This week I would like you to meet featured founder, Anna Victoria. She is the founder of Fit Body App. The health and fitness app launched in January 2018; then in 2019, Apple featured it in their “Apps We Love” section. Since then it has become one of 2019’s best fitness apps. Just because numbers are impressive…when Apple featured the Fit Body App in the “Apps We Love” section it generated over 1 million impressions within 24 hours!
This week I would like you to meet featured founder, Anna Victoria. She is the founder of Fit Body App. The health and fitness app launched in January 2018; then in 2019, Apple featured it in their “Apps We Love” section. Since then it has become one of 2019’s best fitness apps. Just because numbers are impressive…when Apple featured the Fit Body App in the “Apps We Love” section it generated over 1 million impressions within 24 hours!
I am really excited to share her story with you because of how relatable it is to each of us. In fact, Anna’s journey is one that we can all replicate today. Within a 2-year period Anna grew an email list of close to 1 million people, and most of them were because they purchased something from her. This episode is an opportunity to learn from someone who has done amazing things with creating a community and understanding how to deliver real value so they keep coming back.
If you are wondering how her story is relatable to you, especially if you aren’t in the fitness industry; fitness was never a part of her life until her “aha moment” in 2012, where it all started to come together for her. The lesson? Your “aha moment” can come at any time. What you do with it, that’s simply part of your story. Oh, and fitness wasn’t the only thing that was new to Anna, so was entrepreneurship. Let’s find out how her journey began, this is Anna Victoria’s startup story.
“Don’t try to sell people. Just talk to people, figure out what they need, and provide them with solutions.”
—Anna Victoria, Fit Body App
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Special Guest: Anna Victoria.
The Startup Story - Anna Victoria
Anna Victoria: Hi, I'm Anna Victoria, founder of the Fit Body App, and this is MY startup story.
James McKinney: Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story.
James McKinney: There's something amazing happening with The Startup Story podcast. Our listeners are growing, our ranking on iTunes continues to climb, and all of this helps to level up the founders we can bring to you each week. But please know that I am well aware that all of this is only possible because you, the listener, continue to come back to the show to hear these startup stories, and I am incredibly grateful for that. I wish I had the ability to show my gratitude to each of you. Oh wait, I can! I can give your brand or company a free in episode ad. All you have to do is leave a review on iTunes and in that review, mention your brand, your URL, or anything you want to include. It's the least I can do for helping to make The Startup Story the massive success it is.
Now let's jump into this week's episode. Our guest today is Anna Victoria, founder of the Fit Body App. The app launched in January 2018 and in 2019 Apple featured it in their Apps We Love section. It has become one of 2019's best fitness apps. But just because numbers are impressive, I want to share something with you. When Apple featured the Fit Body App in the Apps We Love section, it generated over one million impressions within 24 hours. The power of Apple's influence is unbelievable. This might possibly be one of the most empowering startup stories to date.
Anna's journey is one that we can all replicated today. In fact, when I asked her if she had to restart her business in 2019, how would she do it, and her response was, well, that she would change very little. Now, do not get hung up on the idea that because she is in the fitness industry her journey does not have relevance to you. That is simply an excuse you are allowing to take residence in your brain that will cause you to miss out on an incredibly tactical and helpful journey that Anna's going to take us through.
Within a two year period, Anna grew an email list of close to one million people, and most of them were because they purchased something from her. Not just freebies and giveaways, but these were people that actually bought something from her. So if you think her story isn't relevant, then you're missing out on a huge opportunity to learn from someone who has done amazing things with creating a community and understanding exactly how to deliver real value so they keep coming back. What's even more amazing about Anna's story is that fitness was never part of her life until her "aha" moment in 2012, where it all started to come together for her. But fitness wasn't the only thing that was new to her. So was entrepreneurship.
Anna Victoria: Growing up, no one in my family was an entrepreneur. My dad worked in sales. Mom was a teacher. And my mom actually moved to Mexico when I was 10, so I moved in fulltime with my dad and I would say I definitely got a lot of my personality from my dad. He talked to me a lot about life lessons and he was in sales, and so I feel like I just naturally got a bit of a knack from him. What I took away from him is that don't be a salesman. Don't try to sell people, and I actually my first job in college, or outside of high school, was in sales. I just couldn't stand seeing people being very typical sales. So I just have always prioritized just talk to people, figure out what they need, and offer them solutions. You don't need to sell them all the bells and whistles. It's just probably going to come back and bite you in the end. Anyways, I'm one of seven children.
James McKinney: Whoa!
Anna Victoria: Yeah. I'm number six, so I have a lot of older siblings. It was a crazy, chaotic household growing up. Yeah. I'm from Yuba City, California, so a small town in Norcal. I had no idea what I wanted to do. Maybe be a math teacher. I love math, I love numbers. I almost feel bad saying this sometimes, but I had very little ambition. I don't want to say ambition in that I didn't want to do anything with my life, it's that I just had no concept of what I wanted to do. I was from a very small town, so it was very normal to just kind of get married and have kids after high school, and have that be that. I never was that person that was like as soon as I graduate, I'm going to get out of here, you know? There's definitely those people. I was kind of just in the middle, like I don't know, we'll see. This is kind of a recurring theme, as I'll discuss, through my life is I play things very by ear. I'm not one of the 10 year life planners at all.
James McKinney: So being someone that didn't have vision for what your future was going to be, you didn't have ambition for a certain career path. What's funny, you mention seven kids. I'm a big fan of just seeing how roles and personalities play out based on birth order, but really beyond three, I lose track of where things are. I have no idea what the six slot is supposed to hold.
Anna Victoria: I completely agree, and we're not a traditional family either. We're not all from… we're all the same mother, but there's more than one dad. We're all very close, very classic non-traditional family.
