Senior Ventures into the Business World
His Start-up Company Breaks into the Fitness Industry
by Anne C. Paine
entrepreneurs (front, left to right) Robert Moffatt '02, R.
Jon MacDonald '03, (back) Jack Yeh '04, and Andrew Roebuck '04
percent of Americans older than 25 are overweight, and 72 percent
of them say they want to lose weight, according to a Harris poll
released in early March.
Robert Moffatt '02 is in business to help them.
an economics major, is the founder and managing director of Lo Fat
Fitness, a firm that specializes in fitness education and corporate
fitness programs. It also sells nutritional supplements to complement
its fitness programs.
are interested in fitness programs because their health care costs
and employee health-insurance premiums are rising," Moffatt
said. "So far, we've had an 87 percent success rate in getting
people to start exercising." And exercise means healthier employees
and lower costs for companies.
launched the company in May 2000 with one employee, R. Jon MacDonald
'03, a visual-arts major who handles the firm's graphic design and
advertising. Moffatt's focus soon expanded from personal training
services to include corporate wellness programs, and he's now seeking
$150,000 in growth capital to start his own fitness studio. Long-term
plans call for a line of franchised studios.
recently added three more employees, all students: economics major
Jack Yeh '03, who's researching financing options for the studio
program; Andrew Roebuck '04, who handles nutritional-supplement
sales; and sociology major Nichole Salazar '02, a certified personal
student-entrepreneurs know they don't fit the Oberlin stereotype,
but they see their mission as fully compatible with Oberlin's ideal
and I are not the typical Obies. We're very entrepreneurial,"
helping people, and it's very rewarding," added Moffatt. "Some
people have changed their lives. By starting to exercise, they've
improved their health and begun losing weight."
The company is headquartered in a small, windowless, sparsely furnished
office in a nondescript building about a mile east of campus. A
table at one end of the room is stacked with cans of nutritional
supplements, a single desk holds the lone office computer, and chairs
and backpacks line the rest of the walls. The surroundings may look
start-up, but Lo Fat Fitness staffers are anything but amateurish.
don't know we're students. When we're working on issues related
to the company, we carry ourselves in a mature manner," Moffatt
said. "When I make sales calls, I'm often calling on human
resources people or CEOs who are in their 40s or 50s. People assume
we've graduated and are much farther along than we are."
asked about how he started in business, Moffatt laughed and deferred
to Yeh, who repeated a story Moffatt told him.
started in fifth grade, selling pencils for 10 cents each to his
classmates, who played Pencil Breaker during recess," Yeh laughed.
guess you could say I've been entrepreneurial for a while,"
Moffatt added sheepishly.
Because Oberlin doesn't offer business courses, Moffatt is a self-taught
businessman, as is MacDonald, whom Moffatt calls his "right-hand
man." Moffatt once worked as a whole life insurance and annuity
agent with Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, and MacDonald
has had several graphic-design internships. But mainly they are
voracious readers of business literature, sometimes to the detriment
of their coursework, they admit.
also work hard to stay fit themselves. Moffatt, a transfer student
from West Point, where he was on the boxing team, teaches a boxing
ExCo course (as well as one in business planning). He was a Yeomen
football player until a knee injury sidelined him. MacDonald is
on the men's basketball team; Yeh, a Marine reservist, is a former
lacrosse player; and Roebuck is an offensive lineman on the football
graduated in May and plans to earn an M.B.A. in the near future,
but he doesn't plan on leaving Lo Fat Fitness.
industry grew 29 per-cent in the last year alone," he said.
"We want to be the guys who take it into the future."