Kaelin Tuell Poulin doesn't miss an opportunity to work out. She's a fan of high-intensity weight training; she looks forward to back and shoulder days. And while cardio is important, running is her least favorite athletic activity. But just 10 years ago, Kaelin Tuell was 19 years old and clinically obese at five feet two inches and 180 pounds.
It was a slap on the hand from Grandma after Tuell reached for another cookie at her family's Christmas celebration in 2010 that would drive her to lose 65 pounds in seven months. And just a few years later, that journey would inspire her to launch a fitness business that's grown to $32.4 million in 2018 revenue and hit No. 4 on Inc.'s 2019 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.
But first she had to meet her future husband and co-founder, Brandon Poulin. The two met in 2013 at a marketing conference in Los Angeles. Then, after about a year, Tuell's weight-loss journey sparked a moment of clarity for the couple and--over a set of side-by-side treadmills--the idea for LadyBoss began to take shape.
Today, the Albuquerque-based LadyBoss sells resources and tools to women looking to shed pounds. For $27 a month or $197 up front, LadyBoss customers gain access to an app with meal plans, recipes, workout guides, and more. There's also personal training and coaching, supplements, and gear--all sporting a neon pink LadyBoss logo.
The founders, who were married in 2015, say they've sold products to 281,000 customers to date, with 5,500 active monthly subscribers and another 35,900 users who've paid for unlimited access to the LadyBoss training app. Their business is on track to book between $40 million and $50 million in 2019 revenue, up at least 125 percent over 2018.
It's a real team effort, says Tuell Poulin. "We've grown so fast because we're not overshadowing the other one," she says. "We trust that the other is making the right decision."
The key to LadyBoss's growth has been Tuell Poulin's ability to attract newcomers to fitness. She frequently offers tutorials, advice, and more to the company's 222,000 Instagram followers and almost 32,000 YouTube subscribers--many of whom had never tried or previously struggled with formal weight loss methods, says Brandon Poulin, LadyBoss's CEO.
That kind of reach is highly desirable, confirms Roxy Borger, founder of Liberate Consulting, a health and wellness consulting agency in San Luis Obispo, California. While the wellness industry overall amounted to $4.2 trillion in global expenditures in 2018, according to the latest research from the Global Wellness Institute, companies often struggle with finding new members, says Borger. "The challenge there is how do we serve people who are not naturally already drawn to wellness, fitness, or weight loss?"
Of course, keeping people motivated when they aren't used to daily exercise and dieting can be challenging. The average lifespan of a LadyBoss customer is six months, with "a very low percentage" of LadyBoss customers dropping off after just a month, according to the couple. To encourage customers to continue their journey, LadyBoss releases new programs and products every month. It also uses a private, customer-only Facebook group to engage with customers and track their progress.
The founders have also run up against technical issues along the way. A week before their launch date, in December 2014, a computer crash caused them to lose all of their
LadyBoss video footage, and they had to scramble to reshoot more than 50 workout tutorials. In August 2015, LadyBoss's operating software went down for two weeks because of server issues.
And in February 2018, Poulin says, the couple paid a supplements vendor that never ended up delivering any product, resulting in "tens of thousands of dollars lost." Poulin felt blindsided by the transaction, and said it hardened his resolve. "You have to learn to expect the 'gut punches' when you're in business," he says. "You have to wake up every single day thinking that something could go wrong. That way, if something does go wrong, you're prepared to tackle it."
Today, LadyBoss is focused on evaluating its corporate structure and updating company software and systems so it can better withstand fast growth. In addition to attracting more customers in the U.S. in the coming year, it plans to start marketing to customers in Europe and Australia.
Tuell Poulin is optimistic for this next stage. "I relate to [clients] so much, because I was there," she says. "That's the secret sauce for us."