if a path you go down doesn’t work out. Just pivot and try again.
I believe a huge reason a lot of entrepreneurs fail is because they don’t give their idea enough time, paired with it being so easy to get discouraged. Resilience is key when starting and growing your business. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and when things go wrong, twist the situation into a positive one by looking at what you learned and what you took away from the experience. Since launching Perky, I’ve learned to be patient and accept that results don’t happen overnight.
4. How do you see your business transforming the fitness landscape?
I want fitness classes in unique spaces to become the norm. I love the community aspect that comes from working with various venues, and I love how different communities gravitate towards different class types. This is shaking up the standard when it comes to fitness studios and workout classes, and ensures there’s always a new, exciting option for those seeking an exercise experience that’s outside the box. I’d love for Perky to transform the fitness landscape by allowing instructors to offer more affordable fitness classes while still generating healthy revenue.
5. A US study on 2019 industry trends for women in business noted small business owners saw significant increases in female ownership of health, beauty, and fitness businesses, with a 55% increase in share from the prior year. Nineteen percent of woman-owned small businesses were in the health, beauty, and fitness industry versus only six percent of male-owned small businesses.
With that said, as we're seeing an uptick of women-owned businesses in the health and fitness sector, what does being a part of that movement mean for you?
First of all, I am very proud to be part of this movement. We are living in an exciting time for women entrepreneurs and there continues to be more programs that support and fund women-led start-ups. There is still a long way to go, but we need to take advantage of all the resources currently available to us. What this means to me, is that now more than ever, we have to be supportive of one another and provide encouragement to our fellow women entrepreneurs wherever possible. It’s crucial for us to collaborate when there’s a fit, and rise together.
As we are an app-based company, I find myself as part of the men-dominated tech industry. Despite many efforts to engage more women in this industry, there is much work to be done in this sector when it comes to gender equity. I think it’s important that women have role models in the tech industry, and that the conversation around tech becomes less intimidating. I had no idea where to start in tech development, but the good news is Google can teach you anything. Giving people the confidence to believe they can thrive in tech is critical.
6. Any words of wisdom you have for budding entrepreneurs?
The creation of Perky Athletics has not all been smooth sailing, and I am not afraid to openly admit that. I have been faced with numerous situations in which I knew very little about the subject matter. I found myself wanting to ask questions, but didn’t, as I feared I would be viewed as incompetent.
My best advice is to admit what you don’t know. This is the opposite of a weakness — this is your biggest strength. For me, “fake it ‘til you make it” doesn’t work in all situations. You need to be aware of what you don’t know and listen to those who do know. Listen to others and learn from them. Business settings can easily spiral into confidence competitions, which can then create critical gaps in knowledge. Put your confidence aside, learn from the bottom-up, and establish a strong foundation of knowledge that will be able to sustain you in the future.
When I made the shift to admitting that I didn’t know much about that I was doing, something remarkable happened. I became more and more comfortable with being uncomfortable. What does this translate to? It means I was more comfortable taking risks and exploring new alternatives to solutions. This is because I knew that I could listen and gain the knowledge I needed along the way.