James McKinney: So you're in Yuba City, and it is a small town. What's the nearest metropolitan area from there?
Anna Victoria: Sacramento.
James McKinney: With that said, as you were entering your senior year, there's all these college and career days. There's these classes where what is it you want to do post high school. What was on your radar come the end of high school? Because that is a time of transition where decisions have to be made.
Anna Victoria: I didn't even take the SATs because I knew I wasn't going to go to a four year college. I couldn't afford it. I was raised pretty much by my dad. So I was just like community college. I knew I wanted to pursue higher education, but I was not the person that was like preparing for all these four year colleges. I actually moved to Sacramento with my oldest sister and I went to Sierra College, which is a community college in Roseville in Sacramento. I started doing my prerequisites for a business degree.
I lived in Sacramento for a year and then I had a friend that was a year below me in high school. When she graduated, she was like, "Hey, want to move to San Diego?" And I was like, "Sure." Whenever an opportunity presents itself, I have very little hesitation. I just jump at it. So we pretty much moved to San Diego I think two weeks later. I transferred to community college. I went to Mesa in San Diego, and I transferred my job. So in Sacramento I started working at Cingular Wireless.
James McKinney: Oh, yeah. Pre AT&T.
Anna Victoria: Yes. Throw back. So I was with them through the merger and everything, and I worked there only because my sister had worked there so she got me a job. I didn't know anything about the telecomm industry, but it was a sales job. Found out that I just loved helping people. It didn't matter what it was with. I worked at Longs Drugstore in high school and whether it was stocking shelves and help people find their products, or helping them with their wireless solutions, I just liked talking to people and helping them.
So I transferred to AT&T in San Diego. I did end up switching over to Verizon, so I worked at Verizon for about six years. I worked fulltime and went to school fulltime. So I look back and I don't know how I did it.
James McKinney: A little bit of foreshadowing, knowing that your business venture is in fitness, we are already in the college years of your narrative and no mention of fitness at all. But the thread that I can see it, as we look at these breadcrumbs knowing where it ultimately leads is that service mindset, that wanting to be of value and help. As well as that very subtle thread of teaching. That was an inkling of yours early on, so you can kind of see these things begin to piece and take shape, but again where those traits took you, not even on the radar yet.
Anna Victoria: Right. As far as fitness is concerned, I was the last person that you would find working out or eating healthy. I kind of even disliked the fitness industry. I felt it was very disingenuous and just very… it was all about vanity. That didn't resonate with me. So not to mention I just love fast food, still to this day. I grew up eating it. This is more going into my fitness story, but I grew up eating fast food and I loved it. What teenager wouldn't?
James McKinney: And you can't live in San Diego and not love burritos, let's just put that out there.
Anna Victoria: Exactly! Right.
James McKinney: So you're in San Diego. You end up graduating?
Anna Victoria: So I actually end up doing community college for four years and then I went to University of San Diego. There's actually an interesting story about how I even got accepted into USD, because it's a prestigious school, and it's not easy to get into. It's also very expensive.
James McKinney: So you did get the bachelor's degree. But what were you thinking you were going to do with that degree? Four years junior college and then you end up transferring to USD which is super expensive. It's a private university. What were you thinking you were going to do with that, because I assume student loans are on the back end of that.
Anna Victoria: So A, I had no idea. By this point, I was working at Verizon four years when I started at USD, and I loved my job. I really, really did. At one point, I was the number one sales rep in the whole western United States for Verizon. Like for one moment literally until someone else sold another phone, you know? But no, I got there just because I loved working. I didn't look at it as I was selling people, I was just helping people. If things weren't to turn out the way they did, I could see myself still working at Verizon but being in management or moving up through the company.
James McKinney: So school was just a checkbox then. You just knew you wanted to do it, but it really was just a checkbox. It wasn't because of X, Y, or Z. it was just I had to do this. So what did you do once you finished college then?
Anna Victoria: By this time, one year before I graduated I studied abroad through USD. I studied abroad in Rome, Italy, and that is where I met my husband.
James McKinney: Oh that's awesome.
Anna Victoria: Yeah. It actually was through a friend from San Diego, and when I met Luca in Italy, June 2011 he was moving to San Diego six months later anyways. So before we even met, it was just a huge coincidence. So he moved six months later. We did long distance that whole time. Then he was in San Diego with me for seven months and through my senior year. And when I graduated, he went to UCSD to study English, and his student visa was expiring. So it was kind of like, "All right, what are we doing here? Where do you want to go?" His family business is in hotels in Rome. So he wanted to do a master's program in hospitality. There was a school that he was looking at in Shanghai, China. He said to me, "Hey, do you want to go to China?" And I said, "Sure." So we packed up and moved to China for a year.
James McKinney: That is awesome. So just to timestamp this, what year did you meet Luca?
Anna Victoria: June 2011.
James McKinney: So 2012 you're in China?
Anna Victoria: Yeah. I graduated May, June 2012 and then we moved to China July 2012.
James McKinney: Okay. These dates are important because at some point, we're going to talk about the Fit Body App and some of the stats around it, but I want listeners to understand, we're only seven years ago. That's where we're at now. So you're in China. And again, fitness at this point is still not on the radar.
Anna Victoria: Still not, yeah, but I will say that my senior year of college, I started having some health problems. A bunch of digestive issues. I actually went to the emergency room, so there were some kind of things that were happening that it was like, "Hmm, maybe I need to start taking care of myself. But eh, not really." I was still trying to really put it on the back burner.
James McKinney: You were starting to see that fast food all the time wasn't the best decision, but that's really the degree of seriousness you were giving it at that point in time.
