Founded by former students, i-gb from Bayreuth has fully established itself as a corporate fitness provider
The story begins, like so many, with a problem: Harald Schubert studied health economics at the University of Bayreuth, worked part-time as a paramedic and had to – again – step in for a colleague who had a back problem. “We have to do something for the fitness and health of employees,” he said to his fellow student Andreas Mendel. This resulted in i-gb, a company that is now celebrating its tenth anniversary, has 35 employees and supports over 500 companies from its headquarters in Bayreuth. A classic start-up success story.
After the initial idea, everything started as a student project, as an association “Initiative – Healthy Business”. “We wanted to do something good,” says managing director Andreas Mendel, remembering the first time. There were eight of them at the time and they dealt intensively with the topic of “company health management”. Because even back then – and now more than ever – it was clear that companies had to do something for the health of their employees. The more they do, the more interesting they are for new employees. “But many companies, especially small and medium-sized businesses, cannot provide their own corporate health management,” says Andreas Mendel, describing the opportunity for the project.
The first companies probably recognized this in the initial phase, because an agreement was reached with some companies in the Bayreuth region and a health offer was developed that was based primarily on discounts at pools, fitness studios and physiotherapists. “We were convinced that we were doing something good. But in 2013 we reached the point where we had to turn the student project into a company,” remembers Andreas Mendel. The cooperation partners should have more confidence in the long-term and the entire process should be professionalized. “The three of us then founded i-gb GmbH. Because we simply believed in our idea.”
The next milestone for the young company was in 2016. “We were allowed to present our concept to the then Federal Minister of Health Hermann Gröhe,” remembers Andreas Mendel. Much more important for the company’s success was the cooperation with the AOK in Upper Franconia. “Then suddenly more customers came and we hired employees.” What the founders are particularly proud of: “We have always grown organically through our own efforts and without outside capital.” However, there was support for the founding from the University of Bayreuth, in financial terms also from the Oberfrankenstiftung.
Advice and contacts
“It was very important to always have a contact person, to get advice and contacts,” says the managing director today. Many university students have also been able to gain important experience as interns or working students at i-gb. Some are still part of the team today and have stayed in Bayreuth. Today i-gb is a successful company in the corporate fitness provider segment, works for over 500 companies (including around 50 in the Bayreuth region) and is number 5 in this market segment, which also includes companies that have over have large amounts of risk capital at their disposal. The offering for company employees has now been expanded to include individual sports such as swimming, jogging or cycling. Anyone who uploads proof of their activities to the app can look forward to a reward, for example a small voucher for supermarkets or online shops. Companies are happy to have committed employees who keep fit and promote their health. “Particularly striking is the story of an i-gb member who lost 25 kilos with the support of our app and trained for a marathon,” says Andreas Mendel happily. Certainly an isolated example, but surveys that Mendel cites say that 50 percent become more active with the i-gb’s offer. Maybe also because the i-gb program relies on voluntariness and not on finger-wagging.
What is important for companies is that 80 percent of those surveyed say that an employer is more attractive if it offers fitness.”
The i-gb can help in this way. And she will continue to do so. From Bavaria, the company wants to continue to grow beyond the borders. “We want to be the person a human resources manager thinks of when it comes to company health promotion,” says Andreas Mendel. They definitely want to keep their headquarters in Bayreuth. As the last owner-managed company fitness provider, they are particularly proud to have made it from a student idea into a successful company on their own.
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