On this 34th episode of The E-Comm Show, our host and BlueTuskr CEO Andrew Maff is with Nezar Akeel of MaxPro Fitness. Nezar appeared on Shark Tank late last year where he bagged a deal with Mark Cuban. Tune in to this episode with Andrew and Nezar as they talk about their Shark Tank journey, marketing in the time of COVID, and how MaxPro Fitness has completely changed the fitness game in just 20 months.
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Changing the Fitness Game in 20 Months - MaxPro Fitness
Andrew Maff and Nezar Akeel
About Nezar Akeel
Founder and CEO
Nezar is from the Detroit Area, and spent most of his career in the Automotive Industry-leading organizations and businesses in the US, Asia, and Africa. In 2016 he led a management buyout of the Japan operations, a failed business at that time, from his previous employer and established Japan Plastics Technologies, and turned around that business in 8 months and continues today as Chairman. At the same time, Nezar rededicated his efforts to push forward an idea he held for over 20 years of a connected portable gym.. basically a machine that can replace a room full of machines with one machine that fits in a backpack and still allows you to workout at resistance levels from 5lbs to an incredible 300lbs in only a 10lb machine... which also relays all workout data to the MAXPRO coaching app. In only 20 months since the start of shipping, MAXPRO has sold over $18M in revenue, has Shaquille O'Neal as an investor partner, and was featured on Shark Tank last December.
To get things done we really focus on just getting the job done with minimal resources. Hey everyone this is Nezar Akeel for MaxPro
this Rolando with global tech worldwide. Hi, this is Lopa Van Der Mersch from RASA and you are listening to you're watching
and you are listening to The E-Comm Show. Welcome to The E-Comm Show, presented by BlueTuskr, the number one place to hear the inside scoop from other e-commerce experts. They share their secrets about how they scaled their business and are now living the dream. Now, here is your host, Andrew Maff. Hello,
everyone and welcome to another episode of The E-Comm Show. I'm your host Andrew Maff. And today I am joined by Nezar Akeel of Max Pro Fitness. Nizar, how're you doing? Are you ready for a good show?
Yes, ready? Let's do it. Andrew.
Beautiful. I love having fitness brands on the show. And I also know your space is getting wildly crowded. So I'm very excited to dig into this one and see how you guys are tackling that. But I digress. Let's start off with why don't we pretend that no one knows who you are. And why don't you give us a little bit about your background? A little more on macro fitness. We'll go from there. Okay.
Thank you. Yeah, Nizar Kiel, out of the Detroit area. I've always been, you know, Detroit, Motown Motor City, automotive, right. So that's been my career for most of my adult life. And but fitness has always been a part of my life as well played college, soccer, for example, and just wanted to stay fit and trim even as life got busy, and kids and business and all that type stuff. And so the idea of Max Pro was really about how to bring a whole gym workout with me when I travel. And that was literally 22 years ago, believe it or not, and I had the original concept way back then. But then, about six years ago, I dusted it off the shelf, and said, Wow, there's still nothing like this idea I had out there. So you know, I started working on it. While I was busy with my other career, job lights, and everything else. Nice.
So I have to tell you the story. So I'm a big shark tank fan. I'm also a big fitness guy, myself. And so I just moved into this house I'm in right now about two years ago, and we had an extra room. So it's like, I'm gonna turn this thing into a gym. So I actually bought resistance bands. And I bought a, I don't know how to explain it. It's basically like a handle that you would put in a bathroom for like an old person to help get in and out. Installed that on my wall. Turns out, so what I would do is I would put the resistance band through it, and I would use it that way. Right? Well installed it horribly. And that thing came out of the wall one day. Oh, no, is to say I thought for sure I was not having kids. Oh, no. So when I saw your episode, I was like, walk me. This is what I should have. This makes more sense. So big, big fan of the product. And when I found out where you were gonna be on the show, I was like, Oh, this is gonna be great. I got to tell him the story.
And you know, bands are dangerous, man. Yeah, they are pent-up energy ready to go towards your face to knock yourself out either.
