Sisters Stephanie and Jennifer Castano have long been proponents of health and fitness, Stephanie as a certified trainer and Jennifer as a devoted enthusiast. The Naples-based pair was well versed in fitness apps, but saw a need in the marketplace: an app that encouraged trainers and fitness enthusiasts to congregate and pool their knowledge in a way that’s helpful and fun. So they created Link to Fitness.
After graduating college and becoming a personal trainer, Stephanie discovered there was more to the job than just teaching students how to properly do squats. “There is a lot of sales and management involved, and it can be very time consuming,” says Stephanie, who serves as the company’s chief executive officer. “Although I wanted to reach more clients, I discovered that the business software available online was confusing, expensive and inefficient.”
Together with her sister Jennifer, who now serves as the company’s chief creative officer, they began building an online platform to meet the needs they saw.
“I travel a lot, and trying to fit a single workout into my day was not convenient for me at all,” says Jennifer. “With Link to Fitness, you can type in your location and level of fitness, and it will filter to nearby trainers and workouts that apply to your needs.”
Stephanie adds, “We wanted to make fitness meaningful and affordable, and something you would stick with.”
After creating a business plan, the sisters turned to the online funding platform Kickstarter to raise capital to begin building their app.
“We raised $10,000 through our friends, family and social media contacts,” Stephanie explains. “We also got a lot of great feedback. Our parents in particular gave us some great advice. We were born in Colombia, and we saw our father create two companies, so he helped us register as a minority-and women-owned business.”
Three years later, Link to Fitness went live in March 2017. In the first two days they had several dozen people download the app, which is filled with workout routines created by certified trainers, along with videos and event listings.
“One of the biggest challenges was simplifying the app,” Jennifer says. “Overall we think it’s a great concept, but it took a while to develop, since we took into consideration each trainer’s contributions and how to apply them to the app.”
Looking ahead, the sisters’ next task is educating their current roster of trainers about all the app has to offer, while adding new ones to the team in a variety of fitness areas, including yoga and strength training. They hope to eventually reach international markets.
“Thanks to social media, we have trainers reaching out to us from South America and Europe,” Stephanie says. “Link to Fitness is like the Match.com of fitness. Match.com needs both partners to participate in order for it to work. In our case, we need the participation of both trainers and fitness enthusiasts to help our app grow.”
Jennifer agrees, adding: “Without trainers and users, our app won’t work. We want to get them excited, because without our community, we won’t be successful.”