Anna Victoria: Yeah. So we moved to Shanghai. I decided to study Mandarin for a year while Luca did his master's. There's only so much of a foreign language that you can study in one day, you know? After the four hour mark, especially with a language like Mandarin, your brain is just ready to explode. So at the same time, Luca was finally telling me, "Hey, you have the time now to work out and eat healthy and take care of yourself. You're no longer working fulltime, going to school fulltime. You have time." So I couldn't really argue that and that's when I started researching everything health and fitness. Like you said, this was 2012. There weren't all the apps and eBooks and all the resources out there. There were some online programs but they weren't that widespread because Instagram wasn't really a thing yet.
So I just used good old fashioned Google and I've always been very moderate in a lot of things that I do. I don't like going to extremes, so I never could get down with the idea of okay, if fast food is bad, so never eat any fast food, or never eat any junk food. For me, just someone who grew up on it and genuinely loves it, that wasn't going to work. And because I also know that going to that extreme is going to create a yo-yo effect, and that's not what I wanted. I started researching just how to live a healthy lifestyle that's balanced where I didn't hate my life of being a slave to the gym.
James McKinney: So again, 2012, not a lot of resources out there. YouTube was there. Not necessarily for the fitness program side, but really kind of a database of information. So were you leveraging blogs or where were you getting your information from?
Anna Victoria: I tried to look to scientific journals. Sure, articles here and there, but then I would go to their sources. I was never that into YouTube. I'm still trying to do it, but yeah, so it really was just scientific journals and trying to get as much scientific information as possible.
James McKinney: So what was the switch then? As you are gaining this information, it's just information until you do something with it.
Anna Victoria: What happened was I started working out and researching everything, and going to the gym. To be honest, I hated it. I just did not want to be doing it. It was a huge battle every single day to get to the gym and eat a healthy meal. So I created an Instagram account. This was November 2012. By the time I created it, it might have been like December. Instagram wasn't a thing, so I just created it to have an outlet to share what I was learning, and to just post about it and hopefully get some interaction with other people that were on this same journey to give myself motivation.
I remember there was a page I followed. It had 14,000 followers and I was like, "Oh my gosh, 14,000 followers? Can you imagine?" So when I created my Instagram account, I was anonymous for the entire first year of having it. It was never about posting pictures of me, it was just about sharing the information and getting motivation from all the interaction and community. Because I was one of the first fitness accounts, my page was growing like wildfire. I grew to 250,000 followers in about six months.
James McKinney: Wow.
Anna Victoria: Because if you looked up fitness, mine would have been one of the first ones that popped up. So all of the early fitness pages were all of y friends, and we were all shouting each other out or helping each other grow, which is something that does not work anymore. But yeah, so like I said, I was anonymous. So I wasn't posting pictures.
James McKinney: When you say anonymous and Instagram, again I may be naive but are you talking like before and after's without your head so you couldn't see your face? We talking just all text? What's anonymous in fitness?
Anna Victoria: I was not posting any pictures of me. It was all sharing recipes that I liked, healthy recipes, quotes that inspired me, transformations of other people. Yeah, fitspo of other people, and that's it. So I shared my actual, my personal photo about one year in and it was my "transformation." I wasn't obese. I didn't lose dozens and dozens of pounds, but I had a very significant health transformation, and I did see some physical progress. I shared that and by this time, I had maybe 400,000 followers and they freaked out. They were like, "What? This is you? Tell us everything you did."
At this time, there weren't DM's and people used Kick. Are you familiar with Kick?
James McKinney: I am, but can you reframe it for our listeners?
Anna Victoria: Kick was an app where you don't need a phone number to use it, it's just like username based. So you would put in your bio, "Here's my Kick username." And that's kind of the old school DM of early everything days.
James McKinney: That's so funny. That's like a flashback.
Anna Victoria: Yeah, throwback. People would Kick me and say, "Hey, tell me everything that you did." I would write out on my phone all of my top tips. I remember I would max out Kick's character count, so I had to send like five of them. I was just sending gosh, dozens a day. What I noticed was happening is people started coming back for help, and saying, "Hey, this was great. Now I need help with this." That's when I realized okay, this is not sustainable in the long run. I'm spending 50 to 60 hours a week on my phone answering people, and really creating content for this page, and replying to comments. So I turned that early information into my first eBook.
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James McKinney: So I want to pause right there real quick, because your year, when you became known, no longer anonymous, 2013. Again, I want to keep track of time here. 2013, you were spending 50 to 60 hours a week on your phone, replying to back then Kicks or DM's as we would know them now, just giving information. So prior, because I know we end up starting an eBook, but prior to that point, was there ever an idea for a business on this?
Anna Victoria: No.
James McKinney: So you were just doing it to help?
Anna Victoria: Yes. My mindset was I went through this journey and I know how hard it is. If I can help people not go through as many ups and downs, then I want to help them with that. These are the things that I ate, these are the workouts that I did, this is the mindset that I had. My reward was not monetary based, it was just helping people. I will say, though, there's a little part that I kind of skipped over that I think it very interesting.
I started monetizing my Instagram page before I introduced the eBook, and this was through doing paid posts. So I actually have not talked about this very much at all, but early on because I did realize I'm spending 50-60 hours a week on my phone, people are asking me, "Hey, will you post this picture of me?" And I would do it in the beginning. I had a very strict code of is it motivating. It had to be legit. I wouldn't just accept any post. I realized after some time that A, people were gaining thousands of followers from a one hour post from me. People were advertising their services, their personal training programs or things like that. This is an advertising service. I have student loans to pay back. I need to start charging for my time, and it was like back then, $25 for a one hour post and they'd get 5,000 followers. Crazy. But the funny thing is that people, they absolutely could not fathom that I was charging for Instagram some people. They would light me on fire, tell me I'm a horrible person, and that to get over myself. That they couldn't believe that I was charging for posts on Instagram.
James McKinney: Oh my goodness.
