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Ugi Fitness Inc. co-founders, from left, Sara Shears, Debra Karby and Melane Finkleman, and Ugi balls. (Adam Rootman Photography / Courtesy of UGI Fitness)
Ugi Fitness Inc. co-founders, from left, Sara Shears, Debra Karby and Melane Finkleman, and Ugi balls. (Adam Rootman Photography / Courtesy of UGI Fitness)

JOHN WARRILLOW

Ugi Fitness chosen for our 'reality' series Add to ...

An invitation to appear on the popular TV series Dragons' De n can propel a startup into the limelight but, for Vancouver-based Ugi Fitness Inc., a coming appearance comes at an awkward time.

The company is out of stock and it is going to have trouble meeting the demand for its main product that the TV appearance is sure to generate.

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That’s the immediate challenge facing Ugi Fitness, which offers a new way to get in shape by using a squishy ball that improves the effectiveness and efficiency of just about any core training exercise.

Imagine doing a push-up with your feet resting on a partially inflated medicine ball and you’ll get the idea.

It’s also a challenge I’ll be helping the owners overcome. Ugi is the company chosen in our recent search for a growth-oriented business to work with me in a new ‘reality’ series.

In the coming weeks, I will try to use my experience starting and exiting four companies to help Ugi grow into a more valuable business.

Readers can come along for the ride with Ugi, as I write a weekly column about the challenges faced by its owners and the advice I give to them. I also hope it will be a jumping off point for readers to weigh in and help out.

With dozens of entries responding to our call for participation, picking Ugi was a tough decision. Ugi was appealing because it’s in the fitness industry, and I’m into sports. I buy lots of gear and I think I know – at least at a high level – who its customers are.

The company is also very young and growing quickly, with all of the associated pains that come with a new startup.

A lot of the other entries were from much larger, more successful businesses and, frankly, I didn’t think we could help them as much. But Ugi’s founders have all of the passion and problems of a young business. They could use some help navigating the maze of launching a new business.

Ugi (short for You Got It) was founded over a coffee in April, 2009 – and incorporated in November of that year – by three busy moms: personal trainer and gym owner Sara Shears, interior and graphic designer Melanie Finkleman, and marketer and strategic planner Debra Karby.

They wanted to find a way to squeeze in a full-body workout in just 30 minutes, thanks to the ball, and a set of one-minute exercises developed by Ms. Shears. The company created and manufactures the ball and the associated workout materials, and it recently opened a studio to offer Ugi ball training and workshops.

The company now employs one other full-time staff member and two part-timers, in addition to the three founders.

Wednesday: A closer look at Ugi’s current challenge. After that, the series will continue every Tuesday on the Report on Small Business website.

Special to The Globe and Mail

John Warrillow is a writer, speaker and angel investor in a number of start-up companies. You can download a free chapter of his new book, Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You.

Join The Globe’s Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues: http://linkd.in/jWWdzT

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