Runaway Kickstarter campaign raises six figures for fitness bag

Emily Schromm with the eight version of her weightlifting bag. Submitted photos.

Emily Schromm with the eight version of her weightlifting bag. Photo by Laura Mahony.

Talk about kick-starting a business.

Reality-show-personality-turned-fitness-coach Emily Schromm set out to raise $18,000 for her weighted backpack meant to replace dumbbells, barbells and cowbells during workouts.

The Internet thought $100,000 would be better.

“The goal of this pack is to take people on adventures outside of their gym,” she said. “Everyone deserves access to weightlifting equipment. The average mom and dad aren’t going to have a barbell in their garage, but they can get an Empack.”

The Empack, which costs $125 but was marked down 20 percent for Kickstarter backers, is intended to replace home gym equipment. The pack has a bladder that can be filled or emptied with water to change weight.

And like any backpack, you can use it to lug around your gear.

Weight packs aren’t a new idea – the military and fitness industry have used them for years. But those are generally just weighted backpacks that make a given exercise, such as running, more strenuous. Schromm’s pack adds handles, so customers can engage their entire upper body in a workout.

Schromm intended to raise $18,000 to pay for the first Empack production run when she launched the 30-day campaign Jan. 25. Companies that attempt to raise money on Kickstarter get funds only if they raise more than their target.

She quickly raced past that figure and ended with more than five times her goal. She’ll use the extra funding to design an app that sends workouts to Empack users that they can use with the bag. Schromm also will use funds to finance a patent application for the Empack.

The pack was designed and manufactured in Colorado, Schromm said. Hexhead Design, a Denver-based backpack company, helped Schromm produce her prototype. A Broomfield factory is mass-producing the pack, she said.

This isn’t her first startup. She founded Superhero Unleashed, an email service that sends 21-day workout plans to subscribers, in 2011. She works on Unleashed Fitness full time and will net more than $100,000 this year if her growth trajectory continues.

Schromm used the service, which had about 2,500 subscribers as of January, to advertise the Empack before launching the Kickstarter campaign, she said.

“I think it really helped that I’d shown (the Empack) before I launched (the Kickstarter),” Schromm said. “It was funded within four hours. Building up excitement made that happen.”

Before she launched the Kickstarter campaign, Schromm invested about $15,000 of her own money into designing the Empack, which is in its eighth iteration, she said.

Schromm, 27, grew up in rural Missouri. She was studying to be a vet at the University of Missouri when she was cast in the 2009 season of MTV’s “The Real World D.C.”

“I worked at Starbucks during college. I was there when the casting director approached me,” she said. “I was actually making fun of ‘The Real World’ when I was talking to him. I don’t watch reality TV, but it was an opportunity to get me out of my box and out of Missouri, so I thought I should take it.”

After her TV stint, Schromm moved to Colorado to learn to snowboard in 2010. She founded Unleashed Fitness a year later.

“I didn’t really know what to do with my life after watching myself on TV,” she said. “But I realized that it was a way I could kick-start my career. Never in a thousand years did I think I would be a personal trainer, but that’s how it started.”

More Reading:

Denver backpack makers Co.Alition and MHM also raised funds on Kickstarter.

 

Emily Schromm with the eight version of her weightlifting bag. Submitted photos.

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