4/25/2013 - You know how it is. You graduate from school. Start a job. Get another job and watch your career, hopefully, take off. You get busier. Meet a mate and settle down, maybe have kids. Between the long hours, meetings, shuffling the kids around to different activities and the like, we somehow forget to take care of ourselves. Next thing you know, you've gained 20 to 30 pounds from poor diet and lack of exercise. You look at yourself in the mirror one day and wonder, “How the hell did I get here?” Jeff Hyman ’95
has a similar story, but his epiphany changed his life, sparked a new venture and can impact potentially millions of people. “I had gained about two pounds a year since I graduated from Kellogg; the weight crept up on me,” Hyman admitted. “My wife took me to a weight loss resort in Arizona. We spent a week there and it changed my life. I learned that everything I knew about weight loss was wrong. It really opened my eyes. I felt like it was the key to helping a lot of people.” And with that, Retrofit was born.
Hyman, who has started four companies and helped launch Dyson in the United States, started the Chicago-based company in March 2011 to assist busy professionals in losing weight. “We have an obesity epidemic in America and the impact on the individual is monstrous,” Hyman said. “We started Retrofit to be truly a behavior change company where people slowly and steadily change their life over 12 months. It's not a diet; it's a transformation.”
Retrofit, which has raised $10.8 million in venture backing, has a staff of 50 around the country comprising dietitians, exercise physiologists and behavior coaches to help their 1,000 clients (that number is steadily rising) get healthier. According to Hyman, many people shy away from group weight-loss settings because body image is such a personal subject. Retrofit brings the 12-month program to the people via weekly Skype meetings and weigh-ins. Each client gets a wireless activity tracker and a Wi-Fi scale so his or her advisors can track progress and fine-tune the individual’s program. It costs $125 a month, which may sound like a lot, but it's a drop in the bucket when you consider how much people spend on ineffective weight loss plans.
Retrofit started with a focus on the individual and has started targeting large corporations like Walgreens, Salesforce.com, Google and Jetblue Airways — currently 70 have signed up to encourage their employees to join Retrofit. After all, if a company can get its overweight workforce to shed weight, productivity could rise and health care costs could fall. People are signing up now on the strength of recommendations from friends and colleagues because Retrofit, unlike fad diets, actually seems to work.
And Hyman is OK with a slow growth and focusing on a niche category like busy professionals. In the long run, that approach likely will pay off. “We are trying to whisper in a category where everyone else is yelling.” So listen up. You'll be happy you did.