Switch2Health: Jane Austin and Samantha Durkin

Switch2Health: Jane Austin and Samantha Durkin


Getting out of corporate

Samantha Durkin spent her years in the corporate world thinking up ways to launch her own business. She left her job in 2010 and began consulting with clients privately. “I was working from home, assisting clients with brand activations and their marketing campaigns.” She had met most of these clients during her corporate years, but still, this was a stop-gap. She was looking for her ‘big idea’.

The big idea

As it turns out, that big idea was a new health product called Switch2Health that was designed to make people in the US more active. “I was ferociously reading about exciting new products, and this struck a chord. I was interested in health and wellness, it’s a great product, and I believed I could really make a difference in South Africa with it as well.” The product was actually named one of Entrepreneur US’s 100 Brilliant Companies in 2011.

Bouncing around ideas

At this point Samantha’s sister, Jane, entered the story as a sounding board for Samantha’s ideas. “We worked on the business proposal for S2H together,” says Jane. “At this point we hadn’t even discussed my joining the company, but we were having a great time conceptualising what the business would look like, and securing a licence agreement with the product holders in the US.”

Launching locally

S2H agreed to give Samantha exclusive rights to the product in South Africa, and for her to operate under the Switch2Health name. She used her own savings, money she was making from her consultancy, as well as an investment from a family member to be able to launch with enough inventory.

Two partners

By August 2011 Samantha had done her market research, had a number of corporate sponsors onboard who liked the idea and wanted to offer loyalty rewards, and was ready to launch officially. Jane resigned from her own corporate position to join the business full time. In October Switch2Health officially launched in South Africa.

The customer model

A pedometer or a wrist band measures your steps or time spent being active respectively. Targets need to be reached in order to receive a code that equates to points and these points can be swapped for rewards.

For consumers, a once-off purchase fee gets them the product, and thereafter reward codes are entered onto the Switch2Health website and can be exchanged for discounts and vouchers. Reward partners already include Woolworths, NetFlorist and NetGifts, iPad and Xbox, as well as the MTN Lions and more.

Focused on corporates

Schools and corporates can set up personalised websites with challenges and leader boards that get everyone active and build team spirit. While the product is retailed to corporates and schools at a discount, a monthly fee is charged to manage a personalised website. “Corporates can sponsor schools as well,” says Jane. “The idea is to get South Africa active, and to make it fun at the same time.”

Going forward

Samantha and Jane have big plans for Switch2Health. Eventually they hope to create inter-school competitions and even use reward codes to help corporates donate funds to underprivileged schools. “We respect things we have earned more than things that are simply given to us,” says Samantha.

“This is a way for underprivileged children to actively participate in the funding their schools receive. It gives them something to work towards and be proud of, while being active at the same time.”

Vital stats

Players: Jane Austin and Samantha Durkin

Company: Switch2Health

Launched: October 2011

Concept: Motivating people to get active through use of activity trackers and an online reward programme

Contact: +27 (0)71 892 8487; info@switch2health.co.za; switch2health.com

Nadine Todd
Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.