Anna Victoria: Just looking at where we're at today, it's just so funny. I wasn't even doing it to be like, "Oh, I'm going to make all this money." It was like hey, this is my time, and I need to make a living somehow and support myself. So that's how I was able to still genuinely offer value without… Look, I don't think I would have done this anyways, but without looking for "Oh, how can I monetize this and create that eBook." The eBook really came out of I'm only one human being, I can only respond to so many people from my phone. So an eBook allowed me to scale that information a bit, so people could just download it and go from there.
James McKinney: That's awesome. So in 2013 or early 2014?
Anna Victoria: December 22nd, 2013.
James McKinney: Got it. So 2013 you have a website from which people can get this eBook from. I'm assuming that's when the business wheels started spinning, like I'm capturing emails. And the reason I wanted the listeners to focus in on this section right here is even now, in 2019, I truly believe… granted, aside from the Instagram growth, that just isn't going to happen again but other platforms it can. The way in which you grew your business to where it is today, every single listener can take that model and bring it into their business. That is why I say all the time if someone wants to start a business, and someone wants to make even if it's just money to pay off student loans. If someone wants to make money, it can be done.
Anna Victoria: Especially today.
James McKinney: Especially today. I want to kind of get a little bit more granular with your story, then others because I think it's so relevant and so tactical. So in 2013, you have a website where you're giving an eBook away. Are you collecting emails at this time?
Anna Victoria: It was $9.
James McKinney: Okay, so but it, still $9 eBook that's awesome.
Anna Victoria: Exactly, yeah. It was such a low cost that there was a very, very high volume. At this point, we had December 2013, we were still in China.
James McKinney: Any problem with trying to sell in China, and your content? No cultural problems?
Anna Victoria: I had a VPN.
James McKinney: Oh, there you go. Perfect.
Anna Victoria: Right after we moved is when they actually blocked Instagram, so I was kind of early enough to where it hadn't been blocked yet.
James McKinney: Got it, okay. So you were selling and now at this point, you move from the time you launch to the time you went to Rome, what's that time period?
Anna Victoria: I was in China until about July 2013, so about six more months in China that I was selling the eBook. Moved to Rome, that's where Luca's family lives and his family business and everything. I started my MBA in Rome. I went to LUISS University in Rome. I just continued selling the $9 eBook through my Instagram account and online. Then I would say the next big shift was so my early Instagram account name, it doesn't exist anymore. It was Insta Femme Fitness. I knew that at some point, this is an anonymous page. Sure, I started posting more about myself, but I wasn't going to completely shift it and I could tell that people were connecting much more to my posts as a person than as Insta Femme Fitness. People kind of didn't really care. I realized that someday, Instagram is going to be the MySpace of this generation. What reason do people have to follow Insta Femme Fitness to the next platform? They don't. they'll follow Anna Victoria, because they have a connection to a person and my story, and so that's when I branched off and I created Anna Victoria as a second page. That's when I started sharing more about my person journey. I didn't even really post about my $9 eBook very much, because I didn't want that page to be about selling anything. I just wanted another outlet to share about my journey.
James McKinney: So a couple questions in there. I want to go back to the eBook for a little bit here. So you're getting your MBA. You're selling your eBook. That is your business. Is Instagram the only way in which you're marketing your eBook?
Anna Victoria: 100%, yep.
James McKinney: On average in that time period, how many eBooks were you selling a month?
Anna Victoria: Gosh, if I have to do some math really quick.
James McKinney: If it's easier to just say dollar, dollars is fine. Units, whatever number you want to give, but just give a perspective of volume you were doing.
Anna Victoria: About 10,000. From 7,500 to 10,000 eBooks a month. About $75,000 a month.
James McKinney: Listeners right now, if you are thinking, "Oh, that ship has sailed," you are dead wrong. Today, right now, someone can go through this same model. Again, getting the attention might be a little more challenging, but people are still desiring this information and are willing to pay for this information. Again, the attention is a little more challenging to get, but it's not impossible. The business model still rings true. So this is amazing. I'm loving this journey, so let's just continue pressing forward in this. So now, you have Anna Victoria. You're getting your MBA. How long are you in Rome for this entire stretch of your journey?
Anna Victoria: Yeah. So I lived in Rome from 2013 to 2016, so for three years. My MBA was a year and a half and also I will note in my MBA all of my classmates were like, "Are you done having fun on Instagram? Are you going to come back to the real world? We have a career fair coming up. Are you going to do any interviews?" I was like, "No, I'm good." They really were like, "Oh, Anna's just off in la la land having fun."
James McKinney: That's so… oh, man. Do you connect with any of them from your MBA cohort?
Anna Victoria: Like one or two.
James McKinney: I would love to know what all the others are thinking, if they're aware at all.
Anna Victoria: You know, the thing is the culture in Italy is very different. I don't say this in a bad way, but they're kind of like 20 years behind in a lot of ways, like in technology. Social media is not that… it only just recently started getting popular, so it's just a different system there.
James McKinney: So if I start marketing The Startup Story in Italy, I have a chance to just blow up right now.
Anna Victoria: Absolutely, yes. So after my MBA I graduated. In early MBA days, I was going to school from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. I would go to the gym, because that's part of a part of… It became such a big part of my lifestyle. Then I would go home and I would answer emails from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. I had hundreds of emails to answer every single day. That's kind of when my husband saw me working through all hours of the night and saying, "Hey, you need to get someone to help you." I was like, "Nope. No I don't." you know? I will say that dating back to my working at Long's Drug Store, working at AT&T and Verizon, customer service is something that I'm obsessed with. That's what gives me joy is to provide a great customer experience. That was a non negotiable for me, even with my online eBooks and emails. But I did have to admit that I was creating my own glass ceiling of only being able to respond to so many emails. So I did bring on my first team member at the time, which was my sister.
