Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in marketing but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Amal Hantash, Founder of AHF, located in Kirkland, QC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We aim to offer our customers a variety of the latest fitness & bodybuilding wear. We’ve come a long way, so we know exactly which direction to take when supplying them with high-quality yet budget-friendly products. We offer all of this while providing excellent customer service and friendly support.
We always keep an eye on the latest trends in fitness & bodybuilding wear and put our customers’ wishes first. That is why we have satisfied customers all over the world and are thrilled to be a part of the fitness and bodybuilding wear industry.
Tell us about yourself
I have a vision for a successful, sustainable society that supports obesity prevention and offers broad opportunities for everyone to lead a healthy, productive life.
The epidemic of obesity in the United States has major human and societal costs, both now and for future generations. Obesity affects the entire childhood experience, predisposes adolescents to obesity in adulthood, and increases the risk of chronic illness and reduced quality of life and success in adulthood.
Currently, a majority of U.S. adults and a substantial proportion of children and adolescents have weight levels in the overweight or obese range. The percentage of people who are already obese translates to an estimated total of nearly 73 million adults and 12 million children and adolescents, and those overweight are likely to become obese if they gain weight over time. The United States is far from alone in facing the challenges of this epidemic. Many aspects of the epidemic and its causes reach across the globe.
An estimated 1.5 billion adults worldwide are overweight or obese, and the World Health Organization estimates that 35 million preschool children in developing countries and 43 million preschool children worldwide are overweight or obese. However, the nature of the factors causing this epidemic is such that the search for effective solutions must focus on specific drivers as they exist and operate within countries, regions, and localities.
I envision a society of healthy children, healthy families, and healthy communities in which all people realize their full potential and develop the competencies required to interact successfully with their surrounding environments.
So, I needed to introduce concepts of a systems perspective and of engagement and leadership as essential elements for achieving this vision. A clear vision is essential to guard against thinking about obesity prevention in isolation from the complex social and economic systems within which the determinants of obesity—physical activity and eating patterns—are embedded. Hence I created AHF.
The AHF focus was on how the process of change that is needed—and is in many respects already underway—can be accelerated. As a result, AHF introduced the following systems perspective.
- Building the awareness and will within households to influence the home environment and family dynamics positively with respect to physical activity and food choices is an essential part of changing the overall system. The reasons to foster will and action within households across the United States are especially clear in relation to the prevention of obesity in children. Children learn to assimilate their parents’ health-related behaviors at a young age.
Furthermore, parents act as decision makers for their children in the areas of physical activity and nutrition. An estimated 66 percent of the caloric intake of children and adolescents occurs within the home. Parents also serve as role models for their children, helping to shape physical activity values and behaviors, providing a sense of portion control and nutrient balance, and building related skills. For example, limiting children’s television time, using parental controls, and disallowing television in the bedroom can help reduce exposure to the marketing of unhealthy food products and reduce sedentary behavior.
- Providing mass communication that includes consistent positive messages supported by a science base, including research, data, and evidence, and repeated in a variety of venues.
- Putting huge emphasis on having access to a gym, and promoting such gym memberships, is a huge step towards transforming communities into healthy ones. Gyms play a key role in such transformation because they are the ultimate places to build and expand healthy communities. So it is essential to want them to multiply in our societies. As a result, I can see that today, gyms are becoming, more and more, the new lounges, the new 5-7, and the new morning gatherings destination.
- With the premise of "sport should make you feel good and not guilty for not being as expected," which was being fulfilled from my point of view, I restricted the AHF clothing size charts to the normal range. I believe this is a huge motivator to lose weight faster.
Because, beyond those people who go to the gym to continue shaping their perfect bodies, there is everyone else. Those who are trying to improve their physical condition but are overweight, those who are too thin and need muscle mass, or those who simply want to be healthier without worrying too much about their measurements or weight.
The point is: how do those normal people feel when they come to AHF shopping for sportswear? Because, despite being the vast majority, they find that this type of fashion is designed for an athletic and perfect minority. This generates an impressive desire to fit in those sizes and wear those items they adore. With the massive support from our “built-in site” knowledge base, they can fit in that sportswear in no time.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Explosive Growth: E-commerce has evolved into an established market worldwide basically.
The numbers tell the story, or at least a very large part of it: According to Statista, in 2017, an estimated 1.66 billion people worldwide purchased goods online. In addition to that astounding statistic, global ‘e-retail sales’ were estimated to have reached $2.3 trillion (US). That number will surpass $4.48 trillion (US) worldwide by 2021. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic also has a significant influence on e-commerce and online consumer behavior around the world.
