Richard Bailey and Chris Ketant have been friends for a long time, way before their days as students at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Today, they are business partners who are cultivating a community that is changing the way Black people live.
So how did two kids from Harlem end up moving out to the West Coast and create a fitness app that would change the game?
They graduated from RIT with degrees in computer engineering, landings jobs in the tech industry. Rich worked at Intel as a software engineer and researcher before moving over to finance, while Chris worked as a software engineer for Apple.
Soon after moving to Los Angeles, they began dedicating theirfree time to starting a fitness platform called Crowdfit, which originally launched in 2016, and matched people with exercise partners with similar goals in your area.
They eventually would transition the business model and created GrpFit, in June of 2017, and today is now the leading fitness platform for the Black community.
In an interview with Kulture Hub, they explained their journey, the vision for GrpFit, and how they are making a cultural impact within their community.
Please welcome our newest Co-founder and CTO Chris Ketant @claude_speaks 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ His passion for fitness started with sports at a young age and then became an obsession with becoming stronger (mentally and physically) than the last day. Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, Chris graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Software Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology and spent his entire professional career as a software engineer at Apple until now. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Head over to the app to see his latest blog post “My 4 Initiatives as CTO – The Master Plan.”
By December of 2017, the company gained traction, as Rich and Chris had their first co-marketing campaign and major event. They decided, then, that February 28th would be the day they both quit their jobs in order to work on GrpFit full-time.
Rather than a one-on-one session with a partner — which may pose problems such as differences in intensity, inspiration and competition — GrpFit provides users with a community-wide support system.
“GrpFit is a safe, encouraging & uplifting community of people from all levels of fitness, from the first timer all the way to the fitness junkie, who all want to see you become the more fit & healthier version of you.”
Not to mention it’s unapologetically Black.
Black topics of health have been unaddressed for a long time, with research showing staggering statistical differences of mortality rates compared to other races, so they decided to spark the change. Rich told me,
“It was a shocking find since the health stats for our community were so startling; for example, 76% of Blacks are either overweight or obese and 43% have hypertension. From that, we decided to pivot from CrowdFit and relaunch as GrpFit in June of 2017.”
Upon recognizing that Black health had its own set of challenges, they focused on turning the app into the first platform that’s focused on ALL Black health issues.
#transformationtuesday Check out this amazing transformation by @itssimplyjackson 👀. Her journey started with her “Day 1”, which was in August of 2016. On her “Day 1”, she told herself the same “I’m going to lose weight” story, but this time it was different 🤔. She put her needs first and realized that she REALLY wanted it. And then, she never looked back 👏🏾. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ For more inspiration, download the #GrpFit app today. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #fitness #instafit #fit #fitspo #health #healthylifestyle #weightloss #transformation #inspiration #motivation #fitfam #healthandfitness #healthandwellness #blackfitness #ebonyfitness #instafit #igfit #workoutmotivation #weightlossjourney #fitnessjourney #fitchicks #fitchick #weightlossmotivation #beforeandafter #weightloss #weightlosssupport #weightwatchers
As a result, the co-founders saw this as an opportunity to provide information, share stories and help others with their journey and education. Their vision with GrpFit is a big one: To create the final advancement for all things related to Black health. Chris told me,
“Everybody in our community are in different parts of their journey, whether it’s weight loss, weight gain, etc. Users want to create subgroups around these topics so that they can go more in depth. We’ve been figuring out ways that we can address those problems.”
As aforementioned, the app started off as a place to show off fitness posts, similar to the social media layout of Instagram. It was considered a “fitness feed” a place to discuss your latest developments, updates and share your journey with others.
While the feed focused on these issues, there still wasn’t a singular panel where users could hop onto when searching for all things health-related within their community. Rich explained,
“Our message is we’re here to uplift one another. A big aspect that’s overlooked is the emotional connection to it when you have one group of people you can relate to, either shaped like you, or look like you, or have similar goals or ideals or thought process, that’s going to help you on your health and fitness journey. At the end of the day, issues from our community are a little more exaggerated than other communities.”
🚨 GrpFit Member Spotlight 🔦 Meet J. Anthony Guillory – Father and PhD holder. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ What inspired you to begin your fitness journey? • I’ve been involved in some aspect of “fitness” since childhood. But I got serious about it as a lifestyle shortly before the birth of my daughter. Prior to that, I had suffered from depression and was not taking very good care of myself. My stress level was through the roof and drank excessively and ate “comfortable food” that wreaked havoc on my cardiovascular health. An annual physical revealed that I was headed quickly down the wrong path. When I learned I was to be a father, I knew I had to make significant changes. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ What does Health & Fitness mean to you? • I am a strong proponent of the mind, body, spirit connection. Health, to me, is all encompassing. It is your mental, physical and psychological well-being. Fitness, for me, relates to the things you do to manipulate your body and to push it to new limits. That includes athletics and bodybuilding. But also includes yoga, ballet, skateboarding and even parkour. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Favorite music to listen to while working out? • I can’t really say I have a “favorite” music. I have very eclectic tastes, and my music does not play the role of motivator for me. My motivation comes from within. So my mood is not altered by what’s in my ear. I like hip hop, both old and new school. Mumble rap doesn’t bother me. I also like 80s and 90s R&B, alternative, and pop love music from the 70s! I’ve been known to listen to audiobooks. If you haven’t listened to Gabrielle Union’s WE’RE GOING TO NEED MORE WINE, get it as soon as you can! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #GrpFit #motivation #inspiration #inspirational #motivational #motivationmonday #monday #fitness #instafit #fit #fitspo #health #healthylifestyle #fitfam #healthandfitness #healthandwellness #blackfitness #ebonyfitness #training #grind #mindset #believer #beastmode
While there have been many Instagram, Twitter, Facebook as well as social media communities that we’ve seen rise over the years, Richard and Chris wanted to merge the information you find in fitness magazines, websites and social pages to help others garner the support needed for their fitness journey.
