If you’re involved at all in the online healthy living community – whether you’re a blogger, blog reader or general fitness enthusiast – you’ve likely heard of FitFluential. As a blogger and fitness geek myself, I’d seen the name pop up numerous times online without realizing what it was. This week I had the pleasure of speaking with the woman behind the whole movement – owner and CEO of FitFluential, Kelly Olexa.
Olexa, 43, lives in Chicago and founded the company in April 2011 after seeing an opportunity for an online fitness community and realizing she was uniquely suited for the job. “I’d been working in sales for a social media agency and found myself drawn to helping out with the blogger relations side of things,” she said. “I also observed that, although there was no shortage of ‘Mommy Blogger’ or ‘Foodie Blogger’ networks, no one had effectively developed a digital network for fitness influencers. Furthermore, the networks that were in existence all seemed to be functioning in an ad network model, which is one that I find to be the least effective manner of promoting a brand’s product or service.”
With experience as a fitness blogger and brand influencer for big name companies like Ford, Sears, and Polar USA, Olexa set out to build her own network in hopes that it would provide a nice additional, part-time income. Instead, the company grew so quickly without any investment or PR that she was forced to quit her full-time job by August 2011 just four months after FitFluential’s launch. “We had brands inquiring about our pricing and I had not even established price points,” she said. “That was a huge ‘wow’ moment for us.”
Olexa now employs a four-person executive team and leads more than 1,000 FitFluential ambassadors and 7,000-plus members overall. She estimates that FitFluential is currently reaching more than 150 million people online each month, inspiring people to live healthier more active lives day in and day out.
Olexa’s personal love for fitness began with the Billy Blanks Taebo Live series. Once seeing the infomercial she immediately called in to order, and after trying her first workout she was hooked. “I just felt great, and since I was a new college graduate adjusting to the corporate lifestyle – meaning if I didn’t move and kept eating all of those coffeecakes at the office I would be 200 pounds – that feeling great, feeling healthy vibe was addicting,” she said. From there, exercise and being active became constants in her life.
One of the primary ways FitFluential influences its community is through its team of ambassadors, most of whom apply online while the rest have been personally recruited by Olexa. “Our ambassadors are men and women, moms and dads, college students, high school students and empty nesters,” she said. “They have varying fitness passions from yoga to Crossfit, Pilates to figure competition, fitness walkers to triathletes and everything in between.”
Ambassadors subscribe to a wide variety of diets as well, including vegan, low carb, high-carb, raw, vegetarian and flexitarian. Elizabeth Nyland of Guilty Kitchen, whom we featured as a True Weight Loss Story last month on DIR, is a FitFluential ambassador who loves heavy lifting and follows a strict Paleo diet, proving that no two FitFluential ambassadors are alike. In this way, Olexa has built a diverse community of people who love living healthy, active lives and inspire an even greater body of people to do the same.
One of the ways amabssadors are similar, however, is that they all have a blog or a YouTube channel and are also active on Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. Some more prolific ambassadors that are joining the team now, such as celebrity fitness trainers, authors and pro-athletes, also help boost the already well-established fan base online.
“What is most important to us in choosing ambassadors is a contagious positive attitude,” said Olexa. “We want to promote the people out there that are inspiring others to get active and get healthy whether it is through yoga or running, Crossfit or spinning. If you have a positive attitude and are making strides in your fitness journey, that’s FitFluential to us.”
For those interested in becoming a FitFluential ambassador, Olexa is looking for people who create compelling blog content on an ongoing basis and are inspiring their readers to change their lives for the better. “It’s not just about numbers – that’s a methodology that doesn’t apply in FitFluential,” she said. “Because of the strong community that we’ve developed brands that work with us truly gain the power of the collective voice.”
FitFluential is already making a noticeable impact on the fitness community. Just this summer Olexa and five of her ambassadors attended the Reebok Crossfit Games. With just six people in tow the “FitFluential” hashtag beat the official hashtag of the Crossfit Games by more than 4.5 million mentions. “We generated more than 27 million impressions over the weekend and the five ambassadors in attendance were not all ‘top number’ bloggers,” said Olexa. “What matters most in FitFluential is a compelling story told in a creative manner on a regular basis; a strong personality that’s willing to go above and beyond for our brand partners and their readers in order to inspire a healthy outlook on life.”
Olexa is proud to say that her ambassadors “wow” and inspire her every day, which is what she loves most about her job. She especially loves knowing that they are doing the same thing for FitFluential members all over the country and the world every day.
After a fast and unexpected rise to success, FitFluential only seems to be growing as more brands, companies and bloggers continue to express interest in joining the movement. Moving forward, Olexa hopes to continue their approach to focusing on customized and unique content utilizing multiple social platforms with a heavy focus on YouTube, especially in 2013 and beyond.
“Are we a catalyst for change?” said Olexa. “Absolutely. And that is a testament of the actions of our members and ambassadors. We hear stories every week about those who have been inspired to join a gym or start packing healthy lunches for the office or hire a personal trainer, because they’ve been inspired by the FitFluential people online. That is the stuff that makes my day….when I see that our people are inspiring others around them and that those readers and subscribers are making changes in their lives, that is golden.”
For those interested in joining the FitFluential community as a member or ambassador, there are no fees or contracts to sign up. You just dive in, start reading and watching videos and get inspired. ”You can find your fitness – whatever resonates most for you in your life,” she said.
We thank Kelly for her time in sharing about this unique fitness community. We can’t help but feel inspired and motivated by what FitFluential is working toward and only wish Kelly and her team continued success. Want to join the team? Visit the website for more details on the FitFluential community as well as how to sign up and become a part of the movement.
second image via Guilty Kitchen
November 5th, 2012