Fit for Success
“It’s kind of weird to go home to your wife and kids and tell them you’ve quit a job that’s been paying off a lot of bills,” laughs Kevin Transue, the CEO and co-founder of Make YES! Happen.
Kevin worked in financial planning for 19 years before starting Make YES! Happen with his co-founder, Scott Parker, who came from the commercial insurance industry.
“We both had successful careers. But we were frustrated entrepreneurs. We wanted to forge our own course.
“We struggled for a couple of years,” Kevin says. Make YES! Happen’s original business plan was as a social fundraising platform like CharityMiles.
In 2014, with the platform still having a tough time gaining traction, Kevin and his team slowly began experimenting with a slightly different business model — virtual races. These allowed people to complete some fixed distance (whether running, walking, or cycling) at their own pace and on their own time. The distance is tracked via the participants’ wearable device (e.g., Fitbit or Apple Watch).
The idea took off.
Fast Pace Growth
“Unlike previous virtual races, where you basically just register on a portal, we decided we would give people an interactive experience.” Make YES! Happen creates a fictitious course in some real-world location — Hawaii is one popular place — and sends the participants Google Street View screenshots of where they’re currently at in the course as they log more miles.
People loved it. “We started in January with about 4,000 users,” says Kevin, “and by the end of December we ended with around 20,000 paying users. We’ve been overwhelmed, challenged, blessed, you name it.” In addition to running its own virtual races, the company enables nonprofits to host races “basically for free,” says Kevin. (The profits of the races they host themselves do not go to charity.)
Make YES! Happen doubled its revenue in nearly every quarter of last year. They ended the fourth quarter of 2015 with $131,000 in revenue — and then went on to make over $34,000 just in the first four days of 2016 alone.
The company currently has 5 full-time employees, and is preparing to launch a new capital round. They have big plans once they get “a little breathing room,” says Kevin, including diversifying their marketing efforts from Facebook (which has been hugely successful), targeting international customers (they already have users from 64 countries, despite doing no marketing outside the U.S.), further streamlining their processes for medal fulfillment, and licensing properties (e.g., college sports teams) to do themed races.
The company is targeting acquisition: Kevin hopes to sell within two years. But the ultimate goal? “We want to motivate people to get out there and get fit.”