Xavier Magazine

The Main Spark

Each January, the number of visitors to the web site nearly doubles.

“People make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and that’s when our numbers increase between 50 and 100 percent,” says Dave Heilmann, a 2003 MBA graduate and the company’s chief executive officer.

SparkPeople offers a variety of ways to lose weight and “live healthy.” And its offerings are so popular it’s the fifth biggest health web site in the world with 100 million page views and 3 million visitors a month. The web site presents a lot of information in a friendly way.

“We try to keep things positive,” says Heilmann. “Sometimes, losing weight can be sort of a negative experience if you’re just depriving yourself. So we try to make it kind of fun and positive to make it a better experience. We find that leads to a program you’ll ultimately stick to.”

SparkPeople offers diets, calorie counters, meal plans, fitness programs and exercises. Web site visitors can also join online “communities,” sort of like a Weight Watchers version of Facebook or MySpace, where dieters can get support and motivation from others.

“People join teams and write logs,” says Heilmann. “Our community is there for support.” SparkPeople also offers localized web sites in 50 cities that makes it easy for local people to meet and support each other.

SparkPeople was started in 2001 by several people who worked at and began as a goal-setting site. When a lot of visitors’ goals involved living healthier lives, the site morphed into a fitness and nutrition center. The site at one time was a paid subscription site, but is now completely free.

The company is headquartered in Cincinnati with 25 employees and makes a profit through advertisers that promote healthy foods and fitness products.

“We know we’re helping millions of people change their lives for the better,” says Heilmann. “We receive amazing success stories every day. People lose weight, lower their cholesterol and are able to spend more time with their kids and grandkids—lots of things like that. We feel we’re making a pretty big impact on people’s lives.”

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