B.J. Wiley Williams: Founder & CEO of SweatCred
Spotlight no. 8:
B.J. Wiley Williams
B.J. Wiley Williams, Founder & CEO
University of Virginia, BA
What is SweatCred?
SweatCred is a wellness technology platform. We partner with organizations to help them build a more positive culture by bringing fun and cool wellness experiences into the corporate arena. We decided to first focus on the corporate market because companies recognize it is important to have a mentally and physically fit workforce in order to reach optimal productivity and they are willing to make that investment. Today, over 50% of companies invest in corporate wellness; however, the current landscape is not very engaging. Why? Because it’s not fun and inspiring.
I think about my own personal experience, even though I am already a health nerd, I am much more driven by positivity than by somebody nagging me. So instead, we designed our platform to incentivize people for the health behaviors they are already doing, or want to do a little bit more of, such as eating well, being active, and relaxing (meditating, massage, and acupuncture). Once the employee earns credit they can use it as currency to shop in our rewards marketplace to buy items filled exclusively with high quality wellness experiences - think fresh food delivery service, athletic apparel from luxury brands, access to boutique fitness studios or mind body experiences. Rewarding ‘healthy with healthy’ is the way to create long-term habits.
What's your story B.J.?
Passion is my compass when it comes to making career decisions. I spent the majority of my career after graduating from Harvard Business School working in the hospitality industry -- from a private equity firm that owned and operated hotels to doing work with a major Convention Center building their destination brand -- because I love creating experiences for people. Prior to business school, I worked in financial services.
My entire life, I have always been a health nerd and fitness fanatic and recognized that so much of the wellness industry was becoming experiential. I decided to deep dive and became a manager of a lululemon store so that I could experience, first-hand, how the company was able to turn a product into a lifestyle.
There are two phenomena taking place that inspired me to create SweatCred. First, our country is going through a health epidemic costing trillions of dollars primarily driven by poor habits. Second, there’s a huge surge of amazing wellness experiences out there, but the market is extremely fragmented and hard to navigate.
How do you bridge this gap and connect more Americans with these experiences?
I created a company that solves that problem by striving to be the #1 wellness curator and aggregator. Our goal is to turn SweatCred into a lifestyle, and by doing so, creating a wellness revolution.
What is social impact of Sweat Cred?
SweatCred helps improve the quality of life for Americans by helping them become mentally and physically fit.
How do you choose what companies to work with?
It is really important early on to partner with the right companies that are going to believe in your ideas. I would say wellness falls into two camps. One camp that wants help saving money on their insurance, and the other camp that is focused on engagement and culture building. We target the companies that are health and culture conscious. Instead of focusing on the ROI of reducing insurance premiums, which typically is very hard to prove short-term, we are focused on culture ROI. We target companies who care about attracting, retaining and engaging top talent, especially those with large millennial workforce. Why millennials? They value experiences, a holistic approach to healthcare, and by 2025 they will be 75% of the workforce.
How have you used your Ivy network?
I leverage my Ivy network on a daily basis. I think it is really important as an entrepreneur to get out there and talk to people – advisors, potential customers, suppliers. The reason I say that is that sometimes, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. I’m constantly reaching out to alumni and professors as I build and grow SweatCred. In addition, we currently have a Harvard MBA intern working with our team. From a skill-set perspective, I draw upon the frameworks I learned in the classroom and my experience as the CEO of HBS Student Association (S.A.) Ventures -- the only student-run business on campus at that time -- which taught me how to work with lean resources and hone my customer service skills.
What advice would you give yourself when you first started SweatCred?
The biggest advice I would give is to have the confidence and go out there and just do it. In order to thrive you have to try and fail a few times. A lot of us over analyze, but we need to trust ourselves and our skill set that we can make a meaningful impact. We have to remember that most companies stay in the startup phase for 10 years and it takes awhile to be successful so try to enjoy the journey.
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Thanks B.J. for the interview! We can't wait to see what SweatCred is up to next! .::Ivy Startup Mag::.