At a time when tech-enabled equipment and streaming fitness startups are raising multi-million- dollar funding rounds, one company has taken a decidedly different path to building a booming business.

The leading manufacturer of America-made strength and conditioning equipment, Rogue Fitness, has solidified itself as an Amazon-like marketplace for fitness gear and training accessories.

Back in 2006, when Air Force veteran Bill Henniger struggled to source equipment for his CrossFit-inspired garage gym, he used his own cash to launch Rogue — a direct-to-consumer solution for outfitting a CrossFit box, garage gym, or anything in between. Eleven years later, Rogue Fitness has grown from Henniger’s garage into a name brand recognized—and respected—the world over. 

As the antithesis to a Silicon Valley startup or newfangled wellness brand, Rogue is refreshingly old school. Free from buzzwords and world-changing hyperbole, the company’s mission and reputation are rooted in values that are noticeably absent from the luxury-inspired, pseudo-scientific trends that dominate the conversation around the $4.2T wellness industry

Although the private company doesn’t disclose its financials, indicators of Rogue’s success are plain to see, as evidenced by their inclusion on Inc’s list of 14 companies that dominated 2018. 

A few of the highlights include Rogue’s new 600,000-square-foot headquarters in Columbus, Ohio and their workforce of 600 employees. They are the official equipment supplier of the CrossFit Games, USA Weightlifting, and the Arnold Strongman Classic. They’ve acquired several adjacent manufacturing businesses, including Nebula Fitness, Pendlay, and Reflex. And, most impressively, the company is largely responsible for breathing new life into the Milo-Grogan neighborhood in Downtown Columbus.

Notoriety aside, Rogue Fitness continues to fly under the radar — they represent a version of fitness, and success, for the rest of us. What does entrepreneurship or fitness look like for someone who’s not in New York City or San Francisco? It looks a lot like Rogue Fitness.

Headlines & Happenings 

E by Equinox
Equinox is taking its high-performing luxury brand to another level with the opening of E by Equinox on Madison Ave. What started as a private training facility in Columbus Circle (that cost about 30 grand a year) has evolved into an intimate townhouse-style club defined by a highly-personalized experience, top-tier personal training—including what Equinox bills as the world’s most advanced coaching program, Tier X—nutrition programs, and access to top health and medical professionals.

Life Time Village
On pace to bring in $2B in revenue, Life Time is best known for health clubs in affluent suburbs across America’s heartland. But a 2017 rebrand that saw the company drop “fitness” from its name signaled that they’re not trying to compete with other gyms, they’re chasing WeWork. Now, the company is prioritizing co-working and residential living while tapping shopping malls as prime real estate for growth. It’s part of a plan that could become Life Time Village — a place where their Fitness, Work, Living, and Resort concepts combine to create a modern-day town square. 

GNC Gets Personal
In a move that seemed inevitable, GNC is (finally) getting into the personalized, DTC vitamin game. As we detailed in our Insider article covering direct-to-consumer vitamins that appeared in issue No. 2 of the newsletter, the legacy supplement retailer is facing extinction. Their counter? Following in the footsteps of DNVB brands like Ritual, Care/of, and Persona, GNC has quietly rolled out GNC4U — “nutrition personalized based on your body’s needs”. By partnering with Vitagene, makers of at-home DNA testing kits, GNC is providing consumers with customized supplement packs, as well as exercise and nutrition recommendations based on their genetic profile. Yes, the move is on-trend. Unfortunately, it’s likely too little, too late. 

lululemon's Loyalty Program
In hopes of competing with Amazon Prime-like delivery and creating recurring revenue during their aspirational shift from an athleisure label to lifestyle brand, lululemon has launched a membership program. For $96 a year, subscribers receive a pair of pants or shorts designed exclusively for the program, access to classes and events, and free expedited shipping for e-commerce purchases. While the subscription program is novel, their sales are newsworthy: Q3 total net revenue beat estimates, increasing 21% to $747.7M. 

Reebok's Comeback
Back in 2005, adidas acquired Reebok. At the time, Reebok was doing $3.8B in revenue. By 2013, the company nosedived to $1.8B and adidas considered selling the brand. Now, as part of a turnaround plan, Reebok’s sales ticked up 4% to $2.1B last year. Looking ahead, adidas hopes to make Reebok profitable by prioritizing women — creating athletic apparel that women will wear outside the gym, leveraging nostalgia, and enlisting celebrities like Conor McGregor and Cardi B to help reach new audiences. 

The Next “Milk”
As dairy milk sales continue to decline, plant-based milk alternatives are taking over. From soy and nuts to coconut, hemp, and oats, everything appears to be milkable. So, what’s the next “milk” you ask? Say hello to sesame milk, coming to a grocery store or coffee shop near you in 2019.

Executive Moves

Glossier is losing president and chief financial officer Henry Davis, who is exiting the DTC beauty brand to pursue his own entrepreneurial opportunities.
- After stints as group vice president at Equinox and the CEO of Oath Pizza, Patrik Hellstrand has been named CEO of fast-casual vegan chain by CHLOE
- Kellogg's chief growth officer Clive Sirkin is leaving the company after three years in the role.
- BODYARMOR announced that Brent Hastie, who most recently served as chief financial and supply chain officer of Coca-Cola North America, will join the BA team as president.