Utivity is a new platform designed to connect adventure seekers to athletes, instructors, artists and other freelance adventures to participate in unique offerings and experiences. We caught up with Kyle Granowski, founder of Utivity to learn more.
MRA: How did you come up with the idea for Utivity?
KG: The grand vision of Utivity stemmed from the combination of two ideas/concepts:
1) As a former professional athlete of a small sport (snowmobile racing), I have always dreamed of finding a way to make extra income or at least offset my costs doing what I love.
2) While seeking an alternative workout one day at the gym, I realized that there was no quick and cost-effective solution to find an on-demand trainer.
A deeper dive into these ideas made me realize that there is a massive void where passionate individuals of hundreds of activities are unable to run a small business (whether full-time or on the side) doing what they love because the market is full of unnecessary “middle men” that are taking huge fees despite providing little (if any) value. These fees ultimately result in higher prices for consumers (reducing demand) and inadequate earnings for providers (reducing supply and further driving prices higher for consumers). Utivity was formed and is designed to remove the middleman, thereby opening the doors for more providers to teach and allowing more consumers to learn, ultimately allowing both provider and consumer to Do More.
MRA: So Utivity is kind of like Uber, where the middleman is eliminated and connect the consumer is directly connected with the service provider?
KG: That’s correct. As Uber has proven and as our model continues to prove, the middleman is simply no longer relevant. Technology advancements and improved access to information have replaced the once-necessary support mechanism that now serves as a barrier and hindrance to the marketplace. We like to say that Utivity is doing for activities what E-trade (and various competitors) did for investing (i.e. elimination of high stock broker fees) and Orbitz, Expedia, etc. did for traveling (dramatically lower travel costs when compared to traditional travel agencies).
The beauty of Utivity is that the lowered cost to learn new activities will open the marketplace up to new customers and ultimately create more opportunity for those individuals with the skills/capabilities/expertise/etc. to teach.
MRA: What are some of the categories and services that are offered?
KG: We have a wide range of categories offered, many of which are activities I didn’t even know existed prior to starting Utivity. The most common activities booked are those around health and fitness (Yoga, pilates, personal training, boot camps, etc.), but we’ve also experienced an uptick in nature and therapeutic retreats, slack lining, mountain biking, and various arts this past summer and fall. For this winter, we’ve been able to expand our ski and snowboard instruction opportunities through various partnerships, but have also had historical success with snow shoeing and avalanche safety training instructors.
We are actively looking into ways to continue our winter activities expansion efforts with respect to ski and snowboard instruction, but are also looking at activities like fat biking and cross country skiing.
MRA: What is the fee structure?
KG: As I mentioned earlier, our desire with Utivity is to reduce the middleman fees and ultimately bring prices down for the consumer. Thus, our fees range from 20% all the way down to 5%, depending on a provider’s use patterns (increased use obviously means decreased fee percentages).
MRA: Does the customer end up paying more or less than going through a traditional booking process?
KG: Much less! We are not only bringing prices down for the customer but we are also increasing flexibility to meet their demands (e.g., one-time fitness class vs having to sign up for a membership or multi-class offering). Now more than ever, the customer not only wants value but they demand flexibility to meet their schedule, that is where Utivity’s model helps most.
MRA: It seems like Utivity could be a great fit for smaller, community ski areas that don’t have a budget for things like onsite day care, ski school, etc. What other services could you envision being offered at ski areas?
KG: We see a great opportunity partnering Utivity with smaller, community ski areas as we provide an avenue to open their facilities up for as many activities as they desire, whether the focus is winter-only or there is a desire for year-round use.
Winter activities and services we are currently working on for one of our current partners are ski & music (paired activity + concert), avalanche safety training, snow shoeing, fat biking, yoga & ski, massage & ski and solar painting (form of art). For the summer/fall, we are looking at activities including mountain biking, yoga, climbing, slacklining, archery, personal fitness training, nature retreats, drone flying, and various art forms.
The types of single or paired activities and services we offer are dependent on the location and local market – we work around the skills and expertise of the local community providers, but also take input from the community regarding activities they’d like to have greater access to.
MRA: Utivity has also set up a non-profit foundation. Can you tell us about that?
KG: Utivity has helped to setup and provide initial funding for The Do More Fund. With our vision being tied to helping people Do More, we felt that the ability to provide individuals with scholarship access to local activities and classes that promote mental well-being and physical health is great for both the local communities we operate in as well as the broader activity marketplace. By providing individuals with scholarships for various activities and classes, we feel we can help grow awareness and continue to build a healthier community.