Fitter, Farther, Faster: Fitter International is number four on our Fast Growth 50 List
Louis Stack started out selling homemade fitness products from his van. Now, Fitter International is growing as desk dwellers embrace the “active office”
by Jenn Mentanko
Head office: Calgary
CEO: Louis Stack
Revenue: $15 million
Revenue growth year-over-year: 48%
Louis Stack calls it a B-hag: a big, hairy, audacious goal.
The founder and president of the health and wellness company, which goes by the trade name Fitterfirst, wants to see his products in every work, education and home environment. “It requires a change in attitude,” he says. “It’s a paradigm shift.”
Stack has always been audacious. It began when his mother offered him a loan of $3,000 to either purchase a luge sled to try to qualify for the 1988 Calgary Olympics or to invest in his new product: a functional fitness machine focusing on stability and agility. “People always say everyone has a calling in life,” Stack says. To the former athlete, sport was no longer it. Instead his new MO became innovating the fitness game.
At 23, Stack and his brother built the first Fitterfirst product, the Pro Fitter: a wooden platform with flexible, rotating footpads that allow a person to mimic a skiing motion. From there, he set out to sell his products out of the back of his newly painted van. “I would go to big fitness shows and so many people laughed at me,” he says.
“I was kicked out of a couple because they thought my products were too dangerous. They were just old-school thinkers.”
It’s with this attitude that Stack propelled Fitterfirst to success. While other fitness companies churned out routine products, Stack disrupted the industry and carved out a niche that was waiting to be filled. “I’ve been an early converter,” he says. “I see trends. I see opportunities to cross-pollinate.” It took some time for consumers to catch on, but today, Fitterfirst products can be found at gyms, speciality stores, offices and physiotherapy centres across the U.S. and Canada.
The “active office” market is the new golden child of the Fitterfirst brand, and the explanation for its recent spike in sales. The active office suite of products promotes movement in the workplace, a shift away from sedentary offices through standing desks, exercise ball chairs and balancing boards, to name a few. Stack says the quick acceptance by medical professionals, consumers and businesses helped the active office products skyrocket.
The company’s annual sales grew 48 per cent year-over-year, after growing 122 per cent the previous year. Within three years, Fitterfirst’s workforce almost doubled, to 25 full-time staff, and as those chained to a desk eight hours a day become more receptive to an active environment, Stack sees continued growth. Who’s laughing now?