Meet Sarah Hartwick

Innovators |

Sarah HartwickInnovator of the Week  

Sarah Hartwick
Training Director & Brand Manager at SURFSET Fitness, Inc.




Please provide your 30-second pitch about your company.

Surfset FitnessSURFSET Fitness is the world’s first surf-inspired fitness program. We designed and developed the RipSurfer X, a stationary surfboard designed to simulate the experience of being on the water while in the gym or at home. We sell our patented surfboard product into fitness centers worldwide, certify Trainers in our proprietary group fitness method, and license the brand name SURFSET to over 350 locations in more than 30 countries.


Who or what was your best resource for starting your company?

In starting SURFSET, the best resources I had were my two co-founders, Mike Hartwick and Bill Ninteau. They were able to design and build prototypes of our original vision without using an engineering firm or seeking any outside help. We self-funded to construct the prototypes and bring them to New York City for market research, at which point the idea was so wildly popular that we found ourselves surfing a massive wave of media attention! We were featured on Good Morning America, the Martha Stewart Show, in the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times before we even had a business plan. The vision may never have been brought to life without the hands-on expertise of my co-founders, as we did not have enough capital to have it professionally developed.


What was your biggest obstacle in starting your company and how did you overcome it?

Surfset ClassesThe biggest obstacle for SURFSET was trying to keep up with demand. While it is certainly a good problem to have, it can also create a lot of challenges for a very small company to try to scale globally without the proper infrastructure. The only way we overcame this obstacle was to learn to say ‘no’ at times and to focus our limited resources on doing one thing very well, rather than trying to do everything. We implemented technology to help scale our Training program without creating a logistical nightmare, and that has streamlined our businesses processes immensely.


What’s the best advice you have received?

I was fortunate enough to have two wonderful mentors here in New Hampshire who helped provide perspective to my team each time we became overwhelmed. Steve and Ellen Vail believed in our concept and believed in us. They were also great at reminding me that the world was not going to end and the company was not going to come crashing down every time we faced an obstacle. As an entrepreneur, it is easy to have your whole life wrapped up in your company; your passion can get in the way of making calm, rational decisions. To have someone who has ‘been there, done that’ motivating me to keep pushing forward made a tremendous difference.


What about the NH lifestyle appeals to you?

New Hampshire’s ‘live free or die’ spirit fits perfectly with the lifestyle of an entrepreneur seeking to take a risk and build something great. I love New Hampshire for all of its natural beauty, and for the small-town feel that you cannot find in large cities like New York or Boston. Part of the NH advantage is also the connectedness of our communities. We also have an incredibly accessible government and a renewed focus on innovation from the top down that helps entrepreneurs thrive here.


What does the future look like for your company?

Surfset Indoor ClassesSURFSET will continue to grow our training & licensing model globally, aiming to expand into 100 more US locations and ten new countries this year. We hope to hold our position as one of the most cutting-edge fitness programs in the industry by focusing on creative programming and innovative inbound marketing strategies.


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