Exactly. So, you know, you had this idea. You brushed it off, brought it back? What kind of mate? What kind of got it going? And what was the beginning
the aspect of the company? Yeah, you know, I don't think there's any better time to be an entrepreneur. And our product is hardware as a hardware platform, and then also a software app. It's pretty comprehensive. And I did not have funding. There was not this is a self-funded operation bootstrap everything yet, you would imagine entrepreneurs would do. I did bring this forward. And this is again, not a kitchen widget is a pretty complicated product and has many facets to it. So it was just a pretty daunting task. But I say that is the best time to be an entrepreneur because there are so many resources, global resources available to you at your fingertips, literally. And so at the up to my ability where I could afford, I was getting resources to help me engineer and design the product and move it just inching along day by day. It really took five years of development in this one A because of lack of funding, just self-funding to get the product to the level that you see it now. So the resources in terms of design engineering, also the rapid prototyping capabilities that are available out there now to help, you know, reduce the costs of prototypes, and also the ability to market directly to people through the internet, and Facebook, Instagram, that's all been unheard of, to bypass the big marketing companies and things like that in the past. So those were the things I had going for me, money was not going for me. But regardless, that didn't stop me. And I felt, you know, honestly, if I could create something that I would use that I know I needed, and then someone other person felt the value or saw the value of that product, and was willing to pay their hard-earned money for it, then that would have been a sign of success for me right from the start.
So you bootstrap this? Yeah. That's I mean, considering you're, you're well into eight figures at this point. And you're like, correct. So yeah, Bootstrap? Did you put any kind of self-investment into it? There's all at all, or is it completely like, traditionally Bootstrap?
Traditionally Bootstrap? And if you'd say if you say, Did I put investment Yeah, I put investment so not including any of the actual time or hours of along the way, I brought in an investment. After we had a global debut at CES in 2020. That was the first time when I really got to have a wide audience really, view the product, and test it out. And at that we have just inundated our booth from morning to eat afternoon, it just was an incredible response, we also got the Innovation Award. And so often through that time, we didn't have any investment at all, we did do a Kickstarter in mid-2019. And that raised about a quarter of a million dollars to help along the way. So I brought an investor in after January, basically to help fill the pipeline. But all of the tooling and everything else, the design engineering, and the app development were all done prior to wow. So you
were to Kickstarter in 2019, you had CES in 2020, your timing I'm imagining was perfect. So how did 2020 into the last year 2021? Go for you? Yeah, it's
obviously, you're talking about COVID. That was timing was perfect, and not perfect, in a different sense. Because we had the Kickstarter in 2019. And it was about a year later that we deliver the product. But up to that point, when the COVID hit, the pressure for us to deliver became immense. And my philosophy or strategy was to grow slow, get the product out there, and first of all, make sure that the product is okay, not just flood the market with the product. And that will that would I can see that as being a disaster. Honestly, if things go wrong, and sure enough, there were a few things that went wrong. So the built-in is the built-in demands because COVID was obvious and we were pre-selling. So as we were pre-selling prior to deliveries, that was also helping us with the cash cycle to keep the development going. So that was a very fortunate thing for us. And all along. You know, there haven't really been any product deliveries until July of 2020. And then, um, we're kind of waiting, waiting to see what the result is going to be what you know, up until that point, there's a lot of people who support you because you're an entrepreneur and young company, and they're willing to forgive delays or quality late I supported this, this business. But from that point on, those are people random people, who stop finding your product line and then buy it and don't know you from Adam. And they're gonna tear into you if your product isn't just right. And we did have a few quality issues early on that we had to communicate very openly and honestly. And we had to stop shipments we had to rework parts and get those results within the first two months of shipment shipping. And that was also COVID because I couldn't visit my manufacturing partner overseas during the launch or prior to the launch to make sure everything was perfect. So that was another negative of the whole COVID era launch. In the end our product. Really very fortunate to have it very well received. You can see the reviews online, you know on our website or Google or Amazon that People just absolutely love Max pose versatility and power and
capability. So, you know, obviously, COVID While unfortunate for many did help a lot of entrepreneurs that had businesses that can benefit from you know, at Home Fitness specifically, how is it you were able to market this and stand out from the others that theoretically are still competition, you know, like the peloton and the tunnels and the mirrors and all those like, you know, how have you been able to get people to incorporate your, your product as well as your software into their workouts along with all of these other fitness brands that are doing something similar with their own equipment? Yeah, it's
