Written by: Stuart Foxman

Catherine Chan was looking for a new yoga class in Toronto one day, and thought it would be great if she could easily search, see reviews and schedule a session. That was her lightbulb moment.

At the time, Chan was working in insurance as a sales manager. She spent a year researching the viability of her idea: a platform where you can find any type of fitness or movement class, and book it right away.

Chan incorporated, found a developer, and started building the platform. It’s called FitIn (fitin.io), which she launched in 2018. Sign up, and you can browse through the listings of classes, or filter them by type, cost, day, time and amenities. On the platform, you can read about the class and the instructor, and see user reviews. And if you leave a review yourself, you can earn “Sweat Bucks” to apply to a class.

The FitIn listings also include personal trainers, and other types of wellness classes such as meditation or mindfulness.

“Hopefully it will inspire people to try new things,” Chan says.

She sees FitIn as a champion for health, wellness and activity. FitIn releases classes a month in advance. Empty class spaces show green on the booking page. Yellow means spots are running low, and red means they're booked.

The FitIn platform is free to join. The only costs are for the classes you want to take. For payments, FitIn uses Stripe, a secure method for credit or debit cards. Right now, the classes listed are mainly in the Toronto area, but Chan is looking to expand the database.

FitIn fitness providers (gyms, studios and instructors) are being added all the time. They pay a fee that covers their listing, bookings and account reconciliation.

Chan says that for fitness entrepreneurs, FitIn is the opportunity to market to a targeted audience, on a platform that simplifies the transaction. That can help create efficiencies in their own operations, so they can focus even more on the core business of training their clients.

The right fitness class and trainer can be motivating – and so can the right education for entrepreneurs. Chan found that through the four-month LaunchYU Accelerator program. It helps entrepreneurs to build, launch and scale their venture. Assistance includes bootcamps, workshops and one-on-one mentoring.

LaunchYU (launchyu.ca/) is York University’s entrepreneurship unit. It supports entrepreneurs and their ventures, at the school and in the community. Through LaunchYU, which is part of Innovation York, entrepreneurs become better positioned to develop and grow their businesses. They get to learn about entrepreneurship, meet like-minded individuals and potential investors, solve business issues, and collaborate with university and industry partners.

“The accelerator was a great program, and the access to mentorship was phenomenal,” Chan says.

She appreciated the opportunity to hear from experts in areas like law and marketing. “They provide you with a solid foundation to build your business on, so you don’t crumble under the weight of yourself,” she says.

One of her favourite parts of the LaunchYU Accelerator was getting together with groups of fellow founders. “They’re like my brothers and sisters in arms. Hearing about their struggles and frustrations normalized what I was going through.”

Like working out, starting a business can be grueling. “It’s going to be tough. What I’ve learned about entrepreneurship is that success is hard won,” says Chan. “It’s about the commitment to achieve that dream and figuring it out along the way.”

 Photo credit: Zlatko CetinicImages Made Real