Your Body To Spec

By Paul Feinberg

 

 
Assets
The question “let’s see what you’re made of?” usually speaks to one’s dedication or willingness to put forth maximum effort to accomplish a task — it’s meant as a challenge. It’s a more challenging question to answer literally.
Would you want to know how much of your body is bone and lean, muscle tissue? Do you really want to find out how much fat tissue you carry around all day? From competitive athletes to Crossfit enthusiasts to those who simply want to improve their health, finding out exactly what one is made of is becoming another arrow in one’s fitness quiver.
The Challenge
Bryce Luken’s (’14) first experience with “dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry” technology came while he was a cadet at the Air Force Academy. DXA scanners were developed to measure bone density, and typically they’re used in hospitals to diagnose bone maladies such as osteoporosis. Along with the bone density measurements, the scans provide a comprehensive analysis of body composition, identifying both the amount and location of fat and lean tissue.

It was in this latter capacity that Luken became familiar with DXA. As a member of the Air Force Academy’s football team, he underwent DXA scans as part of his training regimen. The team’s medical staff used DXA to monitor the effectiveness of workouts and make modifications aimed at achieving specific goals. But when Luken enrolled at UCLA Anderson, his ability to get a DXA scan was limited. For a “civilian,” he found it expensive and inconvenient to access the equipment.

Luken then experienced a pair of epiphanies. First, he realized the same DXA scans used by his trainers back in Colorado Springs could be put to use by gym trainers and other fitness buffs in Los Angeles, where getting and staying in shape is ubiquitous to the culture. Second, he believed bringing the technology to the masses was a great business idea. If easy access to DXA technology was the problem, his company, Body-Spec, would be the solution.

While still an Anderson first-year student, Luken investigated ways to make DXA technology more readily available. He accessed DXA equipment on the UCLA campus and performed tests and demonstrations with athletes and the CrossFit crowd.
The Partnership
Luken came to Anderson looking to start a business, while Elaine Shi (’14) was looking to change things up in her career. “I was looking for something challenging. I was working at a nonprofit, and after being here I thought it would be most fulfilling to build something up from scratch,” she says.

As first-year Anderson students, Luken and Shi were in the same section, taking the core courses together. Luken says they knew each other, but it wasn’t until spring quarter in “Entrepreneurship and Venture Initiation” that their partnership formed. “In that class, if you have an idea you have to pitch it,” Luken says. He pitched his idea for DXA body scanning. “I honestly don’t remember his pitch,” Shi says. “I do remember from our accounting class that I was really impressed with his prep work. I personally had no interest in athletics, but I felt comfortable partnering with him.”

Their relationship turned out to be an ideal business marriage. “Bryce is very big picture. He had the vision, has pure grit, and he never stops working and trying to get everything to work,” Shi says.

Luken says the business needed focus on process in order to make it scalable, and Elaine was great at seeing those avenues and solidifying processes to grow the business. “Elaine was the glue that kept the team together. I was going from gym to gym, developing relationships,” says Luken.
The Advisor
Jeff Scheinrock is president and chief financial officer of Originate, a digital-product development and venture firm. He’s also a lecturer at UCLA Anderson, teaching a variety of entrepreneurial courses. He also heads up the Business Creation Option component of the Applied Management Research project requirements and serves as an advisor to both AMR and Global Access Project teams.
Luken and Shi credit Scheinrock, along with Adjunct Professor John Funk, for providing invaluable advice and assistance as they brought BodySpec to life.

“There are a few key things I guided them on,” says Scheinrock. “I pushed them hard on the financial model, to come up with what the business actually is, and then building a financial model that would guide them towards what they needed to do to make good on their investment.”

Scheinrock says, “Everybody loves marketing and sales, but hates doing the financial modeling.” But, he says, because the BodySpec team had a financial model, they were able to figure out various scenarios on what to charge to break even and control overhead and how much debt they could take on. “They started with the truck to prove the concept. I advised them not to consider the brick and mortar and they listened.”

It’s important to note that Scheinrock’s role was that of a trusted advisor, not a boss giving orders. “They did a lot of good research. They looked at their competitors. They researched the legal issues and mitigated the risks before they started. They researched the right way to do it; they were ready,” Scheinrock says. And, while they didn’t agree with everything Scheinrock advised, they asked a ton of questions and asked his opinions. "They used me as an advisor the right way,” he says. “I’m really proud of them.”
The Business
The Anderson pair say they were specifically not interested in something like the Knapp Venture Competition. Luken was scheduled to return to the Air Force Academy where he was committed to teach through 2017 in exchange for b-school. They didn’t want to wait. “We were on a tight timeline,” Luken says. “Elaine was moving to Texas and I’m at the Air Force Academy. We were trying to validate the business and get it launched.”

Today, the BodySpec team includes Co-Founder and CEO Jason Belvill, an Air Force classmate of Luken. BodySpec’s growth has been gradual, but mostly steady. The EVI course led to the Business Plan Creation class. Shi and Luken continued working on BodySpec through the Business Creation Option of their Applied Management Research requirement.

Since then, the business continues to evolve. BodySpec vans (there are now two) still make the rounds to various gyms. In addition, corporations are now bringing BodySpec in for their employees. “We were originally just doing CrossFit gyms in West L.A. and Orange County,” says Luken. “Now we’re doing testing in San Francisco and Sacramento. We’re also now doing scans at Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, getting into the corporate space through Anderson connections and classmates.”

Shi says a change in their pricing model has proved effective. “We cut prices — a scan now costs $45, and further discounts are available depending on how many are purchased at once,” she says. “It’s probably the lowest price in the nation now. Originally, we thought our customers would be CrossFitters with high incomes. Now we’re operating on high volume.”

“Right now, the big successes are from corporate health and wellness programs,” Shi says. “The range of potential clients is much bigger compared to at the gyms.”

With the business model proven — January 2015 was their biggest month to date with more than 1,000 scans performed — the company entered into a lease agreement to open a brick-and-mortar BodySpec location in West Los Angeles. Luken says the scanner removes all doubt regarding the effectiveness of your exercise and diet program. “When you work 45 hours a week and have almost no time to work out, that feedback is important,” says Luken. “And it’s even more so for those who are dialed in. The value comes not from first scan, but from the progress you see in multiple scans over time.”