“Powerthon was today! I was actually going to send you a picture tomorrow. .. it was insanely busy! The kids biked all day. .. it was fantastic!!! Thanks!!!” – Tara
That was amazingly fast for a grant that large. DonorsChoose will be contacting you regarding the delivery. We are very excited about having the bikes at Glencoe. I think that’s obvious by the support for the project!” – Lisa
In the past month, two different schools, one in New Jersey, and one in Portland successfully used innovative thinking to fully fund their purchase of UpCycle Eco-Chargers. They did it in two ways:
Purchase the Eco-Charger first and then do a fundraising Powerthon
This is the easiest way to do it, by using school or district funds to buy the equipment, and then set up a Powerthon, where individuals and businesses pledge dollars per watt-hour to generate funds. It can be a one-day or an ongoing thing.
Crowdsource the funding through Donors Choose
This campaign was fully funded in 2 days! A bit more work up front to write the grant and submit the proposal, but the result was fantastic!
Congratulations to both of these schools and their hardworking, innovative teachers who made this happen!
If you are interested in crowdfunding your own UpCycle Eco-Chargers, contact us and let’s make it happen!
I wish I was one of those awesome people who is so focused they just keep on truckin’ knowing exactly what they are destined to do. But in the immortal words of SNL’s Drunk Uncle, “That’s not me”. So, I’m figuring it out as I go along. Here’s what I’ve got so far.
Continuing to innovate on The UpCycle Eco-Charger electric bicycle generator (and DIY kit).
Working with SportsArt to sell their new line of grid-tied, plug-and-play, high-end Ellipticals, Upright and Recumbent bikes (and soon – Spin Bikes!).
Creating a step by step guide showing how I started up two Green Microgyms, got them cash-flow positive on 5 hours of work a week, and sold them for a profit.
Mostly, I’m getting orders from either 1) idealistic people like me who own electric cars, are trying to live as green as possible, or want to make a difference in the world in a million small ways; or 2) schools that are looking to educate their students on energy, conservation, fitness, etc.
As I’ve been building and shipping Eco-Chargers, I’ve been innovating on the product a bit and have come up with some pretty cool versions like:
A custom Chopper bike with a headlight that glows when you pedal:
A neighbor of mine goes to vintage bike swap meets (gotta love Portland). He found an old frame from the 1930’s, added a bunch of other components, and created this all-black low rider. It’s pretty awesome because not only does it look great, but with the banana seat, my 4 year old boy is big enough to pedal it, and I can also hop on it and pedal without adjusting anything. I’m looking for a bar or some other hip place to park it. Let me know if you want this unique piece of art.
Educational Eco-Chargers for Kids:
An elementary school in Virginia purchased 4 custom Eco-Charger setups. They didn’t want to grid-tie. They just wanted to have something interactive, so I found some replica traffic signals and retrofitted them with lights that glow brighter the faster you pedal. At some point, I’ll figure out how to make the lights glow one at a time, but for now they just all glow together. I found a Schwinn single speed folding bike that has a seat that adjusts enough that someone as short as 4 feet can pedal on it, and much taller people can also use it. It’s perfect for an interactive fitness room for an elementary or middle school. I look forward to seeing some kid-produced videos of them in action someday.
A Custom Sized Personal Performance Eco-Charger:
For the person who really wants to get fantastic workouts just as much as they want to put power back into their home, I can now recycle an old bike frame based on the buyer’s size, add a front stability stand, a seat that adjusts forward, back, up and down (so it feels a lot like a spin bike), and a handlebar mounted watt-meter to track workout time, watts, and accumulated watt hours. Creating that puddle of sweat underneath the bike AND knowing my effort helped run the lights for awhile never gets old.
The DIY Kit:
I’ve settled on a matte black finish for the DIY kit, and have sold a few of them. I know there are many people who want to use the Eco-Charger to charge batteries and live off-grid, and this works great to get up to 40 volts of DC electricity. I’m working with a local solar company to make an off-grid solar-panel+battery+Eco-Charger package that will not only last a long time, but also provide the proper resistance levels to get a nice workout while charging batteries. This is a challenge and I don’t have a timeline for completion, but I’m looking forward to finding a legitimate solution that I can feel good about selling.
