Avely Marjapuu and Toomas Häide from Naine.fit: Success starts with baby steps, both in business and fitness

Avely Marjapuu and Toomas Häide are founders of Naine.fit, an online fitness platform offering women a variety of training programs, healthy recipes and fun challenges. A couple since high school, they quit their well-paying jobs abroad two years ago to start their own business amidst the Covid-19 lockdown. We asked them what has been their secret to success and what mistakes they have committed down the road.

Can you tell us a bit about what is Naine.fit?

Avely: Naine.fit is a fitness platform for women which uses gamification elements to promote healthy lifestyles. Currently, there are over a hundred workout routines compiled and recorded by me that women can use to work out at home. After a workout, they mark it down in the app. Then, when they haven’t done it in a while, I’m their accountability buddy, encouraging them to roll out their yoga mat again and move towards their own goals.

In addition, there are various challenges. For example, a challenge has just started that involves women having to work out with a friend, and for that, they earn a certain amount of activity points every day. Who earns the most points wins a holiday at Ööbikuoru Villa. I created this challenge because I wanted to find out if women liked to compete. Will they like it and will it make it easier for them to adopt healthy eating and workout habits? I validated my idea and want to incorporate more fun and playful challenges into the platform in the future.

Every quarter, I come up with a new idea, test it out on clients and receive immediate feedback about what works and what doesn’t. Then I put more resources into what works.

How did you come up with the idea of creating a fitness platform together?

Avely: We were both living in Denmark, Toomas was working as a software developer and I was doing some sales work and working as a trainer. We basically had everything we could wish for: a beautiful home, excellent financial income, we traveled every month and had something to do every weekend. But even though we had all that, we still felt a certain emptiness in our souls.

We felt that we weren’t using our full potential and wanted to try something other than working from 9 to 5.  

Toomas: So at one point, we just decided to leave work and start building something together. At the time, we didn’t exactly know what it would be. On a trip to Spain, we came up with the idea of a fitness service putting together Avely’s training experience and my technical capabilities. We started to do more research on the fitness industry, and the last push we needed to start with our company, was the whole Covid-19 pandemic. We had planned to go traveling for a longer period, we even had bought tickets to China, but then lockdown happened and our flights got canceled. This inspired us to start building our company.

What are the biggest lessons you have learned as entrepreneurs?

Toomas: The best advice I have for a starting entrepreneur is to just start and go for it. You don’t need to have a billion-dollar idea to start a company. If it’s your first company, you’re going to make mistakes and learn through making those mistakes.

Avely: Our biggest mistake was perhaps wanting to build the whole platform from scratch. In reality, you can validate an idea using existing platforms to see if people would even be willing to pay you for your service. In addition, if we could go back in time, we definitely wouldn’t both leave our full-time jobs at once, which led to seriously overdrawing our bank accounts.

Toomas: Becoming an entrepreneur overnight and going all-in with your savings is one way to do it, but there are far better ways. For example, you could start bringing your idea to life while still working full time. We got lucky with our decision; it was a bold one – but not everyone is lucky all the time. A lot of entrepreneurs will never find a paying customer.

Starting a company is financially quite a difficult task, and you also have to be passionate about doing it because you will be doing it 12 hours a day and 7 days a week. You have to make sure you are really willing to put in the effort. Otherwise, you may burn your bridges and discover you don’t even enjoy the process that much.

What are the most successful moments in your career so far?

Toomas: The most successful moments are when someone writes to us and thanks us because they lost 10kg or changed their habits and lifestyle with our help. But of course, it also feels great to see the user numbers go up. When the money that YOUR company has earned lands in your bank account, the feeling is a lot different than when you get paid a salary for a full-time job.

Avely: I’m a people person, and when I can go to sleep at night knowing I’ve helped someone, it feels amazing and motivates me to continue. That’s part of the reason why I quit my job.

At the beginning of January, a lot of people promise themselves that they will start eating healthy and working out. Why do so many fail at this?

Avely: Just as I would say to starting entrepreneurs, I say the same to my clients: start very small. You can’t start with a 30-minute workout routine if you have never worked out before. I usually give my clients ridiculously small tasks, for example, doing a plank for one minute and five crunches. Only when you have done that for a week can you move on to a short workout routine and expand it step by step.

