Nicole Pekerman got the inspiration for her company, an app called Paid Workout, from her son. When her son asked her why money didn’t just come out of the treadmill after she finished a workout she realized that, although that’s not how it would work, that it was possible. We sat down with Pekerman to discuss everything from the inspiration for Paid Workout to how her previous work in the food industry helped prepare her for her pivot to health and wellness tech.
Grit Daily: You have your own marketing background from before Paid Workout. Share those.
Nicole Pekerman: As far as marketers go, I’m a little bit different. I started my career over seventeen years ago in traditional tier 1 CPG marketing, but not before I ran my father’s steel fabrication company for three years after he’d passed away and then sold it. His last piece of advice was “do what you love” and I LOVED marketing, so I went for it.
My first marketing job was at Kraft Heinz. I rose-up the ranks for 12 years in a variety of roles from brand marketing, portfolio management, strategy and innovation and finally leading Innovation for Kraft Heinz Canada and all while becoming a mama twice over. Following my amazing time at Kraft Heinz, running billion dollar global brands like DiGiorno Pizza, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Blue Box Mac & Cheese, Kraft Dressings, Mio, Kool Aid and more, I went to Weston Foods to rebuild brands as iconic as Wonder Bread and Dave’s Killer Bread. I was blessed with the opportunity to build and lead the marketing organization as well. I built my team from the ground up including creating an internal design agency, a licensing and partnership department and a social, digital and brand build team. I treasured my time at Weston, but after being a Cannes Lion shortlist nom, I felt I wanted to go back to big brands. I then made the move into QSR marketing for RBI, working with industry leading talent and agencies, and leading the Tim Hortons brand for Canada/Global. I finally transitioned to a new entrepreneurial endeavor during COVID, Paid Workout, all while working as a mommy, teacher, bedtime story reader, pro zoom meeting joiner and uber for my two beautiful, wonderful and at times challenging kiddos.
What differentiates me and my personal brand is my aptitude for discovering consumer insights that lead to calculated risks when it comes to building brands, developing creative and growing businesses that reap rewards. This unique combination of skills, as well as an appetite for learning new disciplines has allowed me to transition easily between organizations, brands, teams and projects. Moreover, it has shaped me into a passionate ad nerd, channel agnostic marketer and business builder who has the drive of a hustler a la Robin Arzon.
While my work has been recognized by the Effies, Lions, CMA’s, PAC and more, I live by my “Tombstone moment” mantra, being the best human, mom, wife, friend, daughter, mentor and motivator I can be.
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you, I’m a firecracker with a shoe collection that rivals SATC Carrie’s, with crazy motivation to run a daily 10K and a passion for wellness through movement surpasses all else.
Grit Daily: What’s behind the Paid Workout name?
NP: The idea behind Paid Workout was inspired by my son. He asked me “Mommy, wouldn’t it be cool if money came out of the treadmill when you finish a run? Then you wouldn’t have to go to work.” At first, I laughed and thought it was cute. Then, the more I thought about it, I became inspired to create an opportunity for people to actually get paid to work out…Enter, Paid Workout.
When thinking of an app name, we wanted it to be as telegraphic and motivating as possible. We knew that we wanted to intrigue people from the get go. Including the word “Paid” definitely raises eyebrows and pulls people in, while “Workout” shares with users exactly what they need to do.
Consumers typically tend to shy away from complex names and like more descriptive names, especially memorable ones that help with recall. After years in marketing, I was also cognizant of the fact that as a start-up, we didn’t have tons of marketing support to explain ‘what’s in a name’.
We love that it’s memorable, simple and it easily transitions into the PW acronym. We’ve also received incredible consumer feedback behind our powerful and uplifting PW logo.
When we searched if paidworkout.com was available and it was, we took it as a sign! It was meant to be. So we went for it!
Grit Daily: What was your biggest motivation for starting Paid Workout?
NP: For years, I was beyond passionate for my career, marketing, my brands and my teams. It became part of my identity. Then, pre-COVID-19, I transitioned to a new job that was taking a toll on me mentally, physically and emotionally. I was leaving home at 4am, coming home just in time put the kids to bed and sometimes after bedtime. I was missing moments that matter. I stopped connecting with friends and family, my husband and I were like ships passing in the night. My health deteriorated, I began struggling with panic attacks and the stress was all consuming. When my passion waned, my energy was depleted. I felt like I had nothing left to give. I knew, I could no longer go on like this.