2. I am now selling SportsArt’s EcoPowr exercise equipment.
This has been a long time coming, both the existence of the exact equipment I dreamed of back in 2007 when I started this business, but also the mutually beneficial relationship with SportsArt. It’s a long story, but the bottom line is SportsArt has come out with production quality, fully warrantied, UL listed GREEN fitness equipment! You just plug it into the wall and start generating electricity! I have used their energy saving treadmills in my gyms since the beginning, and they have held up nicely. These new products just came on the market. If I wouldn’t have sold my gyms, these pieces would be in them now.
SportsArt is a worldwide exercise equipment company, but is not well known in the USA, so it’s been tough for them to get traction, and I feel like I can help them sell their equipment to not only green gyms, but also to individuals and innovative companies that like the idea of being on the cutting edge, but don’t like the idea of ordering a DIY kit from some dude who puts them together in his garage.
I’ve tested all of the equipment and it’s really solid and smooth. It’s also built to last and withstand the rigors of a high traffic club. The future is here. Now, it’s just a matter of getting the word out.
If you’re interested in getting prices, Join my Email List to get a price list. (SportsArt doesn’t want me to advertise prices online, so this is the easiest way to get them to you. Feel free to unsubscribe once you get the price list.)
3. At some point, I’m going to document how I successfully came full circle with The Green Microgym.
Owning your own business is no picnic. There’s a reason most new businesses fail – it’s just flat out hard! I know that I took the hard road and I think I can probably help some people avoid some of the mistakes I made and become successful a bit faster than I did. I’ve started answering some common questions and talking about my experiences through a podcast, and in the coming months, I plan on writing down what I would do now if I were starting up a Green Gym. I’ll be sharing spreadsheets, legal documents, step-by-step plans, and anything else I think might help someone get up and running quickly, be cash-flow positive, and sell for a profit down the road.
For example, I’ll talk about:
Getting a minimum of 100 members signed up before opening the doors
Finding affordable locations
Getting the right equipment
Getting cashflow break-even ASAP
Running the gym and all aspects of the business without help on 5 hours a week
Selling for a profit, sooner than later
I know there are many, many people (because I hear from them weekly) who are very interested in making the world a better place through Eco-Fitness. Now that the equipment is here, I believe I can help create the roadmap.
So, that’s what is next for me (at least I think it is). I’ve really learned a lot about business, fitness, and people since opening The Green Microgyms, and I look forward to taking that learning and putting it to good use so I can continue to provide for my family, have fun, and make the world a better place little by little.
I’m sitting at my regular table at the Hopworks Bike Bar on North Williams street (my office), and it’s starting to hit me. I just sold the gyms!
I’m letting a huge part of my life for the past 6 years go. In April of 2008, my wife, Danielle and I moved to the Alberta District of Portland. She was finishing up her last internship to become a sonographer, and I was coming to start my first real business. I had been self employed before, but never with any responsibilities beyond doing a job and collecting payment (as a handyman, musician, or personal trainer). I’d rented out a garage in Seattle as a personal training studio, but nothing like what I was about to do.
If I would have known how much work, worry, and adventure it would have become, I’m not sure if I would have done it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for taking risks, being innovative, following your dreams and all that, but this was beyond anything I could have imagined.
But I did it! With a lot of help, I started a gym that generates electricity through solar and human power and uses 85% less energy than normal gyms per square foot. I franchised a successful gym in Belmont (owned by Dan Caplan), invented a grid-tied spin bike and co-founded an electricity generating exercise equipment company, started up a second gym in Sellwood, got on CNN, in Entrepreneur Magazine, and lots of other places. I avoided bankruptcy a couple times, finally found the formula to cashflow the gyms, and now have come full circle and am selling my first business!
