Spotlight On: Dirk Buikema, CEO & Founder
Who is Hyperwear?
Hyperwear is the rising leader in product and program innovation in functional fitness, the fastest growing fitness segment. Our strategy is to focus on health and fitness inspired consumers by delivering proven results. Our focus is growing our direct B2B sales as a bridgehead into broad B2C sales by expanding our portfolio of products, educational content, and fitness programming. This strategy will leverage growing success in commercial club accounts where we have successfully introduced group exercise programs using our SandBell® free weights. Our Hyper Vest PRO weighted vest has been a great success starting with athletes and spreading to the fitness consumer. With a newly issued patents covering use of a cooling vest to burn calories, we are planning expansion or our product line into weight loss with a safe, proprietary, non-pharmaceutical, and research-backed solution. Hyperwear is a true innovator creating SIMPLE.POWERFUL.GEAR.
How long have you been around/where did you get this idea?
Our company started as a side business in a sports performance and adult fitness facility that I had opened after making a life change. I had an entrepreneurial urge after nineteen years of big company life, and became a franchisee of a sports performance and physical therapy business. It was youth focused and I had been very involved in youth sports in Austin as my children were growing. I had to purchase typical bulky, bouncy and hot weighted vests as part of my equipment set. Then an inventor came through the door with an incredibly thin and comfortable weight vest that needed a manufacturing source and funding. That was the start of Hyperwear. It was just going to be a website and side project, but we invented the SandBell® based on a need for a safe weight for youth and for something to replace slam medicine balls that constantly broke. Now we had a product line with a much bigger market opportunity and got to work on building the brand and company.
The fitness industry has become pretty fragmented, and your company fills a unique niche with its product – can you shed a little light on this?
As the fitness market has turned towards functional workouts, Hyperwear’s products have provided solutions that have been embraced by a wide range of customers like the world’s top fitness clubs (e.g., 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, Fitness First, Life Time Fitness, and Virgin Active), nation-wide bootcamps like Camp Gladiator, fitness studios, personal trainers, and fitness consumers. Our go to market consumer strategy has focused on the competitive amateur athletes who participate in CrossFit competitions, and in obstacle races such as Spartan Race. We have signed up athletes and ambassadors to spread the word about our products, training methods and brand.
Last year, our research highlighted fitness boutiques as being on the rise, has that helped or hurt your business at all? Where do you see the fitness industry going?
While there has been consolidation and M&A activity in the large health club space, we have seen an explosion of boutique fitness studios and outdoor bootcamps. These smaller footprint and outdoor space workouts find our products to be ideal solutions. Our SandBell and SteelBell free weights are great low-cost, versatile solutions for strength training that do not take up much space, work great outdoors, and are unstable and more effective. The 10 foot SandRope was created to enable battle rope and other exercises in far less space than standard long ropes. The market trend has been great for our business. The challenge is the cost of customer acquisition where you have many small sales. Specialty fitness retailers and dealers have been key partners to make it work.
Talk about any challenges in the industry (as a whole) or specific to Hyperwear.
Having a unique background as a technology attorney before becoming a fitness entrepreneur, I have seen the biggest challenge to the industry being widespread infringement of intellectual property by overseas manufacturers. Often instigated by major players in fitness equipment who would rather copy than create. There is a significant cost to innovating and protecting that innovation to build new products and lasting businesses. Hyperwear will continue to invest in aggressively protecting its innovation.