As millions of people stayed home in early 2020 to contain the spread of the virus, digital channels have become the most popular alternative to crowded stores and in-person shopping. In June 2020, global retail e-commerce traffic stood at a record 22 billion monthly visits, with demand being exceptionally high for everyday items such as groceries, clothing, but also retail tech items.
Online to Offline Growth: Despite explosive growth in recent years, e-commerce still represents only about 11.9 percent of retail sales, although that is up from only 3.5 percent a decade ago. As a result, “online to offline” commerce is a trend to watch, as merchants strive to provide “shoppers with a digital experience that can match a distinctive in-store feel.”
Multi-Channel E-commerce: Mobile customers are expected to account for more than $400 billion in sales by 2022. and “multi-channel” sales, providing customers the ability to easily purchase goods through an array of avenues, will become ever-more important in the years ahead going forward. Successful online merchants will need to have an infrastructure that manages and maintains multi-channel retailing to help offset the inherent challenges of e-commerce sales.
E-commerce Automation: As technology continues to evolve, so too do the operational needs of online merchants. In addition to automated order fulfillment in the warehouse, ensuring that a business’ website is fully up-to-date with the latest technology, requiring minimal human involvement on a daily basis, will be vital to continued success for e-commerce companies.
Mobile E-commerce’s Growing Popularity: Mobile search offers huge opportunities for e-commerce merchants. According to data from Adobe, in 2017, on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday of that year, 30 percent of online sales closed through mobile devices. Although desktop is still far more popular for making e-commerce purchases, mobile is growing in popularity and should no longer be seen as just a method of allowing online customers to ‘browse.’
Opportunities in International E-commerce: A study by McKinsey suggests that e-commerce merchants may want to shift their sights to the Asia Pacific region when seeking out international sales opportunities. The study found that about 1.4 billion people will have joined the global ‘middle class’ by 2020, with 85 percent of that growth in the Asia Pacific region. Establishing local partnerships, familiarizing oneself with regional laws and customs, and ensuring strong, effective marketing will all be key elements to consider as e-commerce companies consider expanding internationally.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Economic challenges The economic challenges facing e-commerce merchants include the costs related to establishing an e-commerce business, the number of competing online merchants, issues connected with infrastructure upgrades, and the availability (or shortage) of skilled staff. Researchers point out that it’s estimated up to 90 percent of Internet host computers reside in high-income countries that are home to only 16 percent of the world’s population.
Technological challenges According to industry analysts, the primary technology-related challenges facing e-commerce businesses include security concerns, bandwidth availability, and integration with existing protocols. One of the realities of the explosive popularity of e-commerce is that it has also become a more attractive target for criminals. Put simply. More overall e-commerce activity also means greater security concerns.
In addition, with each new high-profile ‘hacking’ incident, consumer confidence in online retailing takes a ‘hit’ and further raises the importance of e-commerce security. Additionally, another challenge of e-commerce booming is the growing concern about the reliability of network infrastructure. Integrating Internet software with preexisting applications and databases presents another technology-related challenge. E-commerce technology continuously evolves, and integrating that new technology is not always an easy—or inexpensive—task.
Social challenges In recent years, consumers’ concern over issues such as privacy and sharing personal information has grown exponentially. Additionally, there are cultural differences that come into play when growing an e-commerce business beyond its native region. Unlike traditional merchants who were easily able to use language and marketing methods that played well with their target audience, online sellers have to take into consideration the fact that there are many linguistic, cultural, and social differences in their extended customer base. Any one of those differences has the potential to create stumbling blocks for e-commerce companies in their efforts to develop long-term ‘relationships’ with a broad customer base.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
I’d tell them to do it! But keep their day job as long as possible and save as much as they possibly can. Also, get comfortable with the fundamentals of marketing, sales, and product development before you get distracted by flashy technology. If you don’t have the fundamentals dialed in, once your business takes off, it can get ahead of you, and it’s really hard to reel in.
I encourage them not to be afraid of starting small. Don’t invest too much in any given path before testing it. Know that you will need to pivot in some way.
Listen and learn from your customers. There’s nothing more important than the customer experience. From the moment they get to your site, navigate through it, seek answers, make a purchase, receive the product, and ask for assistance along the way, being laser-focused on the customer is the key to building a trusted brand and loyal following.
Beyond constant improvement and change for change’s sake, you have to study the customer journey and make decisions based on what you find. Plan carefully. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-time entrepreneur or have owned an online business before. You should develop a thoughtful business plan that includes a thorough understanding of the competitive landscape.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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