Before going any further, I have to thank my family for the tremendous amount of support they have given me since opening The Green Microgym. My wife has worked her ass off, kept our finances in the black even during the lean times, and supported me to keep making it happen. My mom has helped financially, emotionally, and by helping with childcare. My dad, Jim, and stepmom Lynda have been there from the beginning, helping create the first Green Microgym logo and coming up with the name (so glad we didn’t go with “Lighten Up” – sorry dad!). My kids, Charlie and Violet, whom I am lucky enough to have been able to spend lots of time with as a stay at home dad, helped me put all of the business stuff in its proper perspective.
Through the years, I’ve made a bunch of great friends, and lost a few. Looking back, I see some major mistakes I made, and also realize now that going into business with people, even under the best of circumstances, carries a lot of risk. I want to thank everybody who has worked with me on The Green Microgyms. You played a huge part in its success, even if it didn’t always feel that way (or if it still doesn’t).
So what happens now? I’ve sold the gyms to a great local couple, Aaron and Summer Morris. They are going to call the gyms Ecopower Fitness (www.ecopowerfitness.com) and I’m sure they are going to inject a new level of enthusiasm and success into the gyms. I wish them the best.
I’m keeping The Green Microgym, Inc. going, because I still have the drive to realize my dream of seeing every piece of exercise equipment in the world generating electricity and powering stuff. I’ll be selling SportsArt Fitness’ Grid Tied Electricity Generating exercise equipment (the only legitimate commercial quality green equipment solution out there), continuing to innovate on The UpCycle Eco-charger Bicycle Generator, and helping people start up their own Green Gyms (I’ll be documenting all the experiences I’ve gathered and putting it into some sort of instructional format), either on their own or as a Green Microgym licensee.
I’ll also be working for my cousin’s software startup company, and spending a lot more weekend time with my family.
In closing, I wish I had some world changing insights or advice I could pass on from this experience. But I don’t. Just a bunch of obvious-in-hindsight observations:
Make more money than you spend, and you will reduce your stress level by more than 1000%
Get organized (seriously)
Never give up
Put your family first
Be honest (as honest as you can be)
Hype and revenues are not correlated in any way that you can ever count on
“Build it and they will come” is a recipe for disaster
There are a lot of really awesome people out there who will help you, but you are not entitled to any help from anyone ever, so don’t act like you are.
Whatever you are thinking – there are a lot of people out there who are thinking the same thing. If you can find them, or they can find you, it’s pretty awesome.
This is the time to make the world a better place. Technology has put us in a position to do all kinds of amazing things that were only available to those with unlimited resources before. You can make just about anything, but…..
The UpCycle Eco-Charger (and some of our older equipment) can make a difference in a lot of places. Check out some of the people and places we’ve worked with so far:
Amateur Competitive Cyclists
“I am an active duty military member who has received multiple concussions in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have used cycling for the last few years as part of my recovery. Now I save $30 in training tires plus $30 in electric bills each month. The UpCycle Eco-Charger is quieter than an air trainer or a fluid trainer. I look forward everyday to putting power back into the grid and I feel like I am still useful and can give back in my little way.” – Will Fetters
It’s also the most stable, most reliable, and most likely to be used consistently because its 30 pound flywheel creates a smooth, realistic feeling ride. But that’s not why it will pay for itself in as little as 21 months, much more quickly than solar panels on your house (which I wholeheartedly endorse getting).
No human could ever generate enough electricity on a bike or any other machine to make up for the cost of the generator, let alone all the other components, R&D, and effort required to put it all together.
This excellent and well-researched article pretty much makes it clear – the physics just don’t exist for it to happen. No wonder we rely on coal, hydro, nuclear, etc. It takes massive amounts of energy to power our way of life in the Western World.
So how in the world is it possible that the UpCycle Eco-Charger could pay for itself? Two big reasons:
Important note: It’s not because you will generate $30 in electricity a month, or even a year.
