What’s in a Pitchfest Entrepreneur? Meet the Finalists
— Step By Step Run Co. —
Iman Wilkerson, founder of Step By Step Run Co., shares how her company will change the way people travel and run through its mobile lifestyle app, PacePartner, which connects travelers and locals alike for running excursions worldwide.
What was the inspiration for starting your company, and how has it evolved?
During the winter of 2014, I was struggling to train for the Boston Marathon in Chicago. I didn’t have a “run buddy” to keep me accountable in the city that I just moved to. During that winter I had friends visit and asked if I could pace them on their runs while showing them around. I thought that if I was having a hard time training then people visiting Chicago must find it really challenging to carry over their lifestyle in a new city.
That’s when I had the idea.
But it wasn’t until I moved to San Diego that I acted on it.
In 2018 I started Step By Step Run, a running company that provides guided runs for people visiting San Diego, allowing people to run like a local and not like a tourist. We offer unique guided running tours through neighborhoods and the option to hire a local run buddy (PacePartner) to help pace them on training runs.
I marketed my services on AirBnB Experiences to build traction. I approached hotels to offer my services as a package for their guests but they didn’t see the value. To them, runners are autonomous and could get by with a running map around the hotel. But maps don’t ensure safety and don’t let you know that you made a wrong turn until you realize you’re lost.
So I decided to pivot and create an app to reach runners directly instead of waiting for hotels to “get it”. PacePartner is a mobile lifestyle app for runners to use while traveling or in their home city. Runners can dial into the local running community, hire a local run buddy to explore the city with, or find a race last minute. The app also gives runners the opportunity to get paid to pace runners in their area.
What is the mission and vision of your company? What does the future trajectory look like?
I want to change the way people travel and run by developing an app that caters to the lifestyle needs of a runner. I want PacePartner programs to be available in major cities in the US, allowing people to hire a PacePartner to get off the beaten path of their hotel, as well as to provide an element of safety when running in a new city.
Why did you apply for Pitchfest, and what are you hoping to get out of your experience?
I am in the early stages of this business, so I want to learn and absorb as much as I can from my peers and mentors. I am grateful for the opportunity to showcase my business and to receive feedback from industry leaders, outdoor enthusiasts, and runners.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned, thus far, in founding your company?
I heard that entrepreneurship was a lonely road, and the further I go down this entrepreneurial rabbit hole, the more I distance myself from friends who aren’t on this path. I had to find and develop a new network of people who are facing the same challenges as I am.
Also, I learned to be flexible and to know when to pivot from an original idea.
What did you not see coming, and how did you respond?
THIS. I did not think that I would have a company that would develop an app for runners. This was not in my plan. My background is in fashion and international business, but I have a passion for running, and I see an opportunity that I want to explore.
So, I am learning as I go along, trying to figure out what it takes to get from here to there. There’s a lot of research, listening to podcasts, talking to people, having patience and taking a leap of faith.
What’s your superpower? Listening.
Outdoor adventure of choice for daily release? Running with no agenda, no watch.
What book would you recommend? You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living An Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
Your number one outdoor hack? Keep those post marathon mylar blankets for camping!
One word that you think of when we say outdoors? V A S T N E S S
Pitchfest 2019 will commence on June 17 in Denver, CO. Register here.
Iman Wilkerson is the Founder/CEO of Step By Step Run which provides guided runs for people visiting San Diego. Iman has run seven marathons, is a five-time Boston Qualifier, and has accomplished a handful of other distances.