Anthony Vennare is the co-founder and CEO of Fitt – a media and technology company that connects people to local health and fitness activities.
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[01:02] – Fitt creates guides to healthy living on a local level and they’re currently active in 15 cities
[01:16] – Anthony used to be a lifestyle entrepreneur
[01:41] – He was on Episode 220 of Entrepreneurs On Fire
[02:11] – His area of expertise is now scaling and selling companies
[02:46] – Share something we don’t know about your area of expertise that as Entrepreneurs, we probably should: Selling businesses goes beyond the story – do your research to know who you’re selling the company to
[03:51] – “The lifestyle entrepreneur is more relaxed… that’s the difference”
[04:52] – Anthony had to make a transition because after he reached a point of sustainability, he got bored
[05:50] – Last month, Anthony closed a $1M investment for Fitt
[06:02] – “You have to know when to follow up and when not to”
[07:37] – The process for investment deals is a lot simpler than what most entrepreneurs think
[07:53] – Pitching in front of investors is what Anthony believes is the hardest part
[08:47] – One strategy Anthony practiced was to find investors on social media and find out what they’re interested in
[09:03] – Interact with your investors even before you send the email
[10:26] – During Anthony’s transition, he gained weight
[11:41] – Fitt’s mission of making fitness/health more fun and accessible is the same mission they had for The Hybrid Athlete
[11:54] – Doing things to help people is NOT always a business
[12:41] – Anthony’s advice to everyone is to “take the risk and go big”
[13:56] – Fitt is a city-by-city guide for healthy living
[14:59] – “Go BIG!”
[15:10] – Connect with Anthony on Linkedin
Anthony Vennare: Indeed, I am, John.
John: Yes, Anthony is the cofounder and CEO of Fitt, a media and technology company that connects people to local health and fitness activities. Anthony, take a minute, fill in some gaps to that intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Anthony Vennare: Fitt essentially is what Thrill is for fitness, so we create guides to healthy living on a local level in every city across the United States – well, not every city yet, we're only in 15 but we're growing.
John: And what's the little glimpse of your personal life, brother?
Anthony Vennare: My personal life used to be the lifestyle entrepreneur that was working from coffee shops, on the road, traveling, and now as a venture back startup we have a team of people in an office, coming in before the sun goes up, leaving after the sun goes down, and just grinding every day with the team and trying to motivate everybody to build an actual startup business versus a lifestyle entrepreneur.
John: You were on the show before and that was 1681 episodes ago, so, Fire Nation, if you want to hear Anthony's journey about his worst moment, his ah-hah moment, what he was up to back then, definitely go back over 1600 days ago and check it out. He rocked the mic, but today, Anthony, we'll be talking about some different things. First and foremost, my question to you is: What's your area of expertise today?
Anthony Vennare: Today the area of expertise has changed. Before it was creating funnels in all my marketing and really fitness, and it's changed drastically. It's scaling companies and then selling after you've scaled those companies. It's really, what does it mean to build value beyond a few different dollars and cents and funnels and converting those customers. How do you build a company that not only you can profit off of, but your investors and your employees can profit off of as well?
John: What do I not know about scaling and selling a business. What does Fire Nation not know about that that we probably should?
Anthony Vennare: It really goes beyond the story. It goes beyond the story, and whether I'm selling an investor or a customer, it's I need to do my work before I even talk to that person; I need to do my research. Who is this investor, what are their interests, who is this client and what are their interests? How can I make sure that I talk on their level, and then I have to come with actual data? They can't be the cool Antipater of that story that you're telling.
It's a lot easier for me to sell a customer online to download a fitness program, than it is to tell somebody that manages a venture capital company or a health care company that manages $60 billion in revenue like Kaiser Permanente or UPMC Health Plan to sell them on something. They need hard facts, they need proof, and there are a lot of contracts to back it up once you get them sold. So, it's just an entirely different ballgame.
John: Let's play a little compare and contrast because I'm kind of curious. What's it like to run a lifestyle passive business that you were running back at episode 220 versus a venture back startup that has ten employees, hundreds of freelance contributors that's all about the grinds?
Anthony Vennare: The lifestyle entrepreneur, it's a lot more relaxing. You're just kind of – I mean, you live it every day.
John: What are you saying buddy?
Anthony Vennare: It's different because there's no consistency, like I actually have a paycheck, which is different. So, that's the difference, that's the only, I guess, main difference is I can have a paycheck from the startup, but as a lifestyle entrepreneur I am relaxed, I'm different coffee shops, it's about my lifestyle that kind of fits in the name. On the startup side, you have other people betting on you, you're not playing with just your money and your life. Whether it's the employees that depend on you for their livelihood or it's the investors or the clients you have, and it kind of fits more into that corporate lifestyle.
Not as much because we still have fun and it's a different type of company, but it's not me, I'm not as relaxed and I have so many people depending on me that I have to kind of think outside of that, you know, what can I do to make money mentality. It's how do I build something, and how do I take care of these people.
John: So, why did you make the transition?