James McKinney: That's awesome. It's interesting, because my first response is you say you were doing these yourself, and your husband had to say it's about time you get someone. I'm thinking okay, if you're making… If my business is generating $75,000 a month, my first go to is to hire someone. But then I'm also thinking well what am I going to do at that point? What is… so I guess my question, at that season of your life, with what was the name of the business at that period of time?
Anna Victoria: So since it was the page name, I actually don't even…
James McKinney: We'll call it Anna Victoria 1.0. that's what we'll call it.
Anna Victoria: You know, there wasn't even an LLC.
James McKinney: Oh, okay. So the business at that point in time, what was your vision for the business? Was your plan just to ride out this eBook for as long as it would go and just kind of stay a one trick pony, if you will? What was your thought on what this was going to be?
Anna Victoria: I had such a passion for fitness. I know that was going to be my career. What that would look like exactly, I didn't know. After having the $9 eBook, it was under the Insta Femme Fitness name, I did know that I wanted to launch a new guide which was under the Anna Victoria name. So in June 2015, I launched the Fit Body guides. Those are the 12 week guides. So since it was 12 weeks, the first guide was only four weeks. It was a higher price point, so it was $50 per guide, and it was under the Anna Victoria name. I knew that I was wanting to kind of switch things over to my personal brand as a personal trainer.
James McKinney: So you ran the $9 eBook for two years until 2015.
Anna Victoria: Yeah, about a year and a half.
James McKinney: A year and a half, until 2015. Then you switched over under the Anna Victoria brand. You had a larger book, but again at this point, you have how many emails to market your new book to? So I'm just going to, for the sake of easy math or easy I guess I'm going to say half a million emails. You had 500,000 emails and now you had this community. So now you have the eBook. I'm assuming you had newsletters that probably came with it to keep them engaged, or was it a sale and that was it?
Anna Victoria: There were automated emails that went out of, "Hey, share your week one progress photos. Hey, share your week four." So it was every four weeks for the first 12 weeks, and then that was it. Kind of the same thing. This is definitely one of the things that I regret and that I should have done is have a better email automated system being set up, and a blog system set up. But I was really, really focused on my Instagram content and just helping customers, and running the business.
James McKinney: See that's an interesting point, and I don't want to skip over that, the idea of the blog which I'm sure some people are like, "Oh blog? That's so 2013." Actually a blog is still relevant today and the marketing automation that is so easily accessible today, which back then the stuff we can do now with the email automation is completely different than what it was then, but there was still an opportunity. During that season though, was your community building just to kind of drive them into the Instagram space for community? Is that what community building was for you?
Anna Victoria: Yes, 100% it was through Instagram and also I was living in Italy at this time, so as far as being in person for me that wasn't possible. Everything was very social media, Instagram based. So one thing that I did encourage girls to do when they got one of the FBG guides was to create an Instagram account dedicated to their fitness journey. Because I knew, as someone that went through this journey, I honestly was embarrassed to share with my friends and family about it. I would tell them, "This is a safe place for you to share about your journey and to get that support." That's how that community was able to be created.
James McKinney: So in 2015, you were now encouraging people to setup a secondary profile that really, those who had the book knew about and that way they can kind of have accountability and community inside of that. Encouragement, accountability, all of the great things that come with fostering that community. When did you start having that idea of accountability and community under the Fit Body brand?
Anna Victoria: It really actually was way before the Fit Body brand ever got created. It was when I was living in China. It was really at the very beginning of the whole reason why I created that Instagram account was to connect to a community. Through being able to talk to people and get that support, it just gave me so much motivation and just so much encouragement that I knew from the very beginning that this is something that is such a helpful tool for people that are on their fitness journey. It's kind of something that I feel like I myself experienced and created my own head for my personal journey, and then I think throughout being on Instagram and realizing that that's a really powerful tool to tap into, is a community with other people. It just kind of happened organically.
James McKinney: Got it. So in 2015 you launched the 12 week guide. What growth and what changes did you start seeing in your business from 2015 to 2016? We're in 2019 now, so we've still got a lot of that journey to get to, because at some point it becomes digital. In 2015-2016, what growth did you start seeing take place and what strategic changes were you making in your business?
Anna Victoria: What is really interesting is that with the first eBook, by the way it was called Four Weeks to Fit, the first one. That was $9. Such a low price point, so really high volume. But with the 12 week guide, it was $50 so it was a higher price point, so there was less volume. I would say considering the volume and the price, the revenue was still I would say just a little bit more, but it was a lot less customers which was a bit easier to manage, you know, for me and my team. I never really changed much of my strategy. Because I also wasn't ever really looking at it as a strategy. It was just this is what I offer, going from the four week to the 12 week book this has so much more information. It's professionally designed. I designed the first four week eBook on my Mac, and there's so much more information. It just has much more robust offering. This is what I offer, and that was kind of it. But that was enough for it to kind of sell like wildfire, so I never saw the need to like do ads or anything, which I do think in retrospect that's something that I still should have done, but shoulda, woulda, coulda. I'm still not… I don't completely regret it. Everything happens for a reason, but I definitely think that was a business lesson that I learned.
James McKinney: Yeah. That's the beauty of entrepreneurship is there's infinite lessons to be learned.
Anna Victoria: Oh man, yes.
James McKinney: If everything kind of stayed the status quo for some period of time, when did you start thinking digital? Now I have to create an app.
Anna Victoria: Right. So really it was, so the app launched December 2017, so we started building in about March 2017. Then I'll back up a bit more. We moved to LA November 2016. Then back a bit more, we got married May 2016. So after we got married and we were kind of looking at the business, and realizing this is turning into a business. We need to build a team.
