Vancouver has been ranked one of the healthiest cities in the world, and for many, it’s no surprise. From its stunning trails and natural beauty to the large number of vegan eateries, gyms and fitness stores scattered throughout the city, Vancouverites definitely take their health seriously. But according to Anna Chan, founder of wellness app myMomentum, the health and fitness community can often seem intimidating and exclusive if you’re not a part of it.
“There’s tons of wellness focus in Vancouver, but until now there hasn’t been an overarching community and a platform that brings it all together,” she says. That’s what makes myMomentum so special. It’s Vancouver’s first community wellness platform, and it’s already making waves.
They currently have close to 50 wellness company partners and more than 1000 users (and counting!) We chatted with Anna to get the scoop on what inspired her to start her business, common fitness myths and the challenges that come with designing an app from scratch.
Tell us about myMomentum and how it got started!
myMomentum is a newly launched wellness app, a portal to discover all things healthy in Vancouver! We help integrate healthy choices into daily life and keep people motivated via a unique rewards program.
Through our app, users can discover opportunities to stay healthy in the city and earn points for completing wellness challenges, which they then can later redeem for things like fitness classes and discounts to food, drinks and cafes around the city.
Community is our heart and soul. Every month, we host an event where we bring the whole community together for a sweat, nourishment and swag bags with goodies to take home. We create a high energy community experience where wellness is inclusive—no ego, no judgment, just easy and fun!
What inspired you to create it?
I was living and working in China for 6 years and hit a bad burnout career wise. I decided to quit my job and pursue something I was more passionate about. During my transition, I became a fitness instructor and immediately fell in love with all things wellness. I especially loved the community aspect of it and the approach of doing what feels right and positive for yourself in the moment.
When I moved to Vancouver in 2017, I also fell in love the intersection of tech and wellness and wanted to find a way to grow this community beyond the classroom experience, using tech as a medium.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
I have been a closeted entrepreneur forever! But yes, the signs were always there. I was fortunate to be able to work as an ‘intrapreneur’ for 6 years before finally breaking free and doing my own thing, so that experience was so great.
What were you doing before starting your business?
I was living in China for 6 years between 2011 and 2017 where I helped launch and grow startups in Asia, and more recently was a fitness instructor before starting myMomentum (in 2017).
Some new entrepreneurs create a detailed business plan while others prefer to wing it! What was your process like?
I would say my process is in between. I love to be super organized, but I’m a huge fan of “start small and iterate”. I always have a well thought-out plan, but allow wiggle room to ride the waves of uncertainty, as they will inevitably come! But at some point if you want funding, you do need to create a solid plan on paper—just keep in mind that it can always change.
What goes into creating an app that you think people might not know about?
I’m a non-technical founder, so the learning curve to creating an app was MASSIVE. I’m super grateful for my team who are the experts at design and development. There’s so much thought that goes into design, user experience and enabling specific functions to work.
What were some of the challenges you faced in the early days of the business and how did you overcome them?
Definitely my challenges in the beginning were related to anything product, design or technical, as this just isn’t my background. I had a vision and just couldn’t fully bring it to life until meeting the right team. That’s the key, really, finding the right people to work with. You know it when it happens, there’s a chemistry that is so real! Then things come together in the best way.
Are you currently side-hustling myMomentum or working on the business full time?
So I have yet to hit that point where myMomentum can really fully support me full time. I was pregnant right at the exact time I started myMomentum, so it was one of those things—I didn’t really feel I could take a full time role when I moved to Vancouver, so I decided, why not take a leap of faith and just go for this project all in? I’m still taking that leap of faith now, 2+ years later!
Monetizing an app is not easy, so it’s been a self funded project for the most part, but we’ve been making amazing progress and are hoping to keep building momentum (!) into 2020. The aim is to find more steady streams of monetization that are fully aligned with our values (that’s super key for us) and to potentially get funded.
Has there been anything that has surprised you about being an entrepreneur?
One thing that surprised me being an entrepreneur is that the people who can offer the most support to you are often not who you expected, like family. Family are definitely major supporters, but often you end up meeting someone who happens to be going through the exact same thing, or is maybe at the same stage of business as you, and suddenly there’s this bond like no other.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who are dealing with frustration and self-doubt in the early stages of their businesses?
Oh I had SO much doubt and frustration in the first year! I felt like it was 1 step forward and 3 steps back constantly. The beginning can be so hard, especially when you have so many expectations. At one point I remember I was 35 weeks pregnant and just threw the towel in, deciding I would quit myMomentum. But at that moment, I let go of all expectations and some amazing stuff happened.
For anyone new to entrepreneurship, I would really recommend letting go of expectations. So much will just happen outside your control and it’s all part of the journey. The more you embrace the uncertainty, not only will you be happier but you’ll be able to seize opportunities that present themselves in the most unexpected places (usually after some sort of mistake or failure).
How do you deal with burnout as an entrepreneur?
Burnout is SO real. After having a really serious one in China, I’m now conscious of any red flags. I also have a 2-year-old son and a puppy, so I have a lot of responsibilities to juggle. I try to compartmentalize my day and work as efficiently as possible. This way I still have time to be a mom AND enjoy my own time. That’s one of the hardest parts about having this much responsibility, you become last priority!
I try to always set aside personal time each day, even if it’s just 15 minutes on a crazy day, it’s something. There will be moments when you need to push ahead with the business, but definitely identifying what your ‘red flags’ is key. It’s so important to take breaks!
What are the most common myths and misconceptions you see regarding health, fitness and wellness?
Wellness is so much less about results these days (even though it’s still being marketed the opposite way) but pretty much everyone you speak to nowadays agrees it’s more intuitive, more mindful. If I’m tired and decide I’m not gonna complete my 10,000 steps for the day, should I feel guilty I wasn’t “healthy”?
I believe wellness in today’s world is more focused on feeling good about the choices you make. If I’m just super tired, I should make the choice to take a day and recover. After all, maybe there’s a reason I’m so tired and perhaps I should go to bed early. myMomentum is so much about this. We reward people for choosing to rest and sleep versus just smashing out steps.
What’s next for myMomentum?
BIG things! 🙂 We launched our app earlier this year and now have 1200+ users and 50 wellness partners in Vancouver! We want to grow our community even more in 2020. We have plans to improve the user experience, add features to our app and grow our online presence.
Offline, we have some amazing events and collaborations in the pipeline and eventually would love to expand beyond Vancouver and hold community events in Calgary or Victoria and beyond!