GrpFit is not just a social platform, though aesthetically it may look like it started out as one. It’s expanded from sharing pictures to formulating sample workouts, curating articles, and allowing the space for blogs. Rich continued,
“The difference between this and Instagram is that those sites view one perspective and one service. Instagram is purely social, magazines are content driven, Facebook is community driven, so what we try to do is combine all that. As a user, you should want one app, one product, one service that includes all the services related to that industry. We’re trying to be the one stop shop. We want to be the number one thought in mind when it comes to Black health and fitness.”
Last month, the platform reached 1,200 monthly active users.
#transformationtuesday Wow! 💥 Let’s give it up for @tameikag and her 90-lb transformation 👏🏾 . She overcame her negative relationship with food and her struggle with overeating. Her weight loss was a result of a new year resolution she set 11 years ago when she decided to finally take control of her own health. 🙏🏾⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ For more inspiration, download the #GrpFit app today! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #fitness #instafit #fit #fitspo #health #healthylifestyle #weightloss #transformation #inspiration #motivation #fitfam #healthandfitness #healthandwellness #blackfitness #ebonyfitness #instafit #igfit #workoutmotivation #weightlossjourney #fitnessjourney #fitchicks #fitchick #weightlossmotivation #beforeandafter #weightloss #weightlosssupport #weightwatchers
Topics range from 21-30 day challenges, weight loss and nutrition support.
Communities are formed and focused around these features. “Suggested accounts” also became available to users, connecting those on a similar path with someone who can fulfill the intent of uplifting them, providing users a safe, comfortable space for support and little judgement. Rich made it clear,
“Nutrition is definitely one of the most important aspects of fitness.”
#TastyThursday 😋What’s on your menu today? Check out this dish: Grilled Chili Lime Chicken Fajita Salad 🌶🍋🍗 Tender & juicy chicken thighs grilled in a chili lime marinade that doubles as a dressing! Creamy avocado slices, grilled red & yellow peppers, & succulent pieces. 👌🏾• • • • • #cleaneats #cleaneating #nom #nomnom #health #healthy #healthandfitness #healthiswealth #diet #nutrition #abs #healthyeats #eatclean #yummy #foodie #healthyrecipes #wholefoods #healthylife #fitness #fitfam #fitspo #fitfood #organic #igfit #healthyeating #foodporn #foodblogger #goodeats #mealprep
Recently, GRP partnered with Ariel Belgrave on a 21-day fitness challenge. The concept was to help people start their fitness changes through active involvement, sending out daily text reminders to do their workouts.
The point of the challenge was to show that without a consistent workout schedule, it would be much harder to live a healthy lifestyle. The challenge also helped people build their at home workout and gym routine.
On the subject of activism, Richard promises more involvement to come. He said,
“One thing we definitely want as we become a more mature company is get into the community more. We definitely have been doing a few community events and bootcamps, lined up between LA and Oakland, but as we become more mature, we want to get very specific with some of the initiatives. Want to start doing local things for the community for awareness months.
For young entrepreneurs and those looking to create apps, the successful founders offer similar advice. Rich ended our conversation with some wisdom saying,
“A startup is very hard, but isn’t impossible at all. What I usually advise people is — Have a good idea of what you want to do, and test that theory, whether it’s market research or market surveying, and figure out what areas of help you need. Then either surround yourself with people or obtain the skills needed to alleviate those requirements.”
“Starting an entrepreneurial endeavor is hard, but if you love what you’re doing and you’re passionate about your goals and the product you’re trying to produce, let that be your motivating factor to stay up late and get things done, to learn, to constantly push yourself. From a CTO/Developer position, my advice would be if you’re not willing to stay up until 4 AM trying to learn and solve a problem. A lot of people see the finished product, but a lot of people don’t see the staying up until 4 AM to solve a problem for your users. Prepare yourself, be passionate, and don’t stop.”
Don’t sleep on GRPFit, as there’s plenty more involvement to come. Their message for the future is louder and clearer than ever:
“We have a lot of things coming up the next couple months, now that we’re doing it full time and trying to get to a lot of the local communities sometime soon. Stay tuned, download the app and we hope to see you on there.”
Get to the app store and download it today.