James McKinney: Now what was real for you? Was it numbers, was it bank account? What was getting real for you? What was that trigger? I'm not going to lie. Even back in that $9 book, you're doing $75,000 a month, there's a lot of people listening like, "It got real a whole long time ago, Anna."
Anna Victoria: I kind of didn't believe it would last. It was just like, in the beginning it was like, "Oh my gosh, this is crazy." Yes, absolutely, but it was like how long is this going to go on for? It's too good to be true. We were still growing and still growing. There was just a point where it was like this is real, this is turning into a business, this is turning into a legit brand. It's something that I'm obviously passionate about and that I want to continue to grow. So it was probably shortly after the wedding that we were like, "Okay, we need to move back to the United States. We need to build a team and start building the app." But we lived here for about five months before the app stuff actually started happening.
James McKinney: Now, how challenging was moving everything to an app? Because you're not a technical person. You're not a developer. There's a lot of developer vultures out there.
Anna Victoria: And I will say, my husband never worked with me in the business, ever, until we moved to LA. He actually started looking for jobs in LA, and then he was the CFO of his family's hotel. He has 10 years of business experience himself, and so when he started looking into some of the finances and tax stuff, and he was like, "Did you do this?" and I'm like, "Nope." He's like, "Do you do this?" I'm like, "Oh, nope." He's like, "Okay, you need help." So that's when he came in and obviously, who can I trust more than my husband for finances? So he is now the CFO. When he came in, that was another I think really big pivotal point of expanding the business and him just taking all of his experience.
So Luca did a lot of research. One of the reasons why it took us five months from moving here to actually get started is because that's about the amount of time that we were researching and interviewing developers. We started with about 20, and we probably went through I don't know, at least eight interview steps. Then we narrowed it down to the top two, and obviously eventually the final one. Development was great. Our heads were in the clouds. The designs were great. There's one thing that I wish I would have known is that apps are imperfect. There's going to be glitches and there's going to be issues. I feel like our initial developers did not prepare us for that. So definitely until December, we were in la la land, and everything was great.
James McKinney: Yeah. What's interesting too, and this was 2017 I think you said your app launched, you came with an audience. You had, just out of curiosity how many emails did you have from all your customers, leading up to your app launch? Because now you have, and this is what a lot of people think of when they think of an app, they think if I build it they will come, and it is not like that at all. But you brought an audience. How many emails did you have going into your app launch?
Anna Victoria: Near a million.
James McKinney: See that is awesome.
Anna Victoria: That was also the recurring theme that we would tell our developers. Hey, guys, we're going to have thousands of people downloading this immediately. We need to be sure that there are no glitches, and we've really re-emphasized that worry about there being issues at launch. You know of course we tested it in a live environment before launch, but unfortunately things did not go according to plan. There were issues with payment, which is kind of an issue. Just a little bit.
James McKinney: Yeah. I will say too, mobile people have an expectation on how their app is going to work, and how they will process payment in that app. The moment that you create some type of friction, they're out, and it's so hard to get them back.
Anna Victoria: The first months, but they were hard. It was, and especially with someone that is so obsessed with giving such a flawless customer service and overall experience, it was hard. It's kind of funny, it almost shifted our developers of going into the launch of, "Everything's going to be great," and then as soon as we launched, "Well, you should expect glitches," and we're like what? Would have been nice to know beforehand. But I would say it took us a solid year to get the app to a stable spot. We ended up switching developers because our first developers, they just couldn't keep up with our expectation and standards of quality.
So my early customers, I am always so appreciative of them that they stuck it out, and that they were understanding of all the glitches that we were experiencing. It does pain me that a lot of people did cancel. They might have an idea in their head that it's going to be glitchy, but I'm so happy that right now, in the last actually probably six months it's been in such a solid point where I don't have this PTSD of the app having glitches. But it's definitely to the credit of our new developers who are amazing.
James McKinney: So now, we're in 2019. Is your revenue stream just the app or do you still have your eBooks?
Anna Victoria: I do still have the eBooks because some people, they're not comfortably with the monthly subscription which is understandable. So they're there, but they're definitely not… it's not where we're driving traffic, and it's not where the majority of our revenue comes from.
James McKinney: As far as revenue streams, what else beyond the app? Do you have other under the brand, like live appearances? What other things?
Anna Victoria: Personally, I have a fee for appearances and events, and things like that. Photo shoots. I really don't do sponsored posts almost ever. A, I'm really lucky that I don't have to. That's key number one. And if I am going to do one, it's because I like the brand and I believe in it. I was the global ambassador for a sports bra range, a company called Triumph Lingerie, they're in Europe. I was their global ambassador for two years, so that's really the main one that I've done.
James McKinney: Now, in the app, how has conversion been for you on getting these, and I'm asking all these questions because I truly believe people can take how you grew this and do it for themselves. I know I'm going to be going back and listening to this numerous times taking copious notes because that's what I want to be building for The Startup Story audience, but when you look at your conversion from eBook to digital, was there just a fall off? Did everyone kind of move over flawlessly? Are you now realizing wow, I've got to spend money in advertising now for my app instead of just relying on Instagram. What are some of the shifts operationally that you've had to make as you approach the digital space?
Anna Victoria: In terms of digital ads, we have dabbled here and there with some campaigns, but we've done very, very little. So all the growth that we've experienced up to now is still organic and just from either past customers or new people that find me. Other than that, all of our efforts are on the app, perfecting it, and now that it is perfected I'm actually expanding on the features and building additional features out, and listening to my customer's feedback.
