Fitmark: Combining Doing Business with Doing Good

Apr 29, 2017 10:00 AM ET
Next week is National Small Business Week and PayPal is excited to celebrate the millions of inspiring small businesses we work with globally. We’re interviewing small businesses to find out what inspired them to start their business, the challenges they have faced, and the advice they have for other aspiring business owners. We sat down with Mark Samuel, the founder and CEO of Fitmark, a maker of high-quality, functional fitness and meal-prep bags.
What inspired you to start your business, and how did you come up with the idea for it?
I’m huge fitness enthusiast. I looked around the gym and saw a lot of shapeless, uninspired, and cheap-looking bags. I thought there could be a market for high quality backpacks, travel bags, and sports bags, and so I started Fitmark. From there, I started working on our meal-prep bag line, innovating different style bags unlike any others on the market, some include our patented design. Today, meal-prep bags are our biggest category, accounting for about 90% of our sales.
Through what channels are Fitmark bags being sold?
In early 2016, we mainly moved into a direct-to-consumer business through our website. Prior to that, we had also sold wholesale, to hundreds of retailers across the country. We eliminated that wholesale model as we felt our direct-to-consumer business allowed us to carry on our mission to have the greatest customer experience in our category. We’re known for that, and we want to carry that on as we continue to grow our company. We do, however, still sell our bags international: We sell to roughly 20 plus countries via international distributors.
A key part of your business is giving back. Why is that important to you and how have you built that into your business model?
In any business, there needs to be a social impact, whether it’s in your business’s nature or it’s something totally discreet. I think it’s important for people to give back as little or as much as they possibly can, because if you’re able to operate a business, you should have enough time, even if it’s an hour a month, to give back.
We do a 1 for 100 program, where we donate one bag for every $100 we net through our Fitmark website sales. To date, we’ve donated over 13,000 backpacks to the Boys and Girls Club of America.They provide the bags to kids who not only do well in school, but are also involved in after-school sports. I hope to inspire them to work hard and succeed in school and life.
How is Fitmark using PayPal today?
We use PayPal for our e-commerce business—we have from day one. In any ecommerce business today you have to offer an option like PayPal. It’s a nice piece of the daily revenue; around 25% of our annual payments are through PayPal. We offer PayPal because we don’t want to limit our chances of finalizing a sale. We want to offer every single opportunity for our customers to pay us at checkout, and pay us in a way that’s comfortable for them. And PayPal is simple and easy like it’s always been.
How would you describe your first year of business?
Opening a business is tough. In your first year, everything is a surprise. If you’re not prepared to deal with them, your third year problems will become your fifth year problems, if you make it that far.
For your everyday entrepreneur, raising capital is the struggle. Trying to raise $100,000 or $250,000 from friends, or family, or others can be a real challenge. I’d tell entrepreneurs to maintain your passion and commitment to what you set out to do, and don’t let all of those “no’s” get to you, because they could really discourage you. Maintain your consistency and level headedness through the process, focus on your mission, get up early, work hard, and just ride this roller coaster.
What other advice would you give other entrepreneurs about starting their own business?
I recommend that they have a real vision for what they want to see put out there. I’d ask them to describe to me what it is that they’re selling and how it would be presented to the world. And they should have a really clear view of what that is. When I started, I didn’t have any bags yet. I didn’t even have a design for a bag, but I knew exactly what I wanted to convey with my brand in terms of emotions and quality.

PayPal Stories Staff