From a shaky first live video to over 100,000 members, JEFF Together success is a testament to a founder's adaptability and determination to help people.
JEFF stands for Johno’s E-fitness Faculty and is a Shopify ecommerce business focusing on home fitness. It started as an on-demand, online platform and in-person service to help everyday people reach and maintain their fitness and nutrition goals. However, the Coronavirus took over and Johno thought that his ecommerce ambitions had to take a step back.
Lockdown life takes a turn
On 23 March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa would go into a full Level 5 lockdown to help curb the spread of COVID-19, stopping all businesses not designated as an essential service from operation.
With gyms, training facilities and even just going outside technically declared illegal, Johno and his team were in for some tough decisions to make ends meet. After their most successful month in February, revenue was already drying up.
Living room to success
As people started working remotely and learning how to juggle home-schooling, cabin fever, and how to use virtual boardrooms, Johno and his wife Julie decided to live stream a 30 minute High Intensity Interval Training session (HIIT) workout from their living room on Facebook Live — a decision which would ultimately rescue their business and change our minds on home fitness.
It started with 40 people, and within two weeks, more than 500 people were tuning in daily from around the country, and it continued to grow.
“We were just trying to do what we could to help people stay fit at home. It was messy at times and full of challenges. But it was real” - Johno.
There are thousands of online resources for home workouts but what made Johno and Julie so appealing was the sense of realness.
Seeing a couple working out together while their toddlers, dressed as Frozen characters, are running amok or having to stop mid-workout to change a diaper made JEFF Together so relatable and appealing to everyone who was going through the same thing.
And just like that, a community was born.
More than just exercise
For Johno, it was always about wanting to help people and as he says, "change one million and one lives."
At a time where seeing our families and friends was limited and sometimes impossible, there was somewhere where we could come together to do the same workout from the comfort of our own homes.
But what separates JEFF Together from the rest is the live community. Working out together and taking an interest in other members successes is what keeps this business thriving.
The next stage
In 8 weeks, the JEFF Together online community grew from 40 South Africans to 40,000 people from over 99 countries.
It was easy to see that the programme was working, and the community was ready to commit not only to fitness but also to each other. As the community grew, so did the demand and the scheduled expanded to include Yoga, guided runs, and healthy cook-along programmes.
Inevitably, a monthly subscription model was developed, and Go Steady with JEFF allowed members to subscribe for just R200 a month.
In April 2020, JEFF Together hosted SA’s biggest workout, which attracted over 19,000 people and marked a milestone in their growth as a community.
Tools for success
Moving the main platform away from Facebook and developing their own website in 2020 was a new chapter.
Running on Shopify with other plugins such as Pushowl, Sufio and Shogun, allowed the business to grow, engage with their customers on a more personal level, keep track of enquiries, and appeal to the rapidly growing international audience.
Since joining up with South African medical aid provider, Discovery Vitality, the incentive to connect and keep fit, now came with Vitality Points. However, their main drawcard for members is still word-of-mouth.
Exercise. Nutrition. Mindset
Since the start of lockdown, the JEFF Together team has grown to 70 and the community in the high thousands. Aside from their evident adaptability and goal-driven attitude, the only change that Johno can think of is, “we shouldn’t have waited until the lockdown to do live daily workouts. We discovered such a gap in the market and such a clear consumer need.”
Having unleashed a strong community driven by healthy habits, watching others succeed, giving back to the community and helping people, one of the main things that JEFF Together has done is reassure people that you can achieve your goals.
In less than a year, they’ve helped over 50,000 people, donated to the Solidarity Fund, partnered with notable SA brands, worked out with local bands like The Parlotones and even took part in a Jerusalema viral video. Most importantly, they revolutionised the way many people see the fitness industry.
Start your own business today
Don’t be afraid to act quickly and launch a basic version of your product and improve from there.
The first JEFF Together class was far from perfect, but the realness and relatability, along with their adaptability to maintain it, guaranteed its success.