First, you’ll save $30 a month on “indoor training” tires if you’re riding a traditional bike trainer or less efficient pedal generator with any type of consistency. $30X21 months = $630 – you’re halfway there. Will Fetters, an UpCycle Eco-Charger user and amateur competitive cyclist told me this. It makes sense – rubber tires rubbing against a metal roller will wear out pretty quickly. The UpCycle Eco-Charger’s hub generator eliminates the need for training tires reducing friction, inefficiencies, and noise.
Second, it will save you $30 a month in electricity costs, by helping you understand what it really takes to power your world. (Important note: It’s NOT because you will generate $30 in electricity a month, or even a year.) Just knowing what it feels like to generate 50 to 200 watts with your legs will make you keenly aware of opportunities and the necessity to conserve energy in your home. You’ll start to make small changes in the way you do things, even if you only ride the Eco-Charger a few times and just keep it for an emergency like a prolonged power outage. These changes could easily add up to a 30% savings for the average US home. I have experienced this for myself, and have seen it happening over and over at The Green Microgym. For example, the Green Microgyms save 85% compared to traditionally run gyms, and almost all of that savings is because we let our members turn the lights, fans, and tv’s on and off at their discretion. If we can save 85%, you can easily save 30%. That’s another $630 for 21 months.
$630 X 2 = $1260. And that’s not taking into account the massive savings you’ll realize by exercising.
So there you have it. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it will happen. The UpCycle Eco-Charger will pay for itself.
I just wanted to thank you for supporting The Green Microgym. Whether you have ever purchased anything from us or not, you have helped keep us going all these years.
It hasn’t always been an easy ride, and it’s just a book, but it’s gratifying to be recognized for the hard work put in by everyone associated with The Green Microgym.
Great Work, by David Sturt, includes my story. It’s pretty amazing to know that people like Larry King and Steven Covey might have at least skimmed through the part about The Green Microgym (they wrote brief reviews of the book).
Check out the book – it might inspire you:
I’m in need of your ideas and advice. As you probably know, I’m now mostly out of the day-to-day operations of The Green Microgym, and looking to broaden the scope of The Green Microgym with the limited time I have available as a stay-at-home dad.
If you can think of anything, please let me know. My main goals this year are to get the UpCycle Eco-Charger in as many places as possible (not gyms – more like homes and businesses), and to work to further establish myself as an expert in the field of Eco-Fitness.
Again, thanks so much for your support all these years.
We’re all about Sustainability at The Green Microgym. Sustainability for you, and sustainability for us.
For you, we want you to successfully achieve the vision you have when you join a gym. If you succeed, so do we. But the harsh reality is that 80% of the people who join a gym quit or stop coming regularly within 3 months. We don’t want that, and neither do you.
That’s why we give you $100 or $150 toward personal training, small group, or trainer assisted independent workouts with your enrollment, because we know that 90% of people who are successful at the gym have worked with a trainer.
Sustainability for us means we have happy, committed, consistent, long term members and training clients. We are committed to paying a competitive wage to our employees, keeping the facilities up to date and clean, and continually innovating and experimenting with new ideas, programs, and technology.
We feel it’s our job to continually encourage you to try out new things, work with our Eco Fitness Personal Trainers to achieve your goals and aspirations, and be one of the 1% of gym members who are really happy about how they look and feel!
We know this will happen if you feel like we are genuinely trying our best to get to know you, so we can help you, while also making sure that we are running a successful, profitable, and sustainable business.
It’s Not About Fitness Models, It’s About Role Models. Everything we do, from our electricity generating exercise equipment, to our energy saving culture, to our Eco-Fitness Personal Training, to our Supportland supported workout rewards has been carefully designed to make your world, and ours, a better place.
One of the main complaints we hear about gyms is that you feel like we are always trying to sell you something you don’t want. Will we try to sell you on our products and services? Absolutely we will. We have to in order to succeed. But we will strive to do this in a way that makes you feel like we’re offering you options that will truly help you achieve your goals. We know this is the best way to do business.
UPDATE: Here’s a video that shows our off-grid system in action WITHOUT the $170 ultracapacitor. I think the ultracapacitor would make it a bit easier and smoother, but isn’t completely necessary.
