Don’t tell Blake Squires his startup is only selling pedometers.
Squires is one of several Cleveland-area investors behind a new company and product called MOVBand, a wearable digital-watch-like pedometer that uses an accelerometer to track a user’s daily steps. But MOVband is selling more than just the band itself.
The key to MOVband’s value proposition is a fundraising program called the MOVBand Challenge. Schools sign up for the program, and participating children obtain funding from sponsors for pledges to walk a certain distance. The idea is to promote wellness and combat childhood obesity while helping schools raise money.
“It’s the product plus the program that equals the wellness initiative,” said Squires, MOVband’s acting CEO.
Schools pay $20 to cover the costs of the band itself and challenge materials, and the kids take it from there. Participating children are typically challenged to walk 100 miles in 21 days, Squires said.
The company’s first customer is the Chagrin Falls, Ohio, school system. Kindergarten students through high school seniors are walking to raise money to buy equipment for a new state-of-the-art gym, Squires said.
The plan is to learn best practices from the Chagrin Falls experience and several other early customers, and then do a wide launch of the MOVband program in fall 2012 around the start of the school year. “We can support thousands of schools that want to take part,” Squires said.
In addition to schools, the company is hoping to sell the MOVband Challenge to corporate customers. It’s already embarked on a pilot with Cleveland-area Wellspring Financial Advisors. The financial services company plans to donate funds it raises to a local hospital, Squires said.
Squires is a principal with Hatch, a Cleveland investment firm that teamed up with a fund led by Chagrin Falls investor Keith Latore to back the MOVband project. Squires wouldn’t say how much capital MOVband has raised. (Disclosure: Hatch is also an investor in MedCity Media, MedCityNews’ parent company.)
Thanks to his past work with Playaway, an audio book company, Squires has sold products to schools, experience that should help as he tries to grow MOVband. The startup has already established a relationship with one distributor that sells fitness equipment to schools and is looking to sign deals with others.
Other marketing plans include using social media to connect with parents who care about their kids’ fitness and are “tired of the typical fundraisers out there” such as bake sales, Squires said.
“Our plan is to roll this out as far and wide as we can,” he said.