in the companies you mentioned, you know, the scale of those companies versus us is completely different. As a David Goliath almost situation, I think, um, you know, totally add $750 million of investments, tempos at 300 million, you know, we've had less than two or two by two, right. So that is a mess, that we cannot afford not to be profitable, we had to sell a product that is actually profitable because we take it reinvested into growing the business, as opposed to some other way of thinking where let's just grow the top line, let's just flood the market with marketing and brand building. And like, peloton they're not profitable. I don't know about the others, because they're not public. But it's, it's hard to imagine that we could never have done something like that. So we were competing on very uneven grounds. And so we did just grassroots type of social media marketing, a ton of whatever we could afford, and try to get the return on ad spend to a certain level that would allow us to, you know, keep the cycle flowing. And that's exactly what we did. The right COVID did have an impact in terms of helping us keep that cycle flowing as well.
What's your approach been now that COVID has kind of, you know, everyone's allowed out of their homes and businesses reopen, people are going back into gyms, like how are you marketing it now?
I think this exact point that you just brought up, Andrew is really important for all people in the industry, I think, you know, for any connected fitness device, or just gym equipment, in general, home gym equipment, I think they're probably experiencing a slowdown right now. That's to be expected. And the, for us, we have such a niche for our products, you know, we don't mind as we would sell or we do sell to gyms and gyms could have a max pro class inside of their studio type workouts because it's such a small, you know, little package sorry about bringing this over just a small little package like this, right so and we have group training with it so we don't compete with the gym. So that's a positive for us too, is that while people bought what I thought originally Max Pro is going to be for people who travel mostly, it turned out during the series survey that we did that 80% of using as their home gym. But it was so cool because 60% of them also bought it also because they knew if they travel, they could take it with us and or they can take it into the backyard on a nice day or take it to the park and a nice day and it's so it really fills a spot that no other real connected real gym has been able to actually target and for us being able to do 300 pounds of resistance on a pretty versatile machine literally allows you to do so many different things with it. And you can do it practically anywhere. That's less what's kept us so different and so unique. Even some of our recent marketing the customers that have been sending in videos or posting they are working out at a beach they are working out on a battleship we have military members who battle Yeah, or aircraft carrier and it's right over the water. You know, we even have some in nuclear submarines which is crazy for us but you can understand why with a form factor. Yeah,
that's you know, that's impressive and that's actually a good point I didn't even think about that is that all of them at-home like fitness brands I can think of none of them are mobile at least the one that I can think about that my head but so obviously you just showed us the product I know you have any kind of extended the line a little bit you have a bench and there's some yeah the track and everything. What is it how was it like a supply chain for you over these past couple of years? Has it hasn't been an issue as well. And if so, how did you kind of overcome that? Yeah, I think
for us, my Background has. I've worked in Asia previously, and I've run businesses over there in Japan and China previously, and I was very familiar with the supply chain logistics, manufacturing operations, and things along those lines. And I set I set everything up early on. I would say we had good partners in place, good contracts in place, and also good payment terms in place. And so when I started noticing that the containers were starting up, this was before the port Black is a container started having shortages. And before, before the actual ship, shipping costs went up, we actually did very large order and by the beginning of the year 2021, which was hurt us on the cash side tremendously, but we were doing it to kind of preempted this issue of that that is so prevalent now, not just in our industry, but everywhere. We also had expected Shaquille O'Neal's impact earlier in the year, but we never really actually got that, you know, we as you know, we have a partnership with him. And he's an investor in business as well, and we didn't actually get any of his advertising up until the end of the year. So we had quite a bit of product in the middle of the year. So that also was in hindsight, helpful from the port's perspective. So
I don't say the elephant in the room, but it when uh, I've had several Shark Tank companies on the show, some love talking about it, some don't want to talk about it at all. It's always very interesting to hear that response. I know you are obviously on the show. Any insight into what that whole experience was like, why you decided to go on it, whether you regret it or not, like, what are your thoughts on that?