Anthony Vennare: I mean, we kind of touched on it in the last episode. My dad and after he passed away, and, I mean, the military thing, I was moving and going, and I think the lifestyle entrepreneur and the business I was running was kind of feeling a void, and once I reached a certain level of sustainability, I got a little bit bored, and I wanted to see how big could I build it, and I was listening to Gary V, who I know you've had on the show before, and he was talking about being an angel investor and VC and I had no idea what that was. So, I started looking into it, and then I said, what is the craziest idea that I can come up with, and I came up with one and I started going from there, and I just wanted to kind of challenge myself and see what I could build.
John: Well, speaking of that, there are a lot of things that Gary V's done and other people have done in the angel and VC world that I find fascinating, but what does that fundraising process look like? Now, you've been through it, show us what that entire adventure is.
Anthony Vennare: Yes, we've been through it for a few, I would say, years now. We, last month, closed our a million-dollar investment in our company –
John: Ooh –
Anthony Vennare: – which has been great. Yeah, it was pretty exciting, and it's way more, I guess the word is high school, than you would think. You have to know when to follow up and when not to, how to talk to them, and how not to talk to them. It's crazy that there's this entire process that's backed by millions of dollars that you kind of have to play this game with them.
John: They're just big babies with a lot of money.
Anthony Vennare: It's insane. That's the lifestyle that they live, and I mean, I chose to play in it, but the investor that we brought on was not like that. They used to be an angel investor, and then they weren't happy with the typical games that were played when they were working through a syndicate, so they went out on their own, and we got to work with them. So, it's been great so far.
John: That's cool, and by the way, I know that I'm allowed to say that, Anthony, since I don't work with these, and you have to be politically correct, so definitely, but, Fire Nation, they're big babies with big bank rolls, so I just realized that.
Anthony Vennare: John said that.
John: It was John that said that. So, Fire Nation, we've been dropping value bombs, and we're not stopping. We've got some great things coming up here. I'm really excited to kind of be picking Anthony's brain when it comes to things that he's been doing, and the lifestyle that he lives now in Pittsburg, etcetera, but we're going to take a quick minute first to thank our sponsors.
So, Anthony, we're back, and it's kind of funny because I was giving you a hard time about venture capitalists, but, of course, I have to kowtow to my sponsors, so we all have to bow to somebody I'm sure, and one thing that I've been pretty interested about is how people are able to actually partner with large healthcare companies and brands. You mentioned Kaiser Permanente, Under Armour. You've done a lot of these deals, like how does that happen? Talk to me about that process; let's really dive into the specifics.
Anthony Vennare: It's a lot simpler than you would think. For us it was we were super persistent and almost on the level of annoying where we would find the person that we needed to, and we would just hound them and hound them after we kind of built this persona of who they are, and it's getting in front of them that's the hard part. Once you actually believe in your product and you know what you're selling, you get to them, you get the presentation, you have the data to back it up, it works, but it was really getting to them that was the insane part, and that's why these companies, you have to navigate thousands and thousands of employees to find the right one, and once you get them as a client, they're great.
They have huge pockets. The deliverable is only as hard as selling a consumer. Year over year contracts that continually run, and they have the zeros to back it up, so it's a great thing once you get there, but that grind to find that person and convince them to risk their job essentially to work with you is kind of hard.
John: So, what were some of those strategies? Let's get specific because I'm just curious, I mean, obviously counting on email. So, talk about that, but what were some other strategies you used that really seemed to work? Kind of walk through those.
Anthony Vennare: Yeah, again, I guess I'm going to have say Gary V, again. I can't take credit for this, but it was finding them on social media, and looking at what their interests are, and kind of building that persona of who this person is, what do they read, what sites do they go to, following them on social, liking their tweets, creeping them on Instagram, finding them on LinkedIn and interacting with them before you ever send that email, and then when you finally send an email, they're like, well, this guy's been creeping on me for a while so I know who he is, and that is how I approached it anyway to get to them.
John: So, you don't have to use any names obviously or any company names, but like give me a specific example of a way that you got in that door by using somebody's interest, making a connection, and then being able to follow through with that.
Anthony Vennare: Yeah, so we're based in Pittsburgh. A company that was in the Midwest, and they were essentially the director of what would be integrative marketing, digital marketing and they're someone that we would initially have to get to, and they were super into outdoors, and they were into hiking, climbing, which is what some of our content covers. So, it was following them on social, engaging with their interests, seeing like, oh, they like Outside Magazine, and they're interested in these type of things and they take really cool pictures and start leaving comments and likes and then eventually saying, like hey, since you're out there, what do you think about this, and linking to our site and kind of giving that, I guess, the right hook type thing to say this is our brand, this is who we are, check us out, and then when I sent an email about a month later, they're like, yeah, I know who you are.
John: So, when you work from sunrise to sunset, Anthony, when do you work out in order to stay fit?
Anthony Vennare: Yeah, that was a hard transition –
John: Was that a sigh like I've become fat, is that what that was?
