When gyms and bootcamps began shutting down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Arielle Nicole, Audra Huffmeyer, and Riley Rojas, female founders from Startup UCLA’s 2019 Summer Accelerator, began to experience difficulties in maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle. Transitioning from gyms to working out at home, they found it difficult to obtain fashionable, high-quality fitness gear suitable for home workouts. This motivated them to found Aptitud. Aptitud, meaning “fitness” in Spanish, was created to enhance the home workout experience by curating and hand-picking the most exclusive, high-quality fitness products to enhance your home workout lifestyle. More than that, however, it is a community of women from all walks of life striving for health and wellness.
Tell us about yourselves and how you met.
Arielle is the founder of KittyObsession, a company that sells innovative cat products, and Riley is the founder of TextbookDibs, a platform that serves as the most convenient way to resell your old textbooks. Audra is the founder of Fil2R, a company that creates reusable water filters compatible with your existing water pitcher. We’re all founders from the 2019 Startup UCLA Summer Accelerator, which is where we met and bonded.
Tell us why fitness and exercise is important to you.
Our very first female bonding session during the Summer Accelerator was a Barry’s Bootcamp class, and since then, we’ve bonded more — through working out together, discussing and sharing our experiences as founders and CEOs, and hanging out. Since COVID-19 has happened, one of the things we’ve been doing during this time has been virtually working out. We’ve found that exercise and fitness can really bring people together, which is more important than ever, especially during this time where individuals are feeling isolated from one another. So not only is exercise great for your physical health and mental wellbeing, it can connect people.
What motivated you to create Aptitud?
Once gyms and bootcamps started closing down, we began trying to find equipment, like resistance bands, to use for home workouts. But we found that equipment was difficult to obtain; not only were many things sold out, the products weren’t fashion-forward. One of the products we found came in colors like neon green, blue, etc., and we wanted something sleek and simple. So, we decided to create Aptitud to address this. We aim to provide home workout equipment that is not only fashion-forward but also good quality.
Why did you decide to create Aptitud during a pandemic?
Since many cities have announced shelter-in-place legislations and closed down gyms and other nonessential businesses, people have been confined to their homes. Individuals who used to go to the gym for their workouts now have to modify their exercise routines to ones they can do at home, and the majority of people don’t have treadmills, ellipticals, or the large, bulky, and expensive machines that the gym offers. With versatile equipment like the ones we offer, people can work on many different areas without needing to break the bank. We saw that there was an influx of people buying home workout gear, and we wanted to address that need. Additionally, with the current state of the world, we don’t know how long we will have to remain at home and not have access to the gyms and bootcamps we once had ready access to.
What products will you be offering?
We will be offering a fitness kit, which includes a jump rope, resistance band(s), sliders, and an upper-body resistance band. We’ll also have additional add-on products, like ankle weights, mats, and heavier weights. Our primary product, however, will be the fitness kit, which you can use for home workouts.
Do you think there will still be a need for home workout gear after the pandemic?
Yes. People may still be wary of going out and remain at home longer than mandated, and gyms may open slowly and only allow certain volumes of people to ensure social-distancing. Even after things return to the “normal” we once knew, the equipment can also be used at the gym in the case that you don’t want to use the public equipment they offer, which may not be sanitized thoroughly, and home workouts are still great if you’re unable to make it to the gym but still want to incorporate some exercise into your day.
So you mentioned that you met during the 2019 Summer Accelerator. What, if anything, did you learn from the Summer Accelerator that you can apply to this venture?
We were able to really work on our public speaking and communication skills through the many pitches that we gave during the Summer Accelerator. They also helped so much with marketing skills. Kitty Obsession would not be where it is without Startup UCLA. We also learned what investors (and people in general) want to hear, and all the advice we received was very helpful. Everything we learned from the Summer Accelerator was able to be applied to this venture and our ventures in the Accelerator.
Many people have varying opinions on starting a venture with your friends. How has that been for you all?
Because we met at the Summer Accelerator, it just feels much easier and much more natural when we work together. We still have that professional relationship, and that’s very important. We’re all very close friends, but there’s still that professional relationship.
If you were to pitch Aptitud to an investor right now, what would you say?
We’re Aptitud. We sell elite accessories for home fitness. If you’re at home and you go on Amazon to buy workout gear, everything’s sold out or back-ordered. But, if you go on our website, we have a fitness kit that contains everything you need for a home workout. Unlike our competitors, we offer sleek, stylish, and modern equipment, and we also ship faster than Amazon.
If you had to describe Aptitud in just one sentence, what would it be?
Elite accessories for home fitness.
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