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Career spotlight: Jen Purcell (2010)

Posted on May 20

3 min read

Career Events & News

Jen Purcell (2010) sums up her career journey since leaving St John’s, including the launch of a surprisingly relevant fitness app during the pandemic.

Let’s be clear: I wasn’t completely inactive during my student days but I was no poster child for fitness. I loved my time in the LMBC, although part of that was definitely because it meant eight other people would ensure I exercised! For those who knew me then, it might come as somewhat of a surprise that I ended up as a founder of a fitness app called WithU.

My career started in a punchy digital agency owned by Omnicom Group, one of the world’s largest media and marketing companies. Soon I was working for brands as varied as Disney, Renault, Starbucks and Gatwick. I spent my career helping established businesses and start-ups create, build and launch apps, websites and other digital solutions.

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Jen visiting St John’s, 2018

By 2018 I felt settled. Professionally I was in my agency’s leadership team. Personally I’d just bought a home and married a wonderful fellow Johnian. Physically I had never felt fitter. I had finally joined a gym and invested in a personal trainer (PT) to teach me what on earth to do there. I realised I loved strength training and my competitive nature meant I enjoyed pushing myself to lift heavier. Everything was going smoothly — so of course this is when I started feeling restless.

I began working with two old colleagues who were also itching for something new. The first was a serious fitness enthusiast and serial entrepreneur. He was constantly looking for new fitness challenges and workouts he could do even if he was travelling. The second colleague self-identified as suffering from ‘gymtimidation’. He struggled to make time for exercise and didn’t know where to start, and so he’d simply given up. Meanwhile I’d only recently become comfortable in a gym thanks to my PT. She was brilliant, but this wasn’t a sustainable long-term cost. Though each of us were very different, we all felt that there was an industry opportunity. We decided to use our digital experience to bring the benefits of high-end personal training to a wider audience.

Early in the journey we connected with Tim Benjamin, a former GB Olympic runner and founder of a national chain of gyms. He provided the industry expertise, and so WithU Training was born.

WithU is an audio-led fitness app, where on-demand personal training is delivered by expert coaches. It means you can train anytime you like with someone you like. You literally get a PT in your ear whenever and wherever you want to train. It combines the excitement and engagement of a boutique exercise class with the expert instruction and motivation of a personal training session. You just press play and go. No distractions or self-consciousness. Just you and your trainer.

We have hundreds of sessions varying from HIIT to runs to dumbbells to yoga to meditation, and we’re releasing more each month. I’ve even made sure there are rowing machine workouts in honour of my LMBC days! We offer personalised programmes to help members work toward their goal, as well as the ability to dip in and out of the full, on-demand workout library.

The product has been built over the past year, and while we’ve always believed in it, we didn’t realise quite how exceptionally relevant it would be! Lockdown has certainly made an impact, with our running, walking, meditation and no-equipment workouts proving particularly popular. That being said, we’re very excited about how WithU will help people to maintain a more balanced lifestyle as we all adjust to new work/life patterns. We’re keen to give people top quality coaching whenever they want, whether that’s at home, outdoors or in a gym.

It’s early days, but we have now grown to a team of 14 staff, raised over £1.2m in seed funding and have successfully launched our app in the UK on both iOS and Android with highly promising download and subscription rates. While launching a business in the middle of a pandemic might not be what I thought I’d be doing when I quit my job last year, I’m glad I did and I’m excited to see what’s to come!

Jen is offering a special discount of 25% for Johnians — so if you’re interested in the app, follow this link from your mobile to learn more:

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