I'm a big fan of this show. Also, I watched it for a long time. So I loved everything about it. And I mean, it was nerve-wracking as hell, I just gotta say, I mean, I wouldn't want to do it again. But I've spoken in front of crowds and stuff in the past, but definitely something about waiting behind those double doors, waiting for them to open up. And you know, it was really, I had to do some breathing exercises to bring my heart rate up. But you know, the sharks, first of all, they look identical to what you see on TV, I was really surprised. And then, you know, they were friendly. Even Mr. Wonderful didn't tear me apart too bad. I was there for about 45 minutes, you know, the shows, I don't know, my show lasted seven, eight minutes or something like that. But I really appreciated the questions they asked and they, you know, some of the things that they said, I wish they would have aired as Gloria said, you know, the, you're wanting to hear the kind of entrepreneur we all want to partner with, you know, and so I wish they were here some of that kind of stuff. But overall, you know, I had an offer from two sharks Daymond John's and Mark Cuban, and this was just December, just so if anyone's watching, it was just December of 2021. So not too long ago. And it was funny because, you know, Damon Kay came in early. And he was like, upset that I didn't reply back that he offered $500,000 for 3%. But, you know, he did ask for royalties. And at the same time, I don't mean to be disrespectful to him. But right, when he asked someone else, is asking you a question, and they totally like pull you away from answering. So you can answer the question. And it wasn't meant to, you know, not answer to him. And then ultimately, as he might have seen the rest of the show, but then Mark Cuban jumped in and he jumped in payments like you're out I'm out. Took marks offer. So yeah, it was it was pretty exciting. So I gotta tell you that much.
Yeah. You know, the way they cut that show, sometimes it always drives me crazy, because it's always interesting. And like, you know, they really want an answer right now. But then like the next person comes on and they're like, No, you can shop us around some like you guys really need to like pick and choose if you're going to stick to a certain way and I've seen that before too or someone will make an offer and then it's someone talks over someone and it's your fault somehow that they're being rude. So it's interesting, but I digress.
It was helpful for us to form a brand awareness perspective. You know, sales obviously were huge for the weeks after that. Plus it was around Christmas time and New Year new you. So it was just perfect timing for us. Honestly.
Have you re-aired since the original airing in December? No, no, not yet. It'll be interesting to see what happens then because I've had some people on the show that was on seasons 234 or years ago, and they say when it repairs, they almost always know when it's repaired. And I believe they'll they should even give you a heads up, I think because I would hope they would give you a heads up. So you haven't? I hope we do. What, uh, what were you planning on taking this? So you've obviously grown it real fast. You're, you know, already surpassing that eight-figure mark, which is a very tough area to break. You know, you've been on national television and you did great at CES, what are you planning on taking MaxxPro? Yeah, it's,
it's important, as you mentioned, to realize we've only been, you know, 20 months or something like that. And like you said, we're in the eight-figure mark now, and the cash management throughout, that has been crazy as you would imagine. So, for us, we have new products, we're introducing on both the hardware and digital side, we're really excited about everything that we're doing is a very minimalist design approach, the full body fitness and we have many customer testimonials that talk about how, literally everything they used to do in a gym, they can do with this max pro anywhere and those, having more and more of those testimonials just support the fact that we're in the right track, what we're trying to do, the products that we're looking to move into the hardware side, are still, you know, very close to being in development. But one of them we had on Shark Tank, which is a basically incline decline bench that converts into a rowing machine using the Max Pro, as a kind of rowing engine, let's say. And it's also a very unique offering that we have later this year. So on the hardware side, we're going to be growing. And on the digital experience side, we're really excited that we have two games, which they didn't show on Shark Tank. But we have two video games actually, that we've developed and are nearly finished. One of them is a rowing game and one of a boxing game. So when we talk about Max, but we're talking about freedom, fitness, and fun, the freedom is kind of obvious that you can work out anywhere, anytime, on your own terms. And almost like how people consume entertainment these days with Netflix on your phone and your V anything anywhere anytime to the same thing with Max, but it enables that freedom peace and fitness is obvious. But the fun is then when we provide more opportunities for gaming and social interaction. So in our app right now, for example, in our max pro coaching, yeah, you can do, you can challenge friends, you can challenge them in a private room type of thing, you can create your own workouts and challenge them. Or you can challenge them to a specific Max pro class. And we have this MX P score. That is basically how you rank yourselves in terms of the amount of energy you put into that workout. We also have leaderboards and things along those lines as well. And now we're moving into that gaming side where it's just going to be more fun and engaging. So get your workout in. Yeah. Nice.