James McKinney: I love how customer centric you are, and it's funny that you say you're still trying to figure out YouTube or trying to get on it, because you have I think 45,000 subscribers. So for someone who's trying to figure out, you're doing fairly well. But one of the things that we haven't talked about as we've kind of journeyed through you building your brand, is your transparency. One of the reasons that I started The Startup Story was to bring transparency to the entrepreneurial journey. To kind of break down some of the false narratives people have about entrepreneurship with the hope that they can now expand the possibilities for their lives of what they can and can't do. One of the hardest things for me, full transparency myself, is putting myself out there in the social media space as the face of the brand versus just letting the founders themselves speak for themselves. When did you start, aside from Instagram, start looking at all the different ways you were going to have to put yourself out there? Because your YouTube channel, again 45,000 subscribers I think, I would venture to say probably more personal than business.
Anna Victoria: It is. It is, yeah.
James McKinney: So when did you start making that shift of just really opening up the floodgates of this is who Anna Victoria is, and this is really what drives this app and these programs you love so much?
Anna Victoria: I think that I had a little bit of it early on. I've never believed in the idea that you need to be perfect or put on this façade, and dating back to how disillusioned I was with the fitness industry and the vanity and the perfectionism, that's not me. I've never vibed with that. So I think that with early days on Instagram, I was always sharing about my struggles because I think it's really important to be open and honest about those. But then, I will say there was a pivotal moment. It was on my Anna Victoria page. This was about 2015. I posted a picture of myself and I know this isn't going to sound like anything so insane, but I posted a picture of myself sitting down with my "belly rolls" that were not that big, I know. But back then, no one was being real on Instagram.
Everyone was like, "Oh, here's my perfect Instagram life," and for being in fitness, I was like I can't keep up with that. Like I'm not perfect, I don't have a perfect body. Not saying that it's bad, but I'm human and when I see all these girls with perfectly flat tummies, that's not me, and I don't want to perpetuate that image. So I posted this picture and it went viral, and I posted a few of them throughout the years, and they always go viral. And by the way, I never do them intentionally. They're never planned. It's never like, "Hey, I want to try to go viral." It's always a moment where I'm like I'm feeling pressure from Instagram to be perfect, and screw that. I don't want to feel that pressure. If I'm feeling that pressure, then so are other women.
I want to use my platform to say, "Hey, it's okay if you have cellulite or stretch marks or belly rolls, whatever. It doesn't matter and that doesn't define who you are." It's just an innate part of my personality and so I think transferring over to my YouTube as I've struggled lately, I've been going through an infertility journey. It's just another area that I'm like if I'm struggling, then there are other people who are struggling too. If I can help one person by sharing my story and helping them know that they're not all alone, then it's no skin off my back.
James McKinney: That is awesome, and for someone who is bringing transparency to social media, when you look at the lifecycle of social media, it seems to me as an observer and someone who's trying to buck the system a little bit with bringing transparency to entrepreneurship that I that social media and really mass media in general has perpetuated with what success is and what failure looks like and all these things. Do you think that the culture is starving for authenticity and transparency right now, and that has helped with gaining some of the attention that you're getting because people just aren't real anymore?
Anna Victoria: 100%. I think people were craving someone to stand up. Someone with the following. Someone that people "look up to" to say, "Hey, I don't lead this perfect Instagram life. I have my own issues. Whether it's with my body or my life in general." So one million percent, and I think that it's funny because some company's almost have tried to capitalize on that and now it's like that's part of their brand, which is great. I just hope it's for genuine reasons. So I think that we have it a bit more now. There's definitely still a lot of progress that needs to be made, not only in terms of body positivity but inclusivity, diversity, representation. There's always progress to be made. But I think at least with social media as negative and as not great as it can be in some ways, I think that it is helping with a lot of other ways and helping to give people this voice to speak on.
James McKinney: That is awesome. So our time is coming to an end unfortunately. There's a couple questions that I will leave towards the end because I ask every founder these questions, but one specific for you. If you were to restart this entire journey again and bringing what will ultimately become Fit Body App, what changes would you make today? Would you still have an eBook on a web platform, starting with Instagram because it's a lot harder to get visibility now? What changes would you make if you had to start today?
Anna Victoria: Authenticity is number one, but you have to also still think about who your audience is and what they're wanting to see in the value. You can't just be all authenticity and all just, "Look at me, I'm a mess." Honestly. Because then you're just like, "Oh, you're a mess, great. Just like me." But in terms of building a brand, number one is just offering that value and giving it away for free to a point. I would say other than that, I wouldn't do anything differently. I would probably reach out to others in the industry a bit more, do more like collabs type thing. I think that's something that today is really necessary because you don't have the benefit of being an early adopter and having a first mover advantage. I think that tapping into others in the industry is really important as well.
James McKinney: Do you think Instagram is the place you would still start?
Anna Victoria: I would probably split it between Instagram and YouTube. That's one, actually I will say one mistake I made was putting all of my eggs in one basket for the majority of the time, and I still kind of do that to be honest. Like I said, I'm trying with YouTube, but it's hard. So definitely to have content on Facebook, on Instagram, on YouTube, on Twitter.
James McKinney: Oh Twitter as well, okay. Are you on TikTok yet?
Anna Victoria: Yes, I made an account but I don't even know where to start with it.
James McKinney: I don't either. I haven't even made an account like. I don't even know what to do.
Anna Victoria: I mean I do recognize though that where TikTok is at right now was early days Instagram, probably even pre 2012 when it was an app for photographers. TikTok they're saying is going to shift to where it will be more mainstream for all ages, so we'll see.
James McKinney: All right. So man, I feel like I could keep going with you. This is awesome. I've loved our time. But the two final questions that I ask every founder, the first one is about gratitude because I truly believe that if we lose sight of all the people that have poured into our journey, contributed whether great or small in some way, shape, or form in inspiring us as a youth or giving us a bit of encouragement when things were just hitting rock bottom. If we forget all those people, we'll begin to isolate ourselves and think that we did this on our own, and that will inevitably lead to our failure. So when you think back on your journey, who are the people that you point to with immense gratitude?
