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Ready for a virtual workout

Anna Shuford (BA ’20, MBA ’22) had achieved what all young students hope to: she landed her dream summer internship, a marketing position at Madison Square Garden in 2019. But a few months later, the pandemic put a pause on all her big plans, and Shuford found herself at home exercising in her living room to pass the time.

Though not the summer she had planned, using household items as weights and taking virtual workout classes with her favorite instructors helped inspire the Tar Heel’s next move.

“After doing these virtual workout classes for a couple months, I grew frustrated with some aspects of the process, and I noticed the fitness instructors did, too,” said Shuford. “The payment process was chaotic. It was difficult to find the class links. Communication with the instructors was unclear, and the music quality was really poor.”

Rather than tolerating the inefficiencies of online workout classes, she channeled her frustrations into market research. She chatted with fitness instructors, gym goers, business owners and yogis, and came up with a solution that improved the live workout experience for everyone.

“What if there was a platform like Zoom, but completely built for fitness?” Shuford asked herself.

The Tar Heel’s new business, BOOMROOM, is exactly that: an online fitness platform that simplifies the process for fitness instructors teaching live virtual workouts. It provides scheduling, booking and payment tools for trainers, plus analytics, direct communication channels with their clients and integration with Spotify.

Even though Shuford always dreamed of owning a business, she found that it was much easier said than done.

Since returning to campus for her MBA studies, she has taken advantage of the startup support network in Chapel Hill to further develop BOOMROOM.

She contacted the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club, enrolled in a business ventures course called Startup UNC and joined Launch Chapel Hill, a startup accelerator and co-working space on Franklin Street. She also worked with mentors, classmates and industry professionals around the clock to build her business into what it is today.

“I’m in the engineering meetings. I’m in the marketing meetings. I’m in the legal meetings,” Shuford said. “Doing everything is really satisfying. I love being my own boss.”

Nearly the entire BOOMROOM team is composed of former or current Carolina students. A former Tar Heel basketball player became her software engineer, and Shuford’s former classmate is her full-time product manager.

“Being in school and starting your own business has so many perks because you get so many great mentors from different industries,” she said. “The UNC network can really help you out. If I were to try starting BOOMROOM after school, I would not have gotten where I am today. The people and teachers here are unbeatable. If there’s anything you don’t know, you can find it at UNC.”

Sarah Wood of UNC Communications wrote this story.