So explain your model a little bit is it similar to you know, some of your competition where it's you purchase the hardware, and then you have a subscription fee for the software? Or is it you purchase the hardware and you get the subscription, the software for free what's been your approach what's worked so far.
Initially, it was up through December of last year, it was hardware app was free. But we had an old app that we totally rebuilt from the ground up and launched in December, with all the features that I mentioned to you and the gaming and things along those lines. So this now becomes a subscription model for $19 a month added on with all the coach's classes that we're putting in there. So all of the gaming will be included, and the new classes will be included. And then we also have a really cool Detroit dash and say it's what we call it because I have to I have to put some practice in there. But the Detroit dash is actually if you look it up on the app, and start freestyle dash, it looks like a car dashboard is really cool and has a revving noise at first, and then it gives you very detailed performance metrics related to velocity based training, which is one way of training yourself too. If you're interested in working more than aerobic level or hypertrophy, meaning this muscle building level, you can actually see that real-time visually it should be the first time in a consumer fitness product that you can do that anywhere. So a lot of cool features are built-in right there for it within the app and that's why we're also charging the subscription model. And then the hardware and accessories are additional of course
yeah It's really interesting, as I've, you know, I've been in E-commerce for years and on this show specifically, I've really started to realize a lot of different businesses really getting into the subscription model. And it makes a lot of sense, you know, your projectable cashflow, you kind of know what's coming in, or at least to a certain extent, and they tend to, if you're looking to exit one day, tend to exit with a much higher multiple, but there's always a big conversation around, you know, companies just flip a switch, and now we're subscription versus companies that realize you have to provide that extra value to justify that recurring cost for the user. What is it? You know, obviously, you have code, you have courses and coaches do you have different classes and the games that are coming out and all these things that you're doing to provide value? How often is that stuff like being refreshed, what other aspects are coming with the
subscription costs behind it? Right, so we didn't, for the, for those that we flipped the switch on, we actually grandfathered in, you know, for many of the features that we already had, so, and code classes and so on. For us, we're refreshing every two months or so adding like 20 or more classes. So it's a considerable amount that we have a studio in LA that we regularly bring coaches to, we also regular lives on Instagram and YouTube, that then get also put into our app on a weekly basis. So those lives are free for anyone you know, to see, during the live events. And then when you're getting put into the coaching app, they just become part of the premium section. But so the definitely we provide free content. And there are a lot of things you can do with the app, even when it's free. So we're trying to like exactly as you said, Andrew makes sure that there's enough value that people will say, Yeah, I think it's worth it especially with, with more coaches, classes in gaming, and a lot of the performance metrics that I mentioned to you already. So
one of the things I was just kind of realizing, as you were going through this, you're 20 months into this. And when I speak to someone that's 20 months into their business, the conversation is not like this. So what is it that you know, I don't even know how I want to wear this? How did you? What did you do differently than other businesses, clearly you're not doing that? Because to get to, you know, surpass eight figures. And what to less than two years is astounding? What do you claim is your secret sauce.
