The Pampered Chef hosted a LA-style housewarming party for Melissa Rycroft (ABC’s The Bachelor, Dancing with the Stars, and Good Morning America correspondent) to celebrate her move to the west coast. The Pampered Chef outfitted Rycroft’s new kitchen with their products, hosted a group of Rycroft’s high-profile friends and donated products to the local Los Angeles Feeding America food bank in Rycroft’s name.
HC’s placement of this story helped build awareness about The Pampered Chef brand among Hollywood and a younger demographic.
Former CEO of Bally Total Fitness, Paul Toback, is interviewed after recently unveiling a brand new piece of cardio equipment, Sproing. HC was able to secure this placement with a prominent Chicago Tribune columnist due to a strong relationship with the reporter.
This feature provided the overall story about Sproing’s creation and Paul Toback’s background and vision for the company as it introduces Sproing to the Chicago business market.
Paul Toback takes softer approach to re-enter fitness business Bally ex-CEO launches startup equipment business with innovative device
For a decade, Paul Toback, a former chief executive of Bally Fitness and two-time marathon runner, awoke with back pain.
He found that training along Lake Michigan’s sandy beaches eased his discomfort and was more challenging. So after leaving corporate America and two years as a stay-at-home dad, Toback set out to invent a fitness device that mimicked running on sand.
At a personal trainers convention last weekend in Los Angeles, he unveiled Sproing, a piece of cardio equipment he hopes will become as ubiquitous as an elliptical machine.
To demonstrate his invention, he invited me to the Gold Coast Fitness Formula Club, located on the sixth floor of a Clark Street office building. Toback, 48, with salt-and-pepper hair, came dressed in jeans, a suit coat and dress shirt.
“I have to play the corporate role,” he said. He took off his jacket, stepped onto the machine and slipped on Sproing’s harness. The harness is attached to an elastic-resistance band, which is attached to a motor in a rear column.
Toback punched a few buttons to adjust the resistance and began running on Sproing’s flat, air-mattress-like surface. The surface can be inflated to give runners a bounce or swapped for a tough, sandlike one. (The name Sproing is a merger of spring and boing.) As Toback ran, the elastic band pulled him backward, forcing him to pitch forward. It’s a harder run but from a position that reduces injury-causing, heel-striking.
“We designed it for cardio and strength training; it’s the only piece of equipment you can do both on,” he said.
To demonstrate, Toback picked up the resistance bands tied to the platform’s rear column and began boxing as he ran. He later dropped and did pushups.
Toback approached Steve Lenz with his idea two years ago, but the former vice president of engineering at Schiller Park-based Life Fitness was skeptical.
“Back in my time at Life Fitness, I had seen many, many, many products come through,” Lenz said. “Usually what would happen is that the inventions didn’t involve natural motion, and people would look silly doing them. One example I’ve seen a couple of times now are mechanical devices that try to simulate swimming. You’ve got someone laying there on dry land. You look silly doing it.”
Lenz built the first Sproing prototype in Toback’s Bannockburn garage out of wood and an air mattress. After one minute on it, Lenz said, he was convinced it would work. The two became business partners, with Lenz leading manufacturing and Toback running the business.
A lawyer by training, Toback has had an eclectic career. He worked as Mayor Richard M. Daley’s executive assistant and director of administration. He then worked in the White House, as an aide to President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, Mack McLarty. His time as CEO at Bally was a roller coaster. An accounting fraud was unearthed; he later survived an effort by shareholders to oust him.
“(Steve and I) have gone from these big corporate guys to we’re both on the floor with the wrenches,” he said. “You should have seen us packing this stuff up on the convention floor.”
Just seven Sproings exist. Lenz recently finished the fourth and final prototype. The research and testing has required nearly $750,000 from Toback, Lenz and a third investor. The retail price is $5,999.
The challenge, Lenz and Toback said, is that looking at the Sproing, it’s unclear how it works. They plan to host orientations at gyms that buy the equipment and intend to add stickers to the machine that display exercise diagrams and instructions. They also plan to develop a Sproing app, which will have exercise videos.
Toback said he is placing his first order of 40 machines next week. His target audiences are fitness clubs, rehabilitation facilities and athletic organizations, including pro sports teams.
“This whole category of soft-surface training, like Bosu, is going to be big,” he said. “And we’re going to be a big anchor of it.”