Anna Victoria: First and foremost, my husband. I couldn't do it without him. Aside from now his business expertise, just like the emotional support and the nudging of, "Hey, these long nights are not going to help you in the long run." And then definitely my family. I actually didn't mention this, but my brother was the one who designed my early websites and he designed my FBG guides. The people who believes in me, my early community. Even those that are part of it today, but if we have to go back to the beginning.
James McKinney: Now, we've been talking to tens of thousands of people this whole time, just kind of unpacking your journey, allowing people to kind of listen in as an outside observer. And we have entrepreneur listeners from all stages. Those who have started a business and are incredibly frustrated with the lack of traction that they've gotten, with maybe some operational revenue. Just really frustrated with entrepreneurship and their journey. And we have some that want-entrepreneurs that are working a 9 to 5 but have a book full of dreams, but maybe they're married with kids and a mortgage, or maybe they're 60, whatever it is, they have some narrative in their head as to why they can't move on something. Then you have the defeated entrepreneurs, the ones that have been punched in the gut too many times and they're about ready to just call it in quits completely. If you… Not if, right now I would like you to speak to just one of those people as if you're having coffee break with them right now. What bit of encouragement do you have to those individuals, that singular persona?
Anna Victoria: I'll just say what has personally helped me in those moments that I have doubted myself. It's that if someone else can do it, then you can too. I see absolutely no reason why someone, especially in this day and age, can't find their passion and turn it into a business. I think that looking to other people for motivation and inspiration, and looking at them as if they were able to achieve it. When I look at other people, I see that as what's possible. I don't see that as a ceiling. I see that as if they can do it, I can do it too. I think it's just really, really important. I need to tell myself this, too. It's really important to be in your own court. Be your own cheerleader.
This is something that I even say for someone's fitness journey, it's just as relevant, but if you're not cheering yourself on, if you're getting into a negative headspace which we all do it to some extent, but if you're allowing yourself to stay there nothing's ever going to happen. You have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that it's possible. I think that just the act of believing and obviously putting in the work no doubt, but believing that's the prerequisite. That's what you need. It's not degrees. To be honest, I got my MBA so I could have a student visa in Italy. I didn't do it for learning anything about business. You don't need degrees. You don't need all of this crazy experience. You just need to start and do what you're passionate about, offer value, and believe in yourself.
James McKinney: Okay. How amazing was Anna's startup story? Here we got to listen to someone that has made millions in an industry that she only became a part of just seven years ago. In fact, she only became a part of it because she needed the personal accountability and motivation for herself. That is just one key takeaway from Anna's story. See, her entry into the fitness and health industry was driven out of a sincere need or accountability and motivation for herself. In doing so, she thought there might be other people like her that would find value in what she was learning and experiencing, and boy was she right. So many times we think entrepreneurship only comes from finding a gap in the market or creating some massively disruptive technology. But many times, opportunity comes from seeing a need that you have and addressing that need first.
For Anna, it is apparent that her success continues to increase because she has stayed true to her core in that everything she does has to provide value and help to those around her. Anna's story is a perfect template for all of us to follow. Identify a need you have, leverage social media to be open and transparent, and in doing so others with that same need are going to join you in your journey. As you begin to solve that need that you've identified for yourself, create content around it. Then drive your community to a place where they can receive that content for free in exchange for maybe an email address or something. Continue to bring value to them and don't hesitate to ask for a purchase occasionally, because some value is deserving of a purchase.
See, all of this is applicable to you today. Man, I hope you found value in Anna's startup story and maybe even a blueprint for how you can move forward on your startup story. If you've been around The Startup Story for any length of time, then you know how much emphasis I put on the idea that entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs. So if you have found value in Anna's startup story, there are three ways to support her in her entrepreneurial journey. The first, follow her on Instagram @AnnaVictoria. Or if fitness isn't your thing, then tell someone about her. Check out her Instagram and comment with a few friends on some photos to help increase awareness of all that she's doing. Another way to support her is download the Fit Body App. It's on iPhone and Android. Again, it's super popular, one of the best of 2019, and she's including a seven day free trial once you download it. Again, Fit Body App, iPhone and Android, seven day free trial.
Lastly, if you visit FitBodyApp.com and enter the code "startupstory" you will get 20% off of the already discounted memberships that are available. So while you do get a seven day free trial, there is a membership that comes from that. But if you go to FitBodyApp.com and enter the code "startupstory" you can get 20% off those discounted rates. So if you want to support Anna Victoria in her journey, then I hope you'll get to our show notes for easy access to all those ways to show up for her. Entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs, so let's make sure we show up for Anna Victoria and Fit Body App in a huge way.
And now, for my personal ask. The Startup Story community has been so incredible about sharing our podcast with others, but we have more stories to tell and more people to reach. We too are a startup and word of mouth is everything, so please follow us on Facebook and Instagram @TheStartupStory or on Twitter at StartupStory_. If you're on LinkedIn, please search for The Startup Story and follow our company page. Linked in is a really powerful way to raise awareness of the show. But the most impactful way you can help us grow our audience is to leave a review on Apple Podcast. Or if you listen to the show via Spotify, please simply share the podcast directly from your Spotify app or wherever you listen to the show. These simple actions can make a huge impact in getting these amazing founder stories out to the masses. And please make sure to tag or mention The Startup Story when you do share so that we can connect with you and say thank you directly.
I'm so incredibly appreciative of the fact that you listen to this show each and every week, and I look forward to sharing these amazing stories with you every Tuesday with hopes of encouraging and inspiring you to start your story.
If you like this podcast and are thinking of creating your own, consider talking to my producer, Danny Ozment. He helps thought leaders, influencers, executives, and authors create, launch, and produce podcasts that grow their business and make a real impact in this world. You can contact him today at emeraldcitypro.com/startupstory.