Eleni Plakitsi Esquared Interview

Eleni Plakitsi Esquared Interview

Fitness On Demand

Esquared, a revolutionary new on-demand fitness app has launched in Australia ushering in a new era of fitness. Offering greater flexibility and variety, Esquared allows users to experience a wide range of fitness classes and gym sessions at leading venues across Sydney, with no membership fees or contracts. Sydneysiders can now sign-up for exclusive early access to the Esquared app via www.esq2.com.au and receive $40 free credit to use for any workout.

Esquared was founded in the UK by former accountant turned pro-athlete Eleni Plakitsi, who saw a gap in the market for an app-based fitness platform that offered a 'no strings attached' pay-as-you-gym approach allowing users to train on their own terms.

The app delivers a seamless user experience that makes it simple to search, book and pay for a class or session on the same day, the next day, or up to 30 days in advance. Users can choose nearby gyms and available classes or search by area for real-time options. Launching in Sydney before rolling out in Melbourne and Brisbane later in the year, Esquared has already signed on over 50 partner gyms that cover a broad range of training disciplines.

Esquared partner gyms and studios will list specific classes and time slots, allowing users to access the gym floor or join classes. This could range from a session at Beach Fit in Bondi Beach or P.E Department to a 45-minute workout at Infinite Cycle in Surry Hills to a barre session in Sydney CBD or Double Bay.

"Esquared allows you to search and book local, high quality fitness classes and the hottest boutique gyms across the length and breadth of Sydney", says Plakitsi. "Fitness is at the heart of the Sydney lifestyle, so we want to make it easier than ever to unlock all the best gyms and studios in the city in one simple app.

Ex-Wallabies player Drew Mitchell has come on board as General Manager for Esquared in Australia. "I experienced a lot of different training sessions during my rugby career which has really shaped how I exercise daily. With Esquared, the commitment-free nature of the app allows you to try new things, test out new gyms and adds a lot of variety to your workout. You can start your day with a boxing class near your home and end the day in a yoga studio near the office".

Session and class prices are all set by each individual venue in real-time, based on availability and demand. Esquared is free to download on iPhone and Android. For more information and exclusive early access, visit www.esq2.com.au

Interview with Eleni Plakitsi

Question: Why did you start Esquared?

Eleni Plakitsi: Even before becoming a pro athlete a number of years back, I always liked to do a variety of different workouts as part of my exercise programme. In saying that, it was pretty much impossible to find the variety that I was looking for in one place - I wanted to spin one day, do pilates the next, free weights another day, go swimming and be able to run on the tread! At the time, I thought I was being pretty demanding in wanting to be able to go to the best classes at different venues at times that suited me without having to be a member. But, as I found out I wasn't alone in wanting this variety of choice and a lot of my colleagues, friends and other people who were getting into fitness were looking for the same flexibility as well.

With the demand certainly there, I looked to the supply side and began speaking to people I knew in the fitness industry who were venue owners and managers to find out whether they would be interested in getting incremental revenue by filling empty spaces in their classes and on their gym floors (as they were often not full). The answer was a resounding "Yes". So I thought with both interest from the demand and supply sides I wanted to create a platform that could easily connect the two...and that's how Esquared was born!

Question: How is Esquared different to other app-based fitness platforms?

Eleni Plakitsi: Esquared is a non-subscription platform - meaning there are no contracts, monthly payments, penalties or alike. You only pay for when you work out on a session by session basis.

Esquared is different in that it's a dynamically priced platform that enables users to take advantage of real-time prices based on supply and demand at fitness venues. For the venues, Esquared is a true marketplace where the venue controls inventory and has the ability adjust price in real time according to footfall.

With the above in mind, users can book up to 30 days in advance... or 30 seconds in advance of their session, whatever suits them best! For the venues, they have the ability to allocate slots on the platform for up to a year in advance which can give them peace of mind around filling empty space.

The best part of the Esquared platform, however, is that when you book a session you can immediately share it through a link on social media with your friends, colleagues or training buddies... and with a few simple clicks they can join your session. It's perfect if you're training with a group of people for events like the City to Surf.

Question: How can we use Esquared to train on our own terms?

Eleni Plakitsi: Esquared gives complete flexibility - train when you want, wherever you want, and with who you want! The app is very simple to use and it enables the user to choose from thousands of sessions per week - gym floor or classes. The functionality of Esquared enables users to search by price, time, location, venue name, type of workout and many more.

Question: How did you make the move from accounting to athlete?

Eleni Plakitsi: I have always had a passion for sports and fitness. At school and university I was a sprinter and was a member of the athletics team, but when I moved onto my Masters Degree and during my accounting training in London I found that I was devoting a lot of time to my work and studies and not balancing it out with a more healthy lifestyle.

