As fitness has gone mainstream, so have people gotten more strategic about how and where to sneak a workout in. The pandemic redefined many aspects of our lives; eliminating boundaries of that separated work, social life, and fitness from the home. We saw basement conversions into home gyms, studios experimenting with live streaming technology and athletic apparel companies like Lululemon introducing home workout technologies like The Mirror.
Similar to how remote work has reduced commute time, having accessibility to workout technology reduces the friction between the person and the “place” to work out. They say to build healthy habits and discipline in an area, the secret is to follow the path of least resistance. Barriers like weather conditions, distance, and insecurity can be large sources of friction that prevent someone from achieving their fitness goals.
When Brian Pedone, a former gym owner and boxing coach out of Manhattan started experimenting with the idea of building home boxing equipment, he wanted to solve a problem that many of his clients were facing: How to keep up consistent practice without actually stepping foot in the boxing gym.
Brian was able to leverage his development expertise and his passion for boxing to develop the first-of-its-kind, doorway punching bag, Quiet Punch. Going from a freelance developer and coach to starting a company, enduring years of product development, and obtaining his first celebrity partner in the business didn’t come without its challenges. Brian offers a raw look at what it’s like to build a proprietary product from scratch, and the ongoing lessons he’s still continuing to build on today.
Interviewer: Can you tell us about your journey into entrepreneurship? How did your background or past affect your present career?
Brian: I’ve always been an entrepreneur. When I graduated college with a degree in computer science, I started working at Aetna Healthcare as a developer and was there for roughly six months. I remember my colleagues talking about how they couldn’t wait to retire when they turned 65. I was 21 years old and thought to myself this was not the path I was looking for. I always had my hustles. In college, I started a boxing gym initially for myself, but then teenagers and kids started coming to the gym. I wasn’t earning much money from the gym, but I was doing freelance developer work to pay the bills.
Then I moved to Manhattan and started training white-collar workers. As I was training those people, I realized there’s got to be a better way to practice boxing, especially in small spaces.
Boxing equipment is so antiquated and heavy. So I started researching how we could make something that was a little more mobile and apartment friendly. I was googling prototyping when I found a company based in the midwest, and I ended up taking all the money I made from training to invest in this prototype. I’m still working with the same company today. This took five years of development, and it’s been through so many iterations to get to where it is now.
I also wanted to add the tech component to it. Once the software was implemented, it became a full-fledged product with the physical and software component.
Interviewer: Do you think it’s easier nowadays to go through the process that you went through? Or do you think it’s harder because the market’s more saturated with these types of opportunities?
Brian: The manufacturing part is easier, but the really challenging aspect is getting it out there. Regardless of what you think the market needs, you won’t know until you put it out there and do some beta testing. Marketing is crucial too, it took me a long time to nail down a good formula for social media which I enlisted a marketing company to do.
Interviewer: Are you focused more on expanding your audience base? Or are you more focused on making the product a little better?
Brian: It’s both. We’re expanding the audience, but I’m still making tweaks based on what the customers want. The app itself requires a lot of changes, especially when there are new updates to iOS or Android. We do more changes to the software than we do on the physical side, because the physical takes a while. If I need a change to be done, it could be months until it’s ready for production. The software is quicker, which is nice. The sensor I have is very basic, so most of the adjustments happen within the app, not in the physical hardware. I don’t have to do a lot of firmware updates.
Interviewer: How long does it take to build a good reputation in your industry?
Brian: It took more than five years to start getting the customers on board. I think having exceptional customer support plays a crucial role in our success. What I’ve learned is that when somebody buys a product, they’re buying not only the physical product, but they’re buying the customer support too. That’s been important for us. It’s taken a long time to get the reviews that we have and for people to trust our product. I think nowadays with the new tech and more products coming out people are used to subpar customer service. Now that bar is getting higher, and people are expecting more. Similarly, expectations for products have shifted due to Amazon.
When you go to a company that’s not Amazon, there’s a potential for it to be a scam, We’ve had some knockoffs during the holidays and companies that pretended to be our product.
Interviewer: What is one of the biggest challenges you faced throughout starting this business and what has helped you persist through it?
Brian: The biggest continuing challenge is staying positive. I sometimes feel like I’m in a bubble, and there’s a part of me that’s always trying to add features, and new functionalities, and watching the competitors.
A useful technique I’ve developed is since five years ago, I kept a daily log. It’s helpful because I can look back at this day, two years ago, and see where I was at. It puts things into perspective. It’s common for entrepreneurs to suffer from imposter syndrome, or to feel like a failure.
Therefore, it’s helpful to have a good support network to remind you of what you’re doing and how far you’ve come. It’s easy to get narrow-minded and forget how far you’ve come and all the challenges you’ve overcome. When I look back, it’s unbelievable how I made it to this point without giving up.
Interviewer: What’s coming up for Quiet Punch?
Brian: I’m working on a project targeted at the age 65+ demographic. We’re working closely with a study taking place at the University of Buffalo on cognitive function. Quiet Punch is really easy on the joints, and gloves aren’t required, making it easy for any age group to use it. I’m excited about seeing how we can finally apply it to a demographic that I think is often neglected when it comes to weight loss and fitness. I really want Quiet Punch to be a tool that’s accessible and helps people improve their cognitive function. That’s the next step for Quiet Punch.
Entering the product development space for the first time can evoke feelings of excitement and trepidation. As someone who’s been on both ends of the sport, Brian has developed a deep understanding of the needs and requirements of his target audience: amateur and professional boxers. Although Brian started his company years before VR (virtual reality) fitness really took off, it seems to be a fitting time in the market for a tool like this. According to some statistics, home fitness equipment sales from certain companies skyrocketed by more than 200% following the pandemic. As life returns to normal, people will continue exploring creative methods to elevate their fitness both efficiently and conveniently. It will be paramount for companies to think about how they can better meet their customers—whether it’s at the studio or in their homes.