Nick has built a very interesting e-learning company and addressed scalability with nifty strategic choices. Read on. You’ll learn a lot.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Nick Shaw: I was born and raised in the state of Michigan. I grew up with the goal of wanting to go to the University of Michigan. It’s a top-level school. I was lucky enough to get accepted there. I started in the Sports Management program. I originally wanted to be an athletic director.
In my sophomore year in college, I met Dr. Mike Israetel who founded Renaissance Periodization (RP) with me. We met in the student gym at Michigan, which is ironic and funny because we run a fitness company now. He convinced me to get started in competitive lifting. Coming from an athletic and sports background, that was right up my alley. He convinced me to do a competition together. This was way back in 2007 or so.
Doing that got everything started. I pivoted from sports management track. I still graduated from Michigan in Sports Management. It was that wake up call that the health and fitness field is where I wanted to be. That’s where I’m really passionate about. I ended up graduating in 2009 from University of Michigan and moved to New York City to be a personal trainer. My buddy Mike had just finished his Master’s degree. He was a couple of years ahead of me in school.
He finished his Master’s degree from Appalachian State and he was living in New York as well. He was the one who convinced me to go out to New York. I had never been there before. I just showed up, interviewed, and got the job. I moved out there after school ended. We worked as personal trainers for about a year. He left to go get his Ph.D. at East Tennessee State. I stayed in New York and kept training people. I was training people one-on-one and he was training people online. He was in school and he couldn’t really keep up with the client load. We’re constantly going back and forth.
Eventually we said, “Let’s just team up and start a little company and start doing this more and more online.” This was the first lightbulb in my head that went off. I was a personal trainer only doing one-on-one stuff. I had to travel all over Manhattan. I was pretty quick to realize that it wasn’t a super good use of my time training people one-on-one. It’s hard to scale. If you want to make any type of good revenue income, you have to bust your butt 24/7.
This is where I said, “Maybe I can start doing a bit more online.” In one hour, if you’re working with clients online, maybe you can help five clients. There was this light bulb that went off, “That’s a lot more scalable. I need to probably start going more online and doing less in person.” That was the shift that I had. It took me from doing a lot of in-person training to about 50/50. Then as the online part kept growing, that percentage started to shift until it was 75/25 and then I was doing 95% online. This was 2014 or so. RP was officially started in the fall of 2012. We are a little over six years now.