Thank you for recognizing the hard work that I see. And honestly, we have a very small team too. And so again, I almost it's hard to not be proud of what we've done. Because you know, really with no investment, technically relative wise, no investment, I already gave the numbers of the people that are in the space, that and so bootstrapping and getting things done and selling and accomplishing. And especially since cost of marketing has gone up recently with Apple doing their security updates and things like that, and e-commerce businesses have really been struggling to get the same kind of return on ad spend. And the cost of acquisition costs has gone up. So for us, it's a daily struggle, I think, I don't think we drink the Kool-Aid, that you need to have large teams to get things done, I think you just need a small because what our costs are really low too. So to get things done, we really focus on just getting the job done with minimal resources, right. We're also, I think, a very nimble company, when we want to design something, we literally can have a design put together, you know, within a few weeks for products, yeah, the iterations after that, but to go from an initial idea to a prototype for us is within eight weeks. And to test the theory out so we don't live in our imagination, and we don't think we're too small for something. And, you know, that's helped. And I mentioned the support they that you find available to you globally because of the gig economy and so on is also been a tremendous support system for our business
to the gig economy. Are you referring to like Upwork fiber, things like that?
Yeah, early on I use all of those early on for you know, you kiss a lot of frogs before you meet that Prince and then we meet the press, and then you kind of keep that. So, so that's that that I mean, I've had a lot of trial and errors, you know, even when I was trying to get my circuit board design because there's circuitry inside the MAXPRO, and sensors that, you know, track all your motion and everything. I'm an engineer, anyways by education so I can help direct. And I don't get fooled too easily, I guess if someone's not doing the work. And that's helpful, let's put it that way. So it was still, we had some, some things that didn't work out and just had to keep on moving forward, I really do think that perseverance is the key. And not giving up if you feel like this product is going to be useful to some people. And just to that effect, I never realized how useful MaxxPro is going to be. And I already mentioned how some of our military members take the product of deployment within and literally won't go without it. But we're really humbled and proud of the fact that people with disabilities are using Max Pro and working out as they've never had the option to before. You know, we have wrist straps, for example, instead of using handles, if their hands are not functioning, they can use the wrist straps to get a body workout, which a lot of times are in wheelchairs, right. So not only are mechanized wheelchairs, but all of a sudden, they're starting to really get the blood flowing. And it's really, really important for their bodies. We have people who had amputees like lower leg and PCs, for example, and haven't been able to do weight, squatted weighted squats with Max, you don't have a weight, but you have resistance. So for the first time, they've been able to really get back into what they remember, as a gym workout in a much safer, you're not going to have a bar come flying out your bags in a safe way. And we have people posting within wheelchairs, you know, they roll right on top of the MaxPro and start working out. And weights are heavy, obviously. So it's dangerous for them to be picking up anything over dropping and things like that. So there are a lot of things that you know, we're quite proud of during this short time. That's pretty cool, because
I didn't even think of that. And that makes a lot of sense. That's got to be very, that's got to be very fulfilling to see when you didn't expect it. You're like oh, I'm I'm doing something really good here.
Yeah, that's what motivates our little team every day honestly. And that's what also separates Max Pro from so many other products out there. I don't mean to plug it for specific, I'm just saying that. It's so unique. I mean we have a product that is you know, the way it's used it's so you know it seems so simple when you look at it, it's like okay, well it was it a hoverboard or something like that. Right. And it's really simple to use but then you have to learn that there are so many things you can do with it and then like you said if you add the bench to it or the wall track you got that much more do yeah, that's pretty cool.
So I really appreciate having your show. I don't want to take up any more time I know you're super busy. I'd love to give you the opportunity here to just let everyone know where they can find out more about macro fitness. Yeah, thank
you so much Andrew for having me on. It's just such a pleasure to talk to you. We need you to know people to know about what we're doing I guess and I'm here to shoot you. Maxprofitness.com is our website and then check us on Instagram Mexico Detroit as well thank you so much. Yeah,
appreciate it czar really appreciates having him on the show. Everyone who tuned in, of course, thank you as well please make sure you head over to ecommshow.com and check out all of our other episodes make sure you rate reviews subscribe to all that fun stuff on whichever podcast platform you prefer or on YouTube. But as usual thanks again and we will see you all next time. Have a good one.
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