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U.S. senior fitness companies inspire Swedish startup

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The founder of Sweden-based Activage identified a demand for personalized senior fitness in Sweden, and looked for inspiration in the U.S., where companies have pioneered the concept. Thanks to Business Sweden's extensive network Activage could find an American partner, and they now have their first paying customers.

Katja Ekvall, CEO at Activage, had observed that there was a demand for personalized senior fitness in Sweden, but the concept did not yet exist in Sweden. In order to ensure a successful establishment, Activage looked for inputs from the U.S. market, which at the time led the world in the development of senior fitness programs. Specifically, the company wanted to understand the general characteristics of the U.S. market and the various existing senior fitness concepts.

“Katja and her team were very clear in what they were looking for, which facilitated our work approach for the U.S. market,” says Asli Sungur, Project Manager at Business Sweden.

Access to potential U.S. Partners

As first step, Business Sweden conducted an analysis of the senior fitness market in the U.S. Getting this overview of the market helped convince Activage of its own potential for success.

“We saw that senior fitness was a well-functioning part of the fitness industry and that the US is at the forefront in this industry. It was very important for us to see that this niche exists and that it is an industry worth millions,” says Katja Ekvall.

After assessing the market, Business Sweden’s vast network enabled Activage to gain access to relevant people at senior fitness corporations operating in the U.S. market and to arrange meetings for Activage. One of the companies Activage met with later became their partner, and today they have a long term collaboration that is very successful.

“We have an U.S. partner for our online education, mostly because they have a high-quality solution; the demands from the U.S. forced our partner to have high-class education. We want a high standard, and since there are no such required standards in Europe, the U.S. partnership is very valuable to us,” says Katja Ekvall.   

“Business Sweden a door opener”

Business has boomed for Activage. In 2014 they were able to launch their Academy, a certified specialist education for senior fitness trainers, which is now up and running with paying customers. In March 2016, Activage will open their first senior fitness center in Stockholm, and the ambition is to grow this business. One of the inspiration sources for the Activage fitness center was the U.S. company, Nifty after Fifty. During their U.S. trip, Activage visited a Nifty after Fifty gym to see the concept’s successes first-hand, forming an important basis for the design of Activage’s own services. Meetings with American companies added significant value to Activage’s early research, and this was one of the most important things Business Sweden offered.

“Business Sweden is a door opener to access people on a certain level. I think that we, as an unestablished company, would have had difficulties meeting with the people we did, and also we would not have received the reception we did,” says Katja Ekvall.