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FastForward Supplements partners with Anytime Fitness

Eli Foster provides customers with the best information about a variety of products so they can make informed decisions and choose what best meets their specific needs. Photo by Tom Lindfors

I imagine "Jack" LaLanne, the Godfather of Fitness and the original exercise and nutrition expert might feel like he had died and gone to heaven were he to find himself standing amidst the product-filled shelves at New Richmond's FastForward Supplements (FFS).

Small business entrepreneur Eli Foster, and business partner, Steve Korn, opened FastForward last August as a sister business to Korn's neighboring 24-hour fitness facility, Anytime Fitness.

With the nearest serious supplement shop located in Hudson, connecting the two businesses made good sense.

"We both recognized there were no supplement shops around town. Obviously, being a part of the gym, we could see people were constantly going to Hudson for supplements. It made sense," said Foster.

Foster's and Korn's business partnership began just after Foster graduated from New Richmond High School. Foster's idea to purchase overstocked items like beanies, phone cases and power chargers in bulk, mark them up, and then resell them online, needed an infusion of cash. Fortuitous timing and a free summertime membership to Anytime Fitness made fast friends of the two entrepreneurs.

"I became business partners with Steve and started my first company, Think Midwest (www.thinkmidwest.com). We sell trending items online and donate 10 percent of our profits to different Midwestern charities like Five Loaves and the American Cancer Society. After we became close as business partners, and the online business was taking off, that's when we decided to start FastForward Supplements," explained Foster.

The goal when the partners opened FFS was to provide Anytime Fitness customers with nutritional supplements, including proteins, amino acids, pre-workouts and vitamins, to help them reach their fitness goals.

Other than his own personal experience with taking supplements, Foster, who operates FFS by himself, lacked any kind of formal education in nutritional supplements. He needed to educate himself.

"Initially, we went on different websites like bodybuilding.com, to research the top products out there. Both Steve and I have taken supplements, but we couldn't really educate people about them. Eventually, after we identified the most common products, we'd get hooked up with a sales rep and they would educate us all about specific products. I also learned a lot from people who come into the store," said Foster.

One of the characteristics that really distinguishes FFS from its competitors is its commitment to customer service and that starts with listening to customers.

"Tons of the products that we carry, we carry because customers came in and told us about them. A customer comes in, tells us about a product he can only get in Hudson. I jump online, research the product, figure out where we can get it, add it to our stock and contact that customer. That's what we try to do," said Foster.

Korn knows that to succeed you also have to compete economically with the big guys, so he and Foster employ an equal markup policy. Rather than allowing vendors to determine what products FFS stocks based on highest profit margins, inventory decisions are based on performance of products as reported by actual customers. More than profit motivates both Korn and Foster. Educating and supporting athletes goes hand in hand with a successful business.

"We mark up everything at the same reasonable rate. So it doesn't matter what you buy, we make the same profit. That's a big difference. To be completely honest, our prices are not much more than Walmart's and our products are better," said Korn.

"That allows us to provide customers with the best information about a variety of products so they can make informed decisions and choose what best meets their specific needs," added Foster.

The majority of FFS customers are athletes or former athletes, both male and female, 20 — 40 years old, although seniors are welcome as well. According to Foster, business has been growing steadily adding one or two new faces a month as customers from Anytime Fitness become familiar with FFS across the hall. The majority of marketing is done online using social media like Facebook to promote products and discounts to grow a brand loyal community of customers.

"Because a lot of our customers come from Anytime Fitness, we are able to advertise over there. We have samples that we hand out at the gym, if they like them, then they come here to buy more and then they refer other people," said Foster.

Foster has been working diligently, testing products and gathering performance reports from customers, to expand the FFS inventory. By the end of this year, he expects to have a pretty good idea of what his customers want.

"It's this interesting process of figuring out the specifics of our area, everyone is different," said Korn.

There is a lot to know about when it comes to the $32 billion dollar supplement industry from the science of time release to legalities and side effects. Foster now has enough knowledge and experience with his inventory to be able recommend the right products for customers based on their specific history with supplements.

"I can recommend comparable products or what makes sense as the next step," said Foster.

Looking ahead, Foster has designs on creating an app that would capitalize on the cyclical nature of supplement use. Supplements are typically provided in 30-day quantities.

"We are almost guaranteed to see a customer 30 days from the last date of purchase," said Foster.

A monthly subscription would anticipate customer's needs and allow for exclusive offers that discount early orders. Predicting demand would also help stabilize inventory.

FastForwad Supplements is open 11 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information contact Eli Foster at 715-246-4953 or by email at: fastforwardsupplements

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Online: https://www.facebook.com/fastforwardsupplements

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