Lehigh alumni launch the Perfect Burpee with help of Lehigh student interns

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David Gritz, ’11, did more than study integrated business and engineering while pursuing his undergraduate degree. He started his own consulting firm as a student at Lehigh, and since then, has progressed to also running his own real estate company and his newest business venture — the Perfect Burpee.

Gritz said the Perfect Burpee was initially conceived by his business partner Justin Mendelson, ’10, who did consulting for Spartan Race, an obstacle course race company.Training for a Spartan Race consists of doing burpees, or thrust squats, which is an exercise that combines the actions of a jumping jack, a squat and a push-up. In his own experience with company challenges that involved performing burpees, Mendelson found that inexpensive yoga mats were not suitable for such exercises because of the wide range of motions.

“He just wanted a mat to do burpees and there weren’t really any mats that met the needs he had, except expensive gym floors,” Gritz said. “Hence, the idea for the perfect mat to do burpees on.”

Gritz and Mendelson began to seriously pursue their idea last September. Gritz was involved in the Integrated Business and Engineering program while at Lehigh, where he learned the market-based approach to product design and development that he and Mendelson put into practice with the Perfect Burpee. This included surveying potential customers to learn about their needs, current behaviors and challenges to design iterations of prototypes until the product is good enough for production.

“We’re currently working with the manufacturer in Taiwan to get a production version of the prototype at the cost that we want,” Gritz said. “Once we have that we’ll make our initial order, and we’ll be ready to fulfill the order for the customers.”

The Perfect Burpee is funded by a Kickstarter campaign launched at the Boston Fitness Gala on Jan. 14, Gritz said. It ended Feb. 18 and raised $41,760, exceeding Gritz and Mendelson’s goal of $36,000.

They are not tackling this project alone, however. They are assisted by current Lehigh students working as interns.

Gritz said that through his relationship with Emory Zimmers, a professor in the industrial and systems engineering department, he has been able to give opportunities to students as interns for the Perfect Burpee and Gritz’s other companies.

Sarah Wei, ’16, has been interning for the Perfect Burpee since November. She met Gritz last semester as a part of the Innovation and Leadership Residency program.

“He witnessed me lead the program through and thought that I could form teams pretty quickly, and he wanted to form a team at Lehigh for his business launch,” Wei said.

Wei assembled and led a team of students to create a virtual presence for the Perfect Burpee.

“We managed a Facebook and Twitter account to get followers and reach out to influential people in the same area,” such as fitness trainers and businesses, Wei said.

Her team consists of Chandler Coggins, ’18, and Jeff Schwartz, ’16.

Sara Green, ’15, has also worked for the Perfect Burpee since January. She helped plan the Lehigh Valley Fitness Gala earlier this month by getting sponsors for the event.

“Learning how to sell sponsorships and practicing effective communication are both important takeaways,” Green said. “Hands-on work is always an effective learning experience.”

Wei said that working for the Perfect Burpee allowed her to use the data management skills she learned in her industrial and systems engineering classes and helped to show her the bigger picture of running a business.

“It’s not just learning about business,” Wei said. “It’s also learning about how to work under pressure, how to work with people, how to form teams quickly and be prepared to fail and come back from that.”

Now that their new company has launched, Gritz and Mendelson’s vision for the Perfect Burpee is to sell products via an e-commerce site and to build an online site to promote fitness in general, where members create fitness challenges and can receive patches as accomplishments.

“Those challenges are ways to build an online community around our product,” Gritz said.

Editor’s Note: This article has been edited to clarify the details regarding the conception the Perfect Burpee. 

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