When fitness and fashion collide 🤝

Carina Linhares
August 11, 2022

Disrupting the fitness industry one bangle at a time 

Are you ready for this week's breakdown of the DTCX Exceptional Ecommerce podcast? We sure are! Max Kislevitz, co-founder of Bala, joined Chris Meade this week to chat about his biggest lessons growing a non-traditional fitness business. Check out the full episode below! ⤵

When it comes to exercising, Bala's fitness accessories are guaranteed to bring a new element of cool to your workout. 💪

Starting out as a simple idea sketched out on a napkin in 2018, Max and his wife Natalie embarked on a journey to disrupt the fitness industry known for its utilitarian products and ultra-serious, exclusionary vibes. Bala's mission is to create innovative and design-led workout gear that is boundary-less, colorful, inclusive, fun, and functional.

Bala's flagship product, the Bala Bangles, are a new school take on the old school wrist weights of the 1980's. With a sleek, beautiful, and ergonomic design, and a feature on Shark Tank, this product helped launch the success of Max and Natalie's fitness brand.

With the financial aid and advice from Mark Cuban, and an array of functional, one-of-a-kind workout gear, Bala has been taking the fitness industry by storm. When it comes to running a DTC business, Max has learned some pretty big lessons over the past 4 years. If you’re interested in learning more, keep on reading! ⤵

Eyes on the prize 👀

When it comes to organic vs. performance marketing, Max and his team at Bala are all-in on slow, sustainable, organic growth. Wanting their brand to be around 10+ years from now, Max has taken his time to establish his brand within the fitness industry as high quality, reliable, inclusive, and innovative. At this point, Bala has put virtually no money into performance marketing, and just lets the innovation speak for itself. Establishing your brand takes time, and will eventually help with performance marketing in the future as consumers and retailers will already have a deep trust in what you've built.

Bigger doesn't always mean better 🤷

As a new DTC brand moving into retail, you may assume that getting huge purchase orders (POs) from big box retailers will be great for your business, but that's not always the case.

After their appearance on Shark Tank, Bala was approached by Dick's Sporting Goods, who placed a huge PO that almost put them out of business. Depending on the time it takes for your product to produce and ship, and the terms of the contract you have with a retailer, you could be waiting up to 4 months before you start seeing money coming back from the PO — which can be detrimental to your business when the cost to produce said order is already high. The best advice Max can give came from Mark Cuban: be careful with purchase orders and don't be afraid to say no if it can hurt your business in a detrimental way.

Star of the show 🌟

A challenge that many new businesses face, including Bala, is standing out in a saturated market. One big lesson that Max learned was to find retailers that align with your customer base. Finding shelf space where your product will stand out to consumers, rather than blend in and be looked past, is key to your product's success within big box and local retailers.

With an innovative product that stands out on shelves and online, unfortunately knockoffs are quick to follow. For Bala, they saw a large amount of knockoffs of their original product line once they gained popularity. How did Max deal with this, and what would he advise other business owners to do in this situation? Keep being innovative and focus on your branding. Continuing to create new products will keep you on top of your competitors, and with an established brand, your business and products will still be top-of-mind even when consumers are using these knockoff products.

Stay in your lane 🏊

Is it worth going into business with your loved one? Max co-founded Bala with his wife Natalie in 2018, and found that the first 2-3 years were tough. Finding a balance between work and home life and their roles in the business was a true challenge, but over time they found what Max calls their "swim lanes". Knowing your strengths, communicating well, and taking the time to outwardly appreciate the work that your partner does will help you find those "lanes" that foster a strong and positive business partnership.  

Want to learn more about ecommerce growth through the personal trials and obstacles of industry professionals? Subscribe to DTCX Exceptional Ecommerce Podcast on YouTube, Spotify, and wherever else you listen to podcasts.