— Alexandra Bonetti, W’07 | Founder, Talent Hack
Alexandra Bonetti, W’07, (Venezuela) created Talent Hack in 2018, a job search engine and community site for the fitness industry. As the founder of a popular workout studio in New York City, Bari, she knew that she was in the people business, and how difficult it was to find people who were passionate for fitness.
Her customers include 300 companies — from boutique studios to multiple-site gyms such as Equinox, Y7 and FitHouse. About 2,000 clients use the site daily to engage their fellow fitness enthusiasts, peruse opportunities and apply for jobs.
Typical opportunities include instructors, fitness studio managers, influencers (think Instagram), brand ambassadors, salespeople and positions in operations. Because brands want to be identified with fitness as an aspirational goal, Talent Hack also has customers such as Nike and Lululemon that sell athletic clothing, and channel representatives like Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson.
You can build an attractive offering, but that alone won’t grow the enterprise. How have you been able to grow your audience and users?
I was first to market with a talent-hiring platform for the fitness industry, so it was an easier story to tell to a company’s client side. I had hundreds of conversations with potential users and companies to understand what the value-add would be for them. Even though I had founded and ran my own studio, I couldn’t assume that I knew. I sat down with other studio owners to find out their struggles with staffing and managing people.
For individuals, I’d try to find out what made them passionate for fitness. Most people in the industry have a story of how fitness changed their life and how they got healthy. I felt that I didn’t need to bring on board thousands of people initially. I just needed one person to use my site. In taking care of that one person, something would click. That something led me to a clear value proposition, which I could then scale through large events such as fitness conferences.
What stage of the company are you focused on now?
So far, about 100 individuals have been connected to income opportunities with companies. I’m working to serve our corporate customers and our individual users, and raise funds. This year for us is about establishing brand credibility and growing both sides of the marketplace, so next year, we can really dive into the tech piece.
Do you have your own story that made you passionate for fitness?
I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, a beautiful city. I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart; I started my first “business” at the age of 11, pooling together youth groups that would visit hospitals and orphanages. And by age 14, I was running Hispanic consumer research for American companies. Then I applied and got accepted at Wharton as an undergraduate. After Wharton, I worked for a number of years as a consultant for the oil industry in the U.S., Calgary, Canada and The Hague in Europe. It was great to travel — in Calgary, I found so many Venezuelan oil engineers who had fled Venezuela. But I was traveling so much that I didn’t even have an apartment and didn’t eat well on the road. I was never someone who worked out, but I pushed myself to walk 10 minutes per day, no matter what city I was in. Then, a 10-minute run, which became a 20-minute run, a 5-mile race — you get the idea. From there, I took fitness classes in whichever city I was in. I discovered that I slept better, had a clearer mind and felt more confident about myself.
At some point, I just decided to use some of my other Wharton skills to leave consulting and start my own studio.
What did you learn at Wharton?
Two things come to mind. The value of networking. I still depend on my Penn family in so many ways. In my management classes, I learned that, if you are going to build a company, treat your people right. Because businesses will give you a second chance, but most people will give you only one chance.
What can you say about Venezuela?
It’s sad. The Venezuela I grew up in does not exist anymore. It is the place of my happiest memories. Our family came together on the weekends, and we would visit Venezuela’s beautiful beaches. We grew up really happy — it was a great life. I think all Venezuelan immigrants feel some degree of guilt that we’re not there fighting for our country. What’s happening there is truly devastating. People are dying of hunger with no end in sight.
Talk about being an immigrant entrepreneur.
When I was building Bari, when I wasn’t teaching, I was handing out flyers around New York City, saying, “Try my studio. You’ll love it!” You have to try everything. I think one advantage I have is that I’m from a different place. I lived in a different culture, so I see things differently. Of course, that’s true for many people in New York. You have a burning desire to go out on your own, to create something. But I think that may be true for entrepreneurs, no matter where you were born.