At the same time, my lifelong passions fitness and wellness through movement for all were beginning to take precedence in my life. When we entered our first lock down due to COVID-19, I found myself working out much more than ever before for my mental health. I also noticed friends and acquaintances reaching out to me for help, for guidance and for motivation.
Passion is Energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.-Oprah Winfrey
There was an idea percolating. Once my son and I had our conversation around getting paid to workout, I started the app as a side hustle. The more we developed the idea, the more I felt energized. A newfound passion was bubbling up and I couldn’t recall ever feeling this excited about anything. I was laser focused on perfecting this app and sharing this opportunity with those that needed motivation to become their best selves. I was excited about the opportunity to impact so many people in such a positive and exciting way. Several months later, we had our beta out the door.
Grit Daily: Considering the fierce competition in today’s fitness apps, how would you highlight your company’s competitive advantages?
NP: While competition is fierce in the fitness app space, there are several factors that set Paid Workout apart. We’ve developed an app that takes into account scientifically proven motivation factors. We’ve developed a motivation model called PRISE and every part of the app experience stems from the science of motivation. PRISE stands for Process Oriented, Realistic, Interim, Specific & Energized, this is the experience you will get from Paid Workout.
Inclusivity & variety:
When developing the app, I was passionate about inclusivity and variety. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. Even though I run most days, I like to mix it up with some spin or hot yoga and of course strength training. I wanted to ensure our challenges gave users that flexibility. We call it the “You do You” philosophy. Users are always so happy to know they can do their favorite activity or sport and it all counts towards points to win the challenges.
Additionally, I wanted to ensure everyone felt included. When I was a beginner I’d feel completely paralyzed going into a new class or new group. It was scary to be in a room full of pros. With PW, the system customizes your group whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced. There are accountability challenges specific to each group, gender and age demographic to level the playing field. This ensures motivation is at its highest as is the opportunity to win!
Alternatively, motivated individuals:
We call our users “motivation seekers”. They have the desire to exercise and move more, they just haven’t found the tools to help them build a habit until now! While most fitness apps have a similar target focused on weight loss or the perfect body, Paid Workout focuses on wellness through movement for all. While some might join because of the monetary extrinsic motivator they often stay for the competition, the community and the focus on health and wellness on their terms.
Creating connection and accountability:
For many years, online or virtual classes or offerings were mocked and seen as “less than” in-studio classes. Well, a combination of the rise of Instagram and of course Covid turned that theory on its head. On-demand and live classes are killing it and Peloton, Mirror, Beach Body are all proof.
That said, the one thing that is missing when you are doing only virtual classes is the sense of being “part of something” – enter PW. Paid Workout has an incredible pull not just by gamifying and/or rewarding people with badges or points but by creating a real, live, up to the minute competition. An experience where users are waking up every day and pushing themselves to compete.
Users feel a sense of accountability they’ve never felt before given they pay a small entrance fee. This secret sauce has helped users break through walls mentally, physically and even emotionally. For me, the magic is when you are in a group with your squad, people with the same goals and motivations and people who are cheering you on too. Not only do you have the chance to win some cash, you leave with connections and confidence like you’ve never felt before.
Grit Daily: What’s one conventional wisdom about fitness apps that’s just plain wrong?
NP: Just One? LOL. If I had to choose it would be that most fitness apps out there now focus on weight loss or a specific body part that’s a bit superficial. Get this booty in 30 days, or shredded abs in 3 months. Solely looking at these benefits can lead you to focus on the exterior only and possibly ignore health and wellbeing.
As someone with a complex relationship with weight, and the exterior, I’ve worked very hard to focus on how I feel. Do I feel good? Do I feel strong? Do I feel happy? Am I able to play and run with my kids? Movement has become the key to my health and wellness journey, rather than the number on the scale or the shredded abs (which are fabulous and amazing to have too). I’ve evolved to really focusing on how I feel not just how I look.
Additionally, we are seeing a true shift in consumer need from just weight loss being the goal to health and wellness being the ultimate outcome users desire. I’m proud that PW focuses on wellness through movement. We believe investing in yourself by putting in small steps forward every day will make a lasting difference for your future.
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