Hoya Highlight: Neda Talebian Funk (C'01)

Neda Talebian Funk

CEO and Co-Founder of FITIST

Describe your current position and what led you to your job:

After graduating from Georgetown in 2001, I went to work at Bear Stearns as an equity analyst focusing on the retail sector. I learned the ins and outs of retail businesses while establishing a foundation in finance. After a few years of long hours at the office and many trips to the mall, I decided to go to business school to further develop my knowledge in business, retail and finance while exploring other career paths. I spent several years after business school working and consulting in strategy and marketing roles for fashion and luxury companies, including Oscar de la Renta, Chanel, La Prairie and Gilt Groupe, among others. While I’d always wanted to start my own business, it wasn’t until I felt that I had gained enough experience in the corporate world, found the right partner and, of course, the right idea, that I actually decided to take the plunge and do it. Fitness and wellness have always been part of my DNA, so it was just a matter of time before I ended up working in the space.

FITiST.com was born as a result of the increasing need for a one-stop resource for the best of the best in fitness and wellness. We reinvent the traditional gym membership, aggregating memberships to the top-tier boutique fitness studios and wellness services on a centralized online booking platform. As CEO and co-founder of FITiST, I have been involved in every aspect of the business from its inception and currently focus on business development, partner relations and finance.

What has been the most rewarding moment in your career?

I’d have to say turning the switch on and going live with our site. I’ve had many entrepreneurial ideas throughout the years but having an idea and actually launching a business are two very different things. It took a lot of sweat (literally), hours and hours of missed sleep, and even some tears, but I am very proud of the site and the brand that my partners have built. I am even more excited about what lies ahead for us.

What is the best career advice you have received?

Do something you are passionate about and surround yourself with a team that you want to work with day in and day out.

What would you recommend to someone interested in working in your field?

If you are used to a field that provides structure, predictability and stability, being an entrepreneur may not necessarily be the right path for you. A start-up requires you to act outside your area of comfort, accept when things are not perfect, work long and irregular hours, have no income for a while, and be squeezed by your vendors, challenged by your partners and have no idea where your business will go and whether it will succeed. It’s not all doom and gloom, but taking this path requires having a tough skin, confidence, a strong work ethic and a mission.

What challenges have you faced and how did you successfully manage one situation?

My partners and I have built a site that is fairly complicated. It integrates with more than 100 different boutique fitness studio online booking schedules. Not surprisingly, we have faced some technical glitches from time to time. Our main priority in such situations is to make sure our customer is happy. We make ourselves accessible to our customers 24/7.

What skills are necessary or what prepared you the most for your career?

I’ve always been a hard worker, but I think my days as an analyst at Bear Stearns helped develop a work ethic and drive to succeed that I continue to benefit from today.