You would think that charging up batteries with the UpCycle Eco-Charger would be the best way to be off grid. Turns out there’s a better, much more efficient and reliable way.
For 99% of us, we have power available to us via the grid for 99% of the time.
However, it’s good to be prepared for power outages, living in remote locations, etc.
It’s also much greener, because batteries aren’t all that green, and in this scenario, won’t last long either.
Keegan from Time’s Up, a NYC based non-profit, showed me a page on their site where they have used an ultracapacitor to replace the battery. In essence, the ultracapacitor regulates the voltage so you can hook up a 12 volt auto inverter and run your phone, computer, etc. off that.
The whole DIY package costs about $200
I asked Keegan if this was something worth doing and here’s his response:
“Yep, works great. What you do is, power the ultracap above 12v, then turn on the inverter, then as you plug things in, you’ll see you need to pedal faster to keep the ultracap above 12v. DO NOT GO OVER 15v, or the inverter craps out, then you have to wait for the ultracap to discharge, and it takes it a while to do so since the inverter will not be drawing any load in the meantime. This is what I mean when I say it is very educational, because you instruct people to watch the voltage, to not go below 12v or over 15v, so they see what kind of pedaling it takes to charge various types of and amounts of portable electronics.”
We love all gyms – and we know you can use any facility to get a great workout. We might not love the employment practices, selling pressure, intimidation factor, and energy usage and carbon footprints of the huge (and many smaller) gyms, but they certainly do offer a wide variety of options at prices smaller gyms just can’t compete with.
At The Green Microgym, you don’t have to put up as many invisible walls as you might at a more traditional gym to get through your workout. Quite the contrary. In fact, you are able to:
Choose the amount of lighting you want while you workout, instead of living with an “All ON” atmosphere as in most gyms
Choose the type and volume of music playing in the background, if any, instead of having loud pop music going all the time
Watch the shows you want, when you want, with our Ipad enabled ellipticals and member controlled TV sets, instead of the standard ESPN/CNN fare at most gyms
Take advantage of our expert Eco Fitness Personal Trainers who are ready and willing to help you get fit and healthy in a sustainable way, stressing movements over muscles (and they won’t try to upsell you costly supplements and diet pills)
We’re not the cheapest (it’s impossible to be the cheapest and the best), and we’re not the biggest gyms out there, but we believe we have created an atmosphere for working out that provides most people with exactly what they need to keep coming back, over and over again, which is of course, the very best way to get the most value from a gym membership.
Even though data shows 90% of the people getting results in the gym are working with a personal trainer, we know that not everyone can commit to personal training for financial or time restrictions. But we want to make sure you get the most out of your membership. Our self-directed programs still give you the opportunity to be “coached” through your workout.
Read on to find out about our basic and Micoach assisted self-directed programs, starting at $99.
Curious how we develop our exercise routines? We use the adidas MiCoach system to enhance our programming with exercises and training philosophies created by Core Performance. Core Performance is an industry leader in fitness and athletic performance. Adam had the opportunity to meet the founders a couple years ago at their headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, where they fit him in between preparing NFL prospects for the draft and meeting with a delegation from the Chinese government!
“MiCoach is pretty cool, and I love not having a stupid notebook to fuss with”, says Doug from The Green Microgym Alberta, who has been using the equipment for 3 weeks.
We believe in these systems so much that our training staff uses them to have their own “coached” sessions. Ask us about it next time you see us working out!
The BASIC Program:
If you are comfortable with the gym equipment and familiar with exercises, our 3-week Basic Program would be perfect for you. After an initial assessment, we will email you 3 customized functional training workouts each week. You will also have the ability to schedule an exercise tutorial with one of our trainers in case an exercise or two looks unfamiliar. Additionally, we will check in with you weekly to see how you are progressing.
ADD the Micoach Trainer:
We offer a more extensive program using the MiCoach Trainer. The equipment includes a heart rate monitor, stride sensor, and pacer to keep you on track during your workouts. We will help you get set up and check in with you weekly for equipment and exercise support.