With this as a consideration, it was actually a New Years' resolution that put me on the path to moving from being an Accountant to a competitive pro athlete. My resolution was that I wanted to get back into fitness again and really focus on a balanced lifestyle. Initially I wanted to re-balance my day to still enable me to work hard but rather than burning the midnight oil or going out for dinners and drinks after work I wanted to get some gym floor and studio classes in.

From what started out as a New Years' resolution to get fit, really snowballed and before long I started training with a personal trainer who took it to the next level and pushed me very hard! With more regular workouts I could see the results were starting to come through which was exciting (as much as it was tough to do the training!). My personal trainer was pretty excited with the results too and he urged me to take it to an even higher level and enter into an amateur national competition - the Fame Miss UK Fitness competition. Having only really trained for 6 months since my New Years' resolution, I didn't think I could match it with people that had been honing their training for years, but I thought 'what the heck' and entered into the competition. That competition was I think they say a 'Sliding Doors' moment and with beginner's luck (and a lot of sweat in preparation!) I surprisingly won the competition.

From the Miss UK Fitness competition win things changed a lot, and I was approached by nutrition brands to be their ambassador, magazines to shoot covers and was urged to compete in international competitions and to get a Pro licence - it was all a bit surreal! But, with fitness being my passion I really wanted to commit to it, and did exactly that.

With more dedicated training, I started to compete internationally and won competitions in Europe, Canada and the US and gained my Pro-card and became a full-time professional athlete. Although I don't practice as an Accountant day to day anymore, Esquared has enabled me to combine both my passion for fitness and my business background to do what I love every day.

Question: What advice do you have for women getting back into their fitness as it gets warmer, in Australia?

Eleni Plakitsi: Go for it - there's no time like today. I know the feeling of getting through winter and looking forward to the spring days starting to warm up with the beach beckoning. Before you know it, it will be summer!

It doesn't matter what your age or your fitness level, set some goals for yourself - personalise them and ensure you have short, medium and long term goals. Whether it is to increase your 4km morning walk to 5km or getting back into a Yoga class that you might have been avoiding for the winter months, there's no time like today to get (back) into it.

From experience, I can say with absolute certainty that the buzz of satisfaction when you hit those goals is worth it...not to mention the other well-being benefits you will get as a bi-product!

Question: What is your fitness moto?

Eleni Plakitsi: Fitness is my passion - I do what I love every day.

Question: What's a typical day like, for you?

Eleni Plakitsi: Typically, I'll wake up at 6:15am and have an early bite to eat with my husband (and daughter if she's up) before we all get set for the day ahead.

I'll usually have a light(ish) breakfast before heading out for a morning run or a workout at one of the gyms or studios on Esquared- there are quite a few venues around where I live so it suits me well as I can mix up the routine quite a bit.

I love the mornings and find that after exercising in the morning I have a clear head and am looking forward to what the day has in-store. Once I'm back home from my workout or morning run, I freshen up, prepare my daughter for nursery, have something more to eat and we're all out of the house around 8:00am.

The Esquared office in London is not too far from home so depending on the timing of my morning meetings I'll try to walk into work - it's funny that when I was working as an Accountant I used to wear a business suit every day, but now I'll rarely wear a suit, only for formal meetings or industry events! Most days I'll be visiting Esquared partner venues or new potential partners during the course of the day, so I'll usually take my gym kit into work with me in the mornings.

Like me, the team at Esquared is often out during the day at venues and alike so we try to catch up as a team first thing in the morning before everyone gets going for the day. No day is the same for our business, so after our morning meeting we're usually either out and about, on the phone to the tech team discussing innovation for the app or catching up with our Marketing team around new initiatives that they're looking to roll out for Esquared. A current new marketing initiative that is really great and has gone viral with over 150,000 views is a competition in London where gym buddies go head-to-head to see how many workouts in a day they can do at Esquared venues across London. The record at the moment is 7 in a day - I think that's pretty amazing!

My working day usually flies by and I'll aim to finish from the office around 5pm (or earlier if I can) and collect my daughter, answer emails and calls from home and get ready for dinner.

Depending on my and my husband's schedule, I'll sometimes workout or go for a run in the evening, but given I'm getting quite a bit of exercise usually during the day I try to keep most evenings free for bath-time and story-time...definitely my favourite part of the day!

Question: What's next for you?

Eleni Plakitsi: With our successful launch in the UK at the end of 2017, the Esquared Australia launch now happening and our upcoming expansion into the US, I'm expecting to be very busy in the coming twelve months and am hugely excited about what lies ahead.

Interview by Brooke Hunter

Photo by Geert Pieters on Unsplash