Chris Downie of SparkPeople
When and why did you start your business?
I started SparkPeople.com in 2000 as a way to give back and help other people reach their goals using health and fitness as a springboard for all areas of life.
Did you consider yourself an entrepreneur before that?
Yes, the first company I co-founded (Up4Sale) grew into eBay's leading competitor in the late 1990s and became eBay's first acquisition just prior to its IPO. One exciting point about Up4Sale is that everything happened in Cincinnati. I know there are many great people in Ohio who can continue leading the way with big entrepreneurship wins.
Where did you find your first employee?
Our first employee was a former friend at the University of Cincinnati.
What’s the most difficult thing about running your own business?
I'd say the toughest part of being an entrepreneur is that it's almost impossible to not be working. When it's your company, you're always hinking about the next steps to take to keep driving the company forward. This is great, but can also cause some stress.
What’s the best thing?
The best thing about being an entrepreneur is having a blank slate and being able to write your own story for the most part.
What has contributed most to your growth?
Our number one source of growth comes from existing members using the site and then spreading the word to their social communities. We get thousands of new members every single day from word-of-mouth.
What companies or founders do you admire and why?
I have a great deal of admiration for Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, and Jeff Skoll, the first president of eBay. I love that they are both actively involved in for-profit social entrepreneurship companies even after eBay -- continuing to work for positive change. I also admire companies like Disney that have been able to continually thrive with new types of platforms and distribution channels while also staying true to their roots and values.