The accidental entrepreneurs
For Northland couple Trevor and Danielle Beatson, a personal weight-loss journey led to an idea for a coaching app, which led to a mid-life crash course in entrepreneurship. In terms of career changes – this one is about as scary as it gets. It involves Northland-based couple Trevor and Danielle Beatson – both in their […]
For Northland couple Trevor and Danielle Beatson, a personal weight-loss journey led to an idea for a coaching app, which led to a mid-life crash course in entrepreneurship.
In terms of career changes – this one is about as scary as it gets. It involves Northland-based couple Trevor and Danielle Beatson – both in their mid-to-late 40s and with four kids.
Trevor has a 21-year police career behind him, while Danielle has been a schoolteacher for many years.
So how did a couple hooked on relatively ‘cushy’ jobs and regular ‘Ministry’ pay cheques end up as tech-entrepreneurs – and completely out of their comfort zone?
It all began when Trevor left the force two and a half years ago. For 18 months he worked for Dr Lance O’Sullivan’s community-based virtual health service iMOKO. But his weight was a problem – it had ballooned beyond 170 kilos and associated health issues made the couple realise that something drastic had to be done.
“I remember one day being plugged into an ECG machine and thinking I’ll end up going to Auckland for open heart surgery,” recalls Trevor.
Instead, he went on an online weight-loss programme and subsequently lost 45 kilos over four months, which he describes as a “massive life-changing event”.
That programme was both interesting and effective, and it drew Danielle into the weight loss coaching space. She found herself coaching family and friends who’d seen Trevor’s rapid transformation under her management.
“Six months later I was coaching more than 50 clients a month – pretty much on a daily basis,” she says. “So I ended up juggling my family commitments with a full-time and now part-time job.”
The couple searched online without success for an app to assist with the daily coaching. Danielle was jumping from email to texting, to Messenger and to spreadsheets. She desperately needed an app that could save her time, but there was nothing suitable out there.
It was time to create their own – iLose was the result – not only fulfilling her coaching needs in terms of connecting daily with clients, but also the needs of other weight-loss coaches wherever in the world they might be.
Both Trevor and Danielle were genuinely surprised by the positive reaction to their cloud-connected iLose app. It halves the time that coaches spend on the phone (or spreadsheets) to clients and eliminates the bulk of the donkey-work around monitoring whether clients are on, or off, track with their goals. For Danielle, that used to add up to 20 to 30 hours of her time each week.
Being a ‘white-labelled’ cloud product also means the iLose coaching app is compatible with any online weight-loss programme. Its target market includes personal trainers, weight-loss coaches, nutritionists and health professionals.
Trevor and Danielle are still coming to grips with the size of the potential market.
“Right now we’re targeting around 5000 [weight-loss] coaches – but that’s just one vertical of hundreds and hundreds of weight-loss programmes being delivered around the world by thousands and thousands of coaches,” says Trevor. “It’s a world of opportunity.”
Launched in late 2018, the couple report that they’ve just hit a couple of growth milestones – 300 subscriber coaches and 5000 downloads of the app.
It’s a Freemium-based business model. The iLose app is free to download and use for people to track their personal weight-loss journey. For coaches to access the coaching portal there’s a choice of a monthly or annual subscription.
“All the feedback so far has been really positive,” says Trevor. In the SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) space the churn rate is always used as a measure of success, and he says he could count the churn rate for iLose since launch on the fingers of one hand. “But even some of those have since re-subscribed,” he adds.
Weight-loss coaches are reporting a halving of their time now spent coaching. As Trevor points out, they can use that extra time to walk the dog, spend time with the family, or increase their client base.
As for Danielle, she’s been using the extra time to work full-time in the business. A while ago she managed to give up her day job teaching. Now, with both of them fully engaged with boot-strapping iLose, everything rests on the success of the business.
“We’re definitely in a different space to what we’re used to,” admits Trevor.
“But we definitely believe in what we’re doing,” adds Danielle.
Following a “scary” Dragon’s Den-style pitch, Trevor and Danielle’s business was chosen for ecentre’s 2019 Sprint Global programme to accelerate their garage-to-global journey.
The programme is fully-funded with support from foundation partners Massey University and Callaghan Innovation, along with a long list of other partners and supporters.
The couple describe the programme and its mentors as “outstanding” and “awesome”. They quickly learned that they’d been naively spending too much time focused on product, and not enough on customers. That’s now being addressed.
They’re also now focused on getting the business investment-ready in order to scale up. At the same time they’re realistic about success not happening overnight.
“We’ve sold the boat, the car, the truck, and I’m trying hard not to sell the Harley,” laughs Trevor.
Rather than lamenting the absence of a regular pay cheque, the couple are “thrilled and excited” about what they are striving towards.
They encourage others to have the courage to act on a good idea – just as they did.
Too often people get trapped in ‘play it safe’ mode, says Trevor. “We found that once you take that first step, you discover that there are a lot of smart people you can tap into for the right advice. People always want to help and encourage you.”
So what does success look like for the Beatsons?
“We want to totally dominate Australia and smash the US and UK markets,” says Trevor. “So in two years’ time that would mean 4000 to 5000 coaches worldwide and 100,000 clients being coached.”
With social media and Internet that target is totally doable, he says.