After treating an army of accountants and IT specialists at last year’s Sydney Half Marathon, physiotherapist Jennifer Dodge spotted a gap in the corporate fitness market and launched an innovative new business.
Office Athlete is billed as Australia’s first physiotherapy service aimed exclusively at corporate team building events like fun runs, triathlons or any other other adrenalin-packed activity dreamed up with the intention of getting employees up and moving.
“The idea occurred to me during my work with the Sydney Half Marathon in 2012,” explains Dodge.
“There were such a large number of injured runners that hobbled into the physiotherapy tent that had never run a half marathon before and had done very little training or preparation.”
“I was astonished by the lack of knowledge among the general public about what to expect, how to train and how to be aware and stay on top of any pre-existing niggles.”
The budding entrepreneur realised that corporate types were particularly susceptible to having a not-so-fun run due to the sedentary nature of their work and devised her business around educating this niche market through professional advice, tailored training strategies and seminars.
By using a service like Office Athlete, businesses not only demonstrate care for their staff but also serve their own interests by avoiding lost productivity due to extended absence for recovery and rehabilitation.
It’s an attractive concept when you consider that many common injuries are avoidable.
“A few common injuries that come through my door are lower back pain, whether from the prolonged desk sitting, incorrect posture or going from that sedentary position to a sprint resulting in a muscle strain,” says Dodge.
“A lot of injuries occur from running like knee pain and hamstring strains. During the summer months, there is a big increase in shoulder pain from the uptake in ocean swims or swimming in general,” she continues.
“This can occur not from just incorrect training but from neglecting to stretch certain muscles that aid the streamlined swimming position.”
The physiotherapist-turned-businesswoman funded Office Athlete herself, pouring all her savings into the start-up. It was a gamble that has thrown several challenges.
“My business isn’t a building that you can walk past, query it, maybe Google it and get the general idea,” she tells Dynamic Business. “It has been challenging to illustrate the business’ mission to those who wouldn’t generally search for it.”
Dodge plans to overcome these hurdles by staying focused on the bigger picture.
“The biggest risk is sprinting towards the finish line before I have even stretched for the race,” Dodge explains using familiar terminology. “I need to minimize the risk of putting the service out there without researching the extent of the demand first.”
That’s not to say she doesn’t have big plans for the business.
“I would love The Office Athlete to have a regular contribution in a widely read publication. I also plan to offer tailored preparation packages for corporations and businesses wanting to participate in events like Tough Mudder and City2Surf.”
Her advice to fellow entrepreneurs?
“No one is going to do the work for you,” she says. “You need to have the information, the research, the idea and put all your energy into making it happen.”
“There’s no easy way to do it but I think that is what makes it so rewarding when everything starts to fall into place.”