Michele Mehl is the founder & CEO of Excy, a lifestyle health and exercise hardware and software company committed to delivering better and different ways to conveniently connect high-quality exercise to our lives at home, work, and on the go.
Excy (short for exercise cycling) is a lightweight, compact, and portable full-fledge upper body ergometer, recumbent exercise bike, and strength trainer in a tiny 10-pound package that folds for easy storage and transport and offers up on-demand mobile coaching.
The company’s patent-pending approach offers over 100 different exercises with zero to 30 pounds of bi-directional resistance and is the perfect utility for physical therapy and home training to help a broad range of people embrace exercise as medicine for a higher-quality of life.
In this interview, Michele shares why she started her brand and its competitive edge as lifestyle and health equipment with the promise to make exercising quick & easy wherever you are. Enjoy!
What motivated you to start Excy? How did the idea come about?
Like many busy parents, my work schedule, household responsibilities, and desire to be the best possible wife, mom, sister, daughter, and friend sidelined most of my exercise goals. I was paying for a gym membership I wasn’t using (like 4 out of 6 Americans do), yet refused to cancel it because I felt that was admitting failure.
I would get on the wagon to get fit, yet fall off quickly to watch the dust pile up on the treadmill, weights, and bicycle trainer in my basement. I was at my highest weight, didn't feel healthy, and knew I was on the wrong genetic pathway — with my dad having had two heart attacks and my mom having high blood pressure.
So, I recruited Mike and tapped my life savings to create a convenient way to exercise more frequently to help people fight preventable disease and live a healthier lifestyle.
What do you attribute your success to? Is there a trait you have or a person who helped you along the way?
I grew up being a very competitive athlete and continued to play through college. I credit most of my drive, tenacity, and humility to playing team sports, which has served me well throughout my career. I have spent the last 20-years working with technology startups and am surrounded by incredibly smart people who have been tremendously supportive.
What is unique about your business? Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest?
We have created a full-fledged exercise bike and upper body arm-bike in a tiny package with on-demand coaching and workouts. Offering 30 pounds of resistance with an incredibly small 10 pound footprint that folds easily for storage and transport, we help people squeeze in exercise anywhere at home, work, or on the go.
Have you ever gotten a disappointed client or customer? If so, how did you handle the situation?
We had one customer who wanted to return Excy because she said “It’s just not convenient enough.” So, we walked through what she meant by that since it’s so incredibly convenient and we got to the bottom of the real reason she wasn’t exercising and that was because she hates to workout.
So, we walked through some different positions and suggested that she use Excy surrounded by the people she loves vs. isolating herself to a basement while using Excy. This helped eliminate the barrier, which had nothing to do with convenience and more about wanting to spend quality time with family while exercising to stay more motivated.
Did you have a hard time starting your business? How did you handle time and resource constraints?
Starting a new business wasn’t just a professional decision for me. It was also a family one where I sought the permission of my 9-year old son before making the final leap. I co-founded and started my first company, the Seattle public relations firm Buzz Builders, when I was pregnant with my son Jack who is now 10.
He came into the world with a mom who worked full-time. I often carried a certain level of guilt for having him spend his days with a nanny, and then later in daycare. So, when I decided to start my second company, Excy, and transition from servicing startups to running one, I was 110% committed to getting Jack’s permission and letting him have a say this time.
I had worked for startups my entire career and I personally knew that it was going to be beyond challenging and all-consuming. So, I sat Jack down for a good talk that included a list of warnings that would impact him on top of experiences he was already familiar with:
- Missing sporting events
- Traveling more frequently
- Working more hours
- Working on vacation
- Being distracted
So, I got his full blessing before starting the company and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
When times get tough, what would you say motivates you to keep going? To not hit the snooze button and to keep fighting for your goals.
Hands down customer success stories. We are changing people’s lives and their health.
What was your biggest business mistake and how you did you come out stronger at the end of the day?
My biggest financial mistake so far is attempting to do Google AdWords without the expert advice of someone who knows how to do it well. I won’t make that mistake again.
As a business owner, what is your greatest fear and how do you keep it under control or harness it?
I’m a relatively shy person and have spent my entire career behind the scenes. I had a tremendous amount of fear for putting myself out in front as the spokesperson for Excy. Sometimes when you’re afraid of something, you just have to dive in and do it. I did our first official Excy workouts while being filmed for our mobile app. All fear was out the window.
Is there a type of marketing that has worked amazingly for Excy? If so, how did you stumble upon it?
Live streaming on Facebook Live. There is so much more engagement and it’s authentic, which I think people appreciate.
What are the three best pieces of advice that you would give to anyone starting a business in Washington? What do they need to know from the very beginning?
If you can’t stop obsessing about the idea and keep coming back to it, go for it. Before you dive in, realize that it will be very time consuming and will cost more money and take longer than you think, so don’t give up your day job immediately. And last, find a great co-founder.
Follow Michele on Twitter to receive video instructions on how to use Excy and improve the quality of your life.
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