Mobell Muscle Seeking Kick Start After the I.Lab
By Dave Hendrick
A successful product is often the result of a problem successfully solved. For the founders of MoBell Muscle, the problem was one that would be out of sight for most Americans: a dearth of quality fitness options during military deployments.
Monte Jones (MBA ’14) saw the need for enhanced fitness training while serving as a scout platoon leader in Iraq. Attempts to establish workout routines were often abandoned due to the drudgery of endless pushups and pullups, and homemade barbells were often unpredictable and unsafe.
“With restricted space and constant redeployment, our options were limited,” said Jones, who said he took seriously his charge of keeping his unit operationally ready.
Jones developed a vision for a portable, collapsible weight-training system, and held on to the idea as he transitioned from the military to the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. At Darden, he began to meet peers and develop entrepreneurial skills that would help make MoBell Muscle a reality.
Jones also connected with the eventual MoBell management team of Michael Humenansky (MBA ’14), Ross Rosenstein (MBA/JD Class of 2016), Nate David (MBA ’14) and Steve Mack, and successfully pitched the venture to the i.Lab Incubator program, hosted by the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
The MoBell team spent two years at the i.Lab, serving as entrepreneurs-in-residence in the second year.
“The i.Lab was crucial,” said Humenansky, MoBell cofounder and CEO. “It took us from concept to actual product, and our advisors and entrepreneurs-in-residence helped us develop a concise business plan and a three-year strategy.”
Early prototypes drew on the expertise of engineers, metallurgists and physicists, among others, to ensure the ideal materials, and a contingent of Special Operations Forces personnel who were at Darden for an Executive Education program offered regular feedback on ideal needs in the field, Humenansky said.
“The best part is, the help didn’t go away upon graduation,” Humenansky said. “Our connections at Batten and the i.Lab have continued — both from administration, advisors and i.Lab peers — with continued help in connections and business advice.”
The finished product, which the company is seeking to fund production of via a Kickstarter campaign, involves a portable bar and weight bag set that can be fully assembled in under 10 minutes, and provides fitness training for up to four people. The full kit and carrying case has a travel weight of 75 pounds, but when assembled with weight bags full of sand, the product offers as much as 225 pounds of lifting capability. The bags attach to the ends of the bar like traditional weights, and come in three different increments.
The company offers a physical training program to guide workouts, and expects to soon launch a mobile app for a personalized, trackable experience.
While military members remain a key market for the product, the company is pitching the product at anyone interested in an on-the-go fitness option.
The Kickstarter campaign seeks to raise $75,000 and runs through 17 December.
Humenansky said a successful Kickstarter would allow the company to fulfill the last steps for U.S. Department of Defense contracting requirements, letting the company provide the kits in bulk to deployed members of the military.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Darden School of Business
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