At Northwest PersonalTraining you’ll find a number of important mantras, any of which reflect the focus of this fitness studio serving Washington and Oregon. One, “Looking good, feeling great and living life to the fullest,” could describe the magic of the studio’s annual Girlfriends Half Marathon, the proceeds of which go toward breast cancer research. We recently spoke with Shantina Fox, the event’s registration manager, to learn more about Girlfriends and how their work with ACTIVE Network has helped make it a success.
Q&A with Shantina Fox, Registration Manager, Girlfriends Half Marathon
How did the Girlfriends Half Marathon begin?
It all started in 2007, when one of our clients, Joleen, discovered she had breast cancer. At the time, Sherri (McMillan, owner of the studio) had wanted to do the San Francisco Half Marathon, only to find that it was sold out. So she decided to put together her own Half Marathon, which also allowed her to fulfill another goal: to do something positive on behalf of Joleen. We had more people than we’d prepared for that first year – over 400 – and every year it just gets bigger. In 2011 we had 3200 participants.The 2012 event is being capped at 3500.
What made you decide to align with ACTIVE Network?
ACTIVE has a great reputation and excellent outreach, which enables us to market our event outside of our immediate community of Vancouver, Washington. Plus, we knew we didn’t want to have to manually enter registrations, take payments, get waivers signed and analyze data. ACTIVE Network makes the whole registration process extremely efficient, letting us allocate our time to other things.
What other aspects does ACTIVE Network’s software help with?
We get donations from the community as well as participants. Last year we raised over $70,000; 100 percent of the profit is given to the Oregon and Southwest Washington Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, the world’s largest and most progressive grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists. Without automated management of donations and other event details, it would be near impossible; plus the time saved on registration management alone allows us to focus on those things that make Girlfriends not just an event, but a memorable experience.
raised to benefit charity
For instance, we have onsite vendors, including massage therapists who provide post-event complementary sessions. We even provide complementary chocolates. And every year we have a special, custom-designed necklace created (it’s a different design yearly) that firemen place around the neck of participants at the finish line. We also have Girl Scouts there to give out water bottles. We get hundreds of people here from surrounding areas and over a thousand from out of town. We’re now working with Vancouver tourism to get discounted hotel rates, restaurant and shopping specials. Keeping track of all those details would be overwhelming without ACTIVE.
How does ACTIVE help you get participants?
It’s hard to find anything that compares to ACTIVE Network.Their site is user friendly and perfect for people who want to participate in our kind of event; plus everyone knows them. And because everything can be done online, it eliminates the need for participants to come to the studio and sign a waiver, etc. Out of 3200 participants in our last event only 115 were not online registrations. People really like that they can register from home.They want that convenience. It’s a great time saver for them.
How much time do you think working with ACTIVE saves you?
Well, I did the math on it and for just my time – and everyone at the studio works on the event – an additional 152 work hours would have been needed without ACTIVE Network (not to mention some 3200 pieces of paper to keep track of)! We often get other companies contacting us in the hope that we’ll give them our business, but really, no one can compare.
Do you run reports with the software?
We run a number of reports using the ACTIVE Network database, including reports for use with the timing company. Every bib is personalized with the participant’s name, so this is important. It also helps us track shirt sizes. And any time there’s been a question about the best way to utilize the software, ACTIVE Network reps have been great.
What are the top features of the software that you rely on?
I’d say the biggest race software tool is the search and edit aspect, where we can go in and edit registration information as needed. It allows us to transfer and defer registration, which we do up until a month prior to the event. We opened registration for the 2012 event on January 9; we know things change in that kind of a time period, whether it’s running injuries, travel schedules or whatnot.This way, when I get an email or a call about a change, I can just go into the system and make it.
Do you use the email tools?
Oh yes! We send out motivational emails, tips and advice about training for the event, and information about local hotels and other things those who are coming from out of town might be interested in. We also use the email aspect for volunteers. We have teams of volunteers that come year after year.
What has your experience been like with customer support?
I love ACTIVE’s customer support! If I can’t get in touch with our rep, the customer service desk can answer any question and they are really quick to respond. Usually the very first person I speak with can help and I’m off the phone in just a few minutes.
Why do you think the event continues to grow as it does?
I think there are a couple of factors at work. First, word of mouth is huge when it comes to Komen events. And once someone participates they are so jazzed about it – and all the perks we provide – that they come back. We have a lot of repeat business.They bring their kids, their families, their friends. Everyone has a blast. And Joleen still participates. Her bib says #1 and it will always be hers.The other aspect is ACTIVE. They are the resource for people interested in an active lifestyle: racing, biking, you name it. So being affiliated with them is always going to help our cause.
What are your plans for the future?
We are implementing a great thing for the 2012 event: Pink Skort Guys. We are opening the race to 50 special guys who can participate in the event for a $1000 fee.That money will go directly to the cause, so we could raise an additional $50,000! We’ll also ask these special guys to wear pink in some way, to support the cause and show off their ‘inner girlfriend.’ It should be really fun.
Would you recommend ACTIVE Network to others?
I do recommend ACTIVE to others. I had someone call a while ago who was interested in putting on an event, asking how we do it, etc. I told her to look at ACTIVE.com where she could learn how to do it all.
“(ACTIVE is) the resource for people interested in an active lifestyle: racing, biking, you name it. So being affiliated with them is always going to help our cause.”
Registration Manager, Girlfriends Half Marathon