Fitgeek Sports is a specialty running store on Stevens Creek Blvd. in Cupertino, near De Anza College. It uses a combination of technology and deep experience and familiarity with running to fit runners (and walkers) with the perfect shoes for their needs. The evaluation process involves analyzing the customer’s gait based on a video recording of them running on a treadmill in the store. It also takes into account factors such as their foot type, personal preferences and history of injuries. Use of a skeletal model of the bones of the foot helps illustrate the physics of running. Diana Keh, co-founder and driving force behind Fitgeek Sports, talked to us about the experience of starting and running this innovative business.
We started in January 2012. I had prior experience working in a running store, I grew up in this community, and I was passionate about running and about helping people. It’s a store for our community. Our family helped us with financing. It was quite an investment.
Running the Business
How did you learn to run your business?
It took a lot of research. We had to figure out how to deal with suppliers, find (available vendor) territory, find retail space, negotiate the lease, get business licenses and permits, insurance, and things like that. There are resources to help with these.
What have been the biggest challenges in starting and running your business?
The biggest challenge was and is marketing, getting people to know about the store. We are on Yelp, we use Google Ads, and we have partnerships with local businesses like chiropractors, podiatrists, physical therapists and personal trainers who hand out referral cards to their clients, to whom we give discounts.
Another big challenge is finding employees who are knowledgeable enough to do a good job of evaluating customer’s running and fitting them with the right shoes. Evaluating customers is a science and an art. It’s not just a camera, it’s the person you’re dealing with. You have to take a holistic approach. It’s not easy, which is why finding employees is hard. Not just anybody can do it. There are general rules, you need to know about types, and about the running shoes. You have to know about people’s preferences and about their injuries. You have to look at the big picture, what’s really the most effective shoe for them, and give them the right size. It takes a lot of experience.
What has been the most pleasant surprise about running your business?
I think it has been establishing a base of loyal customers who keep coming back. They become friends, and we develop long-term relationships. We also do outreach at events like the Cupertino Bunny Run and the San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. We sponsor local schools’ running programs, we give them some money and they put our logo on their shirts.
What I’ve Learned
What do you wish you had known before starting your business?
I don’t think I fully realized how all-encompassing running a business could be. It takes all your energy, all of the time. You have to always be here, always be on top of things to make sure customers get treated properly and everything goes right. I knew it was going to be challenging, but you don’t realize how much it will take over your life.
What advice do you have for others who are starting their own businesses?
To make sure you’re willing to commit 100 percent of yourself to it. You have to make sure you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make your business successful. You have to like what you’re doing. I like running and I like helping people so it’s good for me.
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