Anthony Vennare: That was a sigh that during the transition I did pack on a few Lbs.
John: Did you? I was kind of kidding –
Anthony Vennare: I did, oh no, I did bad, but –
Anthony Vennare: Luckily, I still work with my brother, he's still the cofounder of the company, and he's one of the most motivational people when it comes to fitness still, so he kind of said, hey man, your clothes are fitting a little tight, let's go start working out at night, let's swing some kettle bells, let's make sure there's healthy snacks in the office, and he kind of pushed me back into it, but it's just timing. A 20-minute kettle bell workout and the right snacks in the office and the bullet proof coffee, and things like that changed drastically versus getting home, not working out and ordering a pizza. It's the same timing, it's the same actual amount of minutes put towards the effort, it's just what you're doing to prepare for it.
John: Such a gamechanger. So, one thing that I'm kind of curious about, making healthy more fun. That's one of your focuses, so kind of what you guys do is you make healthy more fun and social because you have these city-wide fitness challenges and event registrations and all these different things, like how do you guys come to stand for this, to promote this, to kind of be this, for this to be your ethos, like how did it evolve into what it is today?
Anthony Vennare: It's the question we always get and it's so important because that same mission, making fitness or healthy fun and accessible was what we had back with Hybrid Athlete, and just taking it – what we realized, we weren't reaching enough people, so for us, it was we took that mentality and we just wanted to help people, but that can never always be – that's not always a business. Everyone says, find your passion and chase it, well, it's not always a business, and we just had to find, how do we take making people healthy and make it a business, and we thought, who needs to have people healthy as well, and we thought, oh, the healthcare companies or event companies or gyms. There are a lot of people that profit off of that. So, it's kind of inserting us into that process of what does it mean to make someone healthy and who profits off that and how can we help that company profit off that so we can also make money as well.
John: So, what would be the best advice you could give to somebody who is making that transition that you made, or is considering it? What have you learned through that process you think would really be helpful to my listeners?
Anthony Vennare: Biggest thing I can say is take the risk and go big. For us it was making a substantial living as a lifestyle entrepreneur, but I always thought, man, I can go bigger. Like there's somebody making money online and having a good consulting or book business versus somebody that created Facebook or Instagram. It's just a completely different game and the stakes are much higher, but it's so much more fun when you have people around you. Traveling around and working from a coffee shop versus me in a room of ten people and we're all just jamming and we're all making moves and working for clients and everybody's working together.
And the advice is, when you look at those people and you read the books and you look on any magazine, I mean, even when you look at John, you think, oh man, how did they do that, I'll never be able to do that. You definitely can, and you just have to take that big leap, and don't think, oh, I'm going to take this small risk and maybe I'll make a thousand dollars a month. It's no, I'm going to make a million dollars a month and I'm going to make that leap and make it happen.
John: So, let me kind of pass the mic over to you, Anthony, for a second. Why don't you kind of share what you would like Fire Nation to really know about Fitt and how any listeners that might want to learn more can learn more?
Anthony Vennare: Yeah, Fitt is a city by city guide to healthy living, and the next phase of Fitt is us building up this marketplace. So, not only do we provide the content information, if you want to find the gym or the run route or the hiking trail or the farmer's market, we're building out a marketplace so you can register for that gym, you can take the next step and register for that marathon, or you can go and organize and invite your friends and you're going to go on that run route, and if you want to find more about Fitt, it's F-I-T-T.C-O, and there's two Ts because it used to be called Fittsburg. So, we dropped the sburg and now it's called Fitt. Yeah, the old school name. So, it's Fitt.co and right there you'll be able to either find your city or shoot us a note and say, hey, I live in this city and you're not here yet, how can we work together to make sure you guys are.
John: So, Anthony, let's end it today on Fire, brother, with you giving us a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you and your business, and then we'll say goodbye.
Anthony Vennare: Yeah, John, I really appreciate you having me, and my parting piece of guidance is back to just go big. You got to take that risk, and you got to make sure that you're chasing that dream that when you do reach it, you don't feel like you fell short, and that's kind of what happened to me, and if you want to reach me, it's avennare, pretty much in every social media, including LinkedIn. Shoot me a message, reach out, I'm happy to help, talk, hang out, meet up. I mean, I'm normally in Pittsburg, but we can connect somehow, and I'd love to just talk to the entire audience and just kind of connect, and hopefully help somebody out just like you do.
John: Well, Fire Nation, you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You've been hanging out with AV for the first time by the way in 1681 episodes, and JLD today. So, keep up the heat and head over to EOFire.com, type Anthony in the search bar and his show notes page will pop up with everything we've been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz. Timestamps, links galore, and of course, you're going to get to listen to his first episode as well, Episode 220 on EOFire, and you can really compare and contrast these two interviews. Very fascinating, quite the journey that he's been on in the past 1600 plus days, and I just also want to encourage you to check out Fitt, that's F-I-T-T, and Anthony, I want to thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today, and we salute you for that and we'll catch you on the flip side.
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