FEARLESS Fitness Kids co-founders (from left to right): Emily O’Neal, Sara Glaser (front), Clayton Pelz (back), Madison Lewandowski. Photo by Willa Westneat.
FEARLESS Fitness Kids, a startup founded by Sara Glaser, Madison Lewandowski, Emily O’Neal and Clayton Pelz, is working to keep children active with immersive video games that require players to work out as they play.
“We all saw that kids were becoming increasingly sedentary and inactive and we noticed that sitting around on the couch playing video games was becoming the new norm,” Pelz said. “We wondered why video games had to lead to such an unhealthy lifestyle.”
The four co-founders felt that they had a “unique skill-set” between the four of them that made them “the perfect team to solve this problem,” said O’Neal.
O’Neal graduated from Cal Poly in 2021 with a degree in computer science and a concentration in interactive entertainment. Prior to her graduation, she worked on a number of virtual reality and motion tracking projects through the Cal Poly Mixed Reality Lab.
“I created a choreography piece using motion tracking, and that’s actually how Sara recruited me for this team,” O’Neal explained. “I was already working with and really excited about this technology and felt like it could be perfectly applied to this problem.”
Glaser also graduated from Cal Poly in 2021, but with a degree in business administration and a minor in dance.
Glaser grew up as a dancer, which led to a long-held interest in health and fitness. During her freshman year at Cal Poly, she became further immersed in the fitness world, becoming a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor.
“I really felt a passion for fitness and wanted to utilize that,” Glaser said. “That’s something I bring to the team because we are trying to keep kids healthy… Also, as a business major, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about business development. Business in general is something I’m passionate about and that I really enjoy doing.”
Lewandowski, a business administration senior, said that her passion for FEARLESS Fitness comes from “making kids happy.” She’s worked with children for over seven years, working as a gymnastics coach, dance teacher and party entertainer.
She also has a YouTube channel where she has “been able to inspire kids” with lifestyle and DIY videos. Her channel has almost 200,000 subscribers and has attracted over 20 million views.
Pelz, a biomedical engineering junior, was initially interested in exploring the intersection between exercise and video games.
“I’ve always liked sports [and] I’ve also been very interested in game development for a long time,” he said. “The opportunity to pull those two interests together is really exciting.”
The FEARLESS Fitness team has been working to build their startup since 2019, when Glaser, Lewandowski and Pelz met at the Cal Poly Entrepreneurs Startup Marathon, a 54-hour long event at which student innovators work through the weekend to develop a startup idea.
After Startup Marathon, they took their idea to the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery, an on-campus resource for Cal Poly students seeking the opportunity to build their own company. They also participated in a number of CIE-sponsored competitions, but rarely placed in the top slots.
“There were a lot of losses for us,” Glaser said. “There were a lot of competitions we didn’t win. While that was hard for us, we used that to help us persevere, move forward and learn from our mistakes.”
Then in April of 2021, they brought their idea to the CIE’s annual business plan and prototyping competition, Innovation Quest (iQ). FEARLESS Fitness won first place, and the team was awarded $15,000 in prize money.
“We won Innovation Quest, and in that moment, we were like, ‘Okay, we’re really onto something,’” Glaser said. “‘People believe in us. We need to make this happen.’”
Winning iQ inspired the FEARLESS Fitness team to apply to the CIE Summer Accelerator, an intensive, summer-long program that helps Cal Poly students and recent graduates develop their startup ideas into real, sustainable businesses. They were one of the nine teams accepted into the program.
The Summer Accelerator will provide the FEARLESS Fitness team with a comprehensive understanding of the startup process through workshops and mentorship. The lessons learned in the program, said Pelz, “feel so applicable in real life.”
FEARLESS Fitness released a beta-test version of their game in February of 2021.
“It’s already been so cool to see the reactions to something we’ve built together,” O’Neal said. “It’s so cool seeing kids use our product and I’m really looking forward to seeing the impact that we have.”
Pelz issued similar sentiments, stating, “Our biggest revenue is smiles.”
To keep up with FEARLESS Fitness Kids, visit fearlessfitnesskids.com or follow them on Instagram at @fearlessfitnesskids.