As a lifelong fitness enthusiast, CEO and founder of Fitmark, Mark A. Samuel, had seen one too many of his gym-mates walking around with shapeless, simple, and uninspired bags. He pondered this. He knew these same intense, stylish, and successful people wouldn’t settle for a pair of cheap shoes, an ill-fitting suit, or a flabby body. So why not set the same exacting standards for a bag?
Yet no high-end company that focused solely on fitness bags existed. In 2011, Mark put his extensive entrepreneurial experience to work and created Fitmark. Like a fine suit, Fitmark is an instant expression of who you are and what you believe: the mark of a fitness enthusiast.
BusinessInterviews.com: What sets Fitmark products apart from more traditional bags?
Mark: Fitmark designs and manufactures high quality, high performance bags with great utility, specific for the fitness market. That alone sets us apart from most companies in the bag manufacturing space. In fact, I am a fan of a lot of brands that manufacture bags, the difference is that most of those brands also manufacture all types of other products such as shoes, shirts and general apparel. Our concentration and sole concentration is bags. That allows us to focus on what’s needed in the fitness market and also what’s missing. Over time, we want to take our bags from general fitness to sport specific categories, which again, no one has done before.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you talk about the inspiration behind the Fitmark 1 for 1 Program and your decision to partner with Boys and Girls Clubs around America?
Mark: Fitmark follows three important rules: 1. Design and manufacture high quality, functional bags for the fitness market. 2. Provide beyond exceptional customer service, unlike any other in the industry. 3. Give back to the community. All three are equally important in achieving our mission. When I thought of the idea of giving back and who we should partner with, the Boys and Girls Club made great sense since we knew our bags could get into the hands of kids in need. We also knew that since they had locations across the country that we could expand our donations as we continued to grow. We are on track to donate close to 2,000 bags this year and we’re excited to grow that number next year. Knowing that our bags put a smile on a child in need or can possibly motivate a child to do better in school or participate in after school sports, so they may receive a bag, makes us feel good and motivates us to do even more.
BusinessInterviews.com: In just the span of two years, Fitmark is now sold in more than 35 countries. How have you managed to gain such an impressive amount of traction in such a short period of time?
Mark: Our team works extremely hard day in and day out. From day one we knew what we wanted to achieve as a brand and we also knew what it would take to be successful: when in a start-up situation, unless funded with millions of dollars, you need to treat each day as if it could be your last. You need to work hard, create opportunities, close deals, and repeat every single day, weekends included. We did that and we continue to do that.
BusinessInterviews.com: How important is social media to your overall marketing efforts?
Mark: Social media is extremely important. It’s a marketing channel we concentrate a lot of our efforts on growing each day. I work directly with a team of professionals in the social media space, a team that can collaborate on ideas, create new ones and execute on point. Most businesses think that posting something brand specific, or simply targeting their core audience is all that’s needed and then you grow your social audience. That’s only partly true, and that’s if you’re doing it right. My belief is that you need to plan, just like with any marketing initiative. Social media is a great platform, treat it right and it will treat you right, especially in the long run.
BusinessInterviews.com: When did you know that Fitmark was going to be a success? Additionally, how has your definition of success evolved since first launching the company?
Mark: I’m a fairly confident entrepreneur so I would say that I knew it would be successful when I finished writing the business plan. I stay as objective as possible during that process and even more so when talking about it with those I respect in the business world. In this case, one call I made was to an ex-president of one of the largest bag manufacturers in the world and I asked his opinion. He said, “Yeah. I believe there’s a great void in that market, just as you’re describing. Go for it.” After that, I just needed to work hard and execute which wouldn’t be a problem. So, 2.5 years later, we’re coming off earning more revenue month-over-month, and growing the company and we don’t plan to stop. As for the definition of success now versus the beginning: I don’t necessarily differentiate. Success to me has nothing to do with money so having revenue growth like we have and continue to have just means that we’re executing on our mission and growing the company. Success to me is all about the attitude. What did you do today? Did you make a difference? Did you grow the company? Did you gain another customer, or 10? Are you following your mission? If you answered yes, then you’re successful.
BusinessInterviews.com: Learning from mistakes is critical for entrepreneurs. What lessons or insights from previous ventures have you been able to apply to Fitmark?
Mark: I’ve learned to focus a bit more. I have always tried to do too much, all at once, and that’s not a great look. My goals now have more to do with creating schedules, blocking out specific times to get things done and genuinely trying to have balance in the office/workplace. Am I there yet? Not really. I still scramble from time to time, maybe because I love that intensity of work. However, knowing that focus is key, and looking to achieve more of it, is definitely something I’m applying to my business at Fitmark.
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