If someone comes to me saying, ‘Avely, I need to lose 5kg in a month’, then I tell them ‘Sorry, I’m not a trainer like that.’ I always say that let’s start super calmly, only then will you actually achieve results.

If you start too big and too fast, then there’s a 99% chance the ’New Year, new me’ project will fail for you.

Toomas: I’m a living example of how to grow the habit of working out. I used to not move my body a lot at all until I started getting back and knee pains, in addition to other health problems. I went to see doctors and got many tests done until Avely made me start training my back for a minute every day.

We started adding exercises step by step, and today I do 20 minutes of daily exercises. I haven’t missed a day in 3 years. Even if I’m sick, even if I get home after a party, I have to do the exercises. At the start, I had a tougher time getting the exercises done every day and skipped a couple of times, but then Avely got me back on track. After a while, it becomes a part of your daily routine, so you can’t imagine your life without it.

Avely: I have to say that one time Toomas got so mad at me that he tore up a whole yoga mat.

Toomas: Yes, I remember that. I was shaking on the mat holding the plank when Avely came and said, ‘Well done! Yes, it’s hard, it’s hard for everyone,’ and I thought, ‘But it’s the hardest for me!’

What is something new that you’re learning right now or studying?

Avely: I try to constantly develop my entrepreneurial skills and broaden my horizons. For example, now in Q1, I’m focusing on marketing – I am learning about ads, reading books, taking part in various programs.

Toomas: I also try to pick up new skills as a developer every day. However, the daily exercises added a whole new routine to our days. We were thinking about traveling to China again and that we’d like to be able to speak Chinese, as it’s difficult to manage with English only. So we took up a habit of completing at least one level in the language learning app HelloChinese every day. The smallest levels don’t take more than 3-4 minutes. Sometimes you feel like doing more, but the minimum is to do those three minutes.

Is there a downside to running a business together with your partner?

Avely: Many people have asked that from us, but we almost never quarrel, also in private life. It doesn’t mean we agree on everything. On the contrary, we rarely agree on anything. But we always discuss things. For instance, if I think something should be white and Toomas that it should be black, we analyze it almost statistically.

We put down pros and cons on the paper if necessary and finally come to a decision that helps us both the most.

Toomas: We are a great match. As we’ve been together since high school, we have grown up together and shaped each other a lot. Also, when we have any issues, we immediately sort them out. Avely is always very reasonable, and I try to be as well. We have huge respect for each other.

Avely is the realist, and I’m the dreamer who thinks that we could this thing and that thing. Then it’s Avely’s role to remind me: “Come one, who would actually use it?” So we keep each other in check.

What are you looking forward to in 2022?

Toomas: My biggest wish is for the pandemic to end. I guess it’s something the whole world is looking forward to.

Avely: I’m looking forward to many challenges and new experiences, such as speaking at sTARTUp Day 2022. We have never shared the stage in front of a big audience.

Our talk will be titled ‘Seven Deadly Sins of Startup Founders and How to Avoid Going to Hell.’ We plan to speak about what we’ve learned on our startup journey. We’ll make people laugh with screenshots of our very first ads that totally sucked and will honestly share our most embarrassing mistakes.

Let’s end with a reading recommendation. Which one book would you recommend to someone thinking of becoming an entrepreneur?

Toomas: Definitely read “The Lean Startup” before you start inventing some crazy thing – it has many great points and thoughts.

Avely: I recommend the same book. While reading it, I constantly thought to myself, “Oh, why did I not buy this book earlier?'

You can listen to Avely and Toomas share lessons from their startup journey on Day 2 of sTARTUp Day 2022 on 26 August. Check out the other speakers.

Read the interview in Estonian here. foundME is the official media partner of sTARTUp Day 2022, bringing to you top stories of the festival and Estonian startup community.

Articles you might also like:

Dmytro Fishman from Better Medicine on using AI to help doctors and the challenges of MedTech industry

Dmytro Fishman, or Dima as he likes to go by, is a Lecturer in Artificial Intelligence at the Institute of Computer Science,...
Read more

Kristen Tamm from Futuclass on innovating education with VR and building an EdTech startup

Futuclass is a Tartu-based EdTech startup on a mission to make learning more engaging with the help of virtual reality. We talked...
Read more