Founder: Daz Burns
What problems do you solve and what products or services do you sell?
Collective Upside is a web-based platform that allows women to work out on-demand with all of their friends, together, regardless of geography. So, you could be in Perth, and I could be in Hamilton, and we pop on a pre-recorded Pilates, barre, HIIT workout, and we can still talk and see each other and check in.
We solve a raft of problems. We surveyed 512 women during the lockdown, and from that survey, we found the things that get in the way. We’re busy, have commitments, time is an issue, cost is an issue, travel is a big issue, and the accountability piece is lacking when you’re doing it alone. You can be on any app or website, or say you’re going out for a run or a walk, but it gets to 10 o’clock, and you’ve had to do the towels and the dishes, and put the kids to sleep, and someone may be feeling sick, and you don’t do it. Whereas, if someone is waiting for you, you’ll turn up because they’re showing up for you, and you’re showing up for them.
From the survey, we found that women were only living up to what they wanted to do with their exercise 40% of the time. Their number one priority was spending time with friends and family. Their second was staying fit and being healthy, and yet those are the two that fall off the priority list. They’re not seeing their friends, they’re not seeing their family, and they’re not working out. This platform takes care of those two priorities, which is also so crucial for mental health.
Who and where are your target customers?
Our customers are women, predominantly 25-55, and then the sweet spot is the 30-45 age bracket. They are connected by the constant juggle of life and the competing demands on their time.
We’re not trying to create the next Iron Woman – that’s not our lane. We want them moving and feeling good. If they’re feeling good, all the people around them are thriving. So, that’s our goal.
We’ve got customers in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. When we launched, it spread like wildfire all around the world. We had hits from Brazil, China, Norway, and the States. There are many possibilities, but we need to get our ducks in a row for that scalability piece.
How and when did you first come up with the idea for your business?
In 2017, I gave birth to our second son, and I went into this hole. They didn’t think he would be a very well baby, so it was a very stressful, worrying time of pregnancy. So, a raft of things happened, and I was sitting in this pit. I’ve played sport my whole life, I have a Diploma of Sport in Recreation, so I know how to eat well and how to move, but I wasn’t doing any of it.
So, I invited eight friends to work out in my garage, and six of them said yes. Those six women turned into 120 women after three months, just through word of mouth and them going to work and saying, “I’m feeling better,” and the next woman would say, “Do you think they could fit me in?”
I started managing the Waikato Bay of Plenty netball team and New Zealand secondary school’s netball team. So, I couldn’t help as many women in the evenings. A lot of them said, “We’ll just wait till netball’s finished,” but netball became a year-round sport, and I couldn’t pick up those days again. So, I tried to help them find somewhere else.
But they said, “No, this is the first thing that’s worked. I feel comfortable. I can turn up here after a shitty day.” Some of them would be crying in their cars, and usually, those were the days they’d go home and Netflix and eat rubbish and be feeling awful. But instead, they’d come in and share the day with us. We built this community.
I started thinking about online, but it’s tough to take a personal relationship that’s in-person to online. So, it took a lot of crafting, but I came up with this idea. I thought, surely someone has already done this, but no one had. I couldn’t find it anywhere. So, I wrote to the government, and I wrote to Grant Robertson, and I said, “I don’t want to make any money out of this, but I really think we could help women.”
So, he agreed and got us in touch with Callaghan Innovation, who helped us with the original research and development. We worked with Enlighten Designs here in Hamilton. We wanted to see if the tech that I was suggesting was possible. They said yes, but it would be a huge task because I was trying to amalgamate many different things.
So, we took it online. That’s how it’s all come together to help as many women as we could nationally and internationally.
What are three things about your business that you are proud of?
1) Number one is that we remain focused on every single woman instead of looking at spreadsheets and seeing what we need to grow. We do that too because we’re a startup, and we need to grow. But my integrity piece is I want to grow in the right way, and stay focused on their needs, their problems, and their whys. We get it, and we know what life feels like. We will genuinely support them to have better lives if we keep them at our core focus, which we have to date.
2) I’m proud of the product we’ve created. It has not been easy. It was hard. I take my hat off to the developers because the challenge I posed to them right in the middle of COVID to develop this was pretty insane, and they’ve done a beautiful job. We’ve built this incredibly hard piece of tech, but the part the women see is simple. It’s a simple solution to make their life better.
3) And third, we’re zero bullshit. From a business perspective, we don’t deal with people who don’t have strong values or care about people. We could have sold our souls a good few times now, and we’d probably be further along in the journey than we are, but my business mentor taught me early that some things are your sacred cows and that you don’t move from them. Just because something is an easier option doesn’t make it the right one. Always remember your why.
So, because of that, we work with amazing contractors, staff, and partners.
How do you market your business and what advice do you have for others around marketing?
Marketing is a hard one as a startup because to market, you need money. We’ve done social media, and we have someone who does the SEO and optimization for us four hours a week, which is all we could afford and tolerate. I think it’s an excellent option for startups. It would help so many of us grow and get those things right because we’re already trying to learn a lot.
We’ll also keep relying on the network effect and word-of-mouth because we know we’re doing it right if that’s happening.
My biggest advice would be trying to have conversations with as many people. There’s a little nugget in each of the conversations. Although you may not have the money to do a $60,000 campaign, you may get that small piece that might pivot your wording or social media enough to have an impact.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in building your business so far?
I’m not a business brain. I studied in sport, and I’m a qualified early childhood teacher. So, the biggest challenge is, you don’t know what you don’t know. You are constantly learning, and you’re always asking questions that you need to be confident asking. With new ideas or challenges, I learned how to confidently give myself enough space to go, “I haven’t considered it, but I’ll come back to you.”
The support from Soda Inc, Entrepreneurial Women with Purpose and Agora has been invaluable in the journey and working with experts to support our growth and strengthen our approach.
I’d sit in a room with these amazing brains, and the biggest challenge for me was not making myself feel small in those rooms. So, to be confident in, “I don’t know what I don’t know, and that’s alright because I can learn it, and I’m learning quickly.”
What is the biggest entrepreneur lesson you would like to share with other Kiwis thinking of starting their own business?
Resilience, resilience, resilience. Resilience has been the biggest lesson. Honestly, being an entrepreneur is not for the faint-hearted. Daily, there’s a new challenge, and that’s not to say that’s bad. It’s just saying that you need to have your second wind, your third wind, your fourth wind, your 65th wind. You have to keep coming back each time and bounce back quickly.
So, fail fast, bounce back quickly, and don’t come back deflated. My mentor, Tara, taught me to see every obstacle as the way. So, with every challenge, there’s something to learn and so greet it with a little smile and then get to work. Don’t try to scheme or find your way around the challenge. Face it and learn something from dealing with it.
And don’t do it alone, find your trusted support crew who believe in you and challenge your thinking, because they are a critical part of every entrepreneurs resilience journey and I am bloody grateful for all of mine.