Career Advice Successful entrepreneurs’ story

Jeffrey Liu and Robert Pachter of GuavaPass are all about making active lifestyles more accessible

With one pass, GuavaPass members have access to their city’s best premium fitness classes and a plethora of health tips and advice from the wider community.

“It’s not just a fitness platform, but one where you create opportunities for all members to have connection points with one another,” says Jeffrey Liu, co-founder and CEO of GuavaPass.

Liu met his co-founder, Robert Pachter, in Singapore in early 2015 after working for an e-commerce company in California that focused on fashion and lifestyle brands. His tenure there taught him how to build a consumer-to-business model from the ground up very quickly, something which offered him the necessary insights when it came to launching GuavaPass.

Pachter, meanwhile, came to Asia to help expand his previous organisation’s operations in Asia-Pacific, before joining GuavaPass.

However, even before they became business partners, Liu and Pachter shared a passion for fitness and healthy living. Liu is an avid fan of spinning and yoga, while Pachter is fond of indoor cycling, yoga, and CrossFit. When they spotted a massive opportunity to start their venture in Singapore, they went full speed ahead.

“We just saw eye-to-eye on how to structure the business, both fundamentally as well as philosophically. We just decided to roll the dice,” Pachter says.

Pachter and Liu spent only a few months preparing before they officially launched their business. By March 2015, everything was ready to go, but both men had to wear multiple hats so that they could bring their business to life. A soft launch period began in the middle of May 2015. By that time, they had gathered enough data to move forward to the expansion plan, their products, and price point packages.

For Liu, launching the GuavaPass website was one of the scariest days on his journey to becoming an entrepreneur.

“You can’t anticipate every problem… It’s always a new day. But as long as you know what you’re building towards to, it’s a good starting point,” he says.

The GuavaPass website is simple to navigate. But when it first launched, there was a surge in the booking system – an issue the two co-founders had to balance.

Aside from running GuavaPass, Liu and Pachter are also consumers of their own business venture.

Liu recently went to Bangkok for a friend’s wedding while Pachter travelled to Jakarta on business.

“We live in a transient world here in Asia and in the Middle East. It’s very beneficial when you’re in different cities for different reasons, and where you’re able to continue that fitness journey,” says Pachter.

Hong Kong GuavaPass members can also enjoy the same access in nine other metropolitan cities. Each GuavaPass city offers a specific set of offerings for differing consumer demands – a definite juggling act for Pachter and Liu’s team.

“It’s just a matter of going out there and really collecting market feedback,” Pachter says. “It’s about understanding consumers, understanding the sides of the equations, whether it is the key supply stakeholders, which are the studios or the demands of the consumer.”

However, not every fitness centre meets the quality that GuavaPass looks for. Pachter’s team comprises 15 fitness enthusiasts ranging from certified yoga instructors and national taekwondo athletes, to marathon runners. The team first tries out the proposed classes before giving their  approval.

Following the launch, Liu says he wishes they had started the journey sooner, and that they had launched their venture in all their established markets.

“Looking back in hindsight, these were definitely great decisions we made,” Liu says. “The markets that we are in are all unique. It’s really customised for local consumers.”

In 2018, GuavaPass will be focusing more on marrying online and offline infrastructures and their ongoing communities, together with the upcoming release of new products.

“Part of our goal is to really build something that’s long term, and that’s a part of everyone’s daily lives. We want to be your touch point when you wake up in the morning. That’s a lot for us to do in 2018. But we’re super-excited,” Liu says.