Nerissa Zhang

Co-Founder of The Bright App

Nerissa Zhang is co-founder and CEO of The Bright App, the convenient mobile app that helps top fitness instructors, personal trainers and studio owners run more efficient, predictable and profitable businesses from the palm of their hand.

Zhang is an elite trainer, a USAW Certified Sports Performance Coach and an owner of two private gyms in San Francisco. In 2019, she took her 10 years of experience training clients and managing multiple gyms and launched The Bright App to solve the industry’s time-consuming challenges and inefficiencies in scheduling and billing.

Zhang has grown the company into a leading fitness management app trusted by thousands of top fitness instructors, studio owners, personal trainers and their clients. Zhang continues to own and operate Golden State Barbell Club, a premier training facility for Olympic weightlifting and strength training, and Bunny Barbell Club, a private weightlifting and training gym for women.

Zhang holds a BA from San Francisco State University. She resides in California with her husband and three young boys and enjoys powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, martial arts, and yoga.

Where did the idea for The Bright App come from?

My husband wanted me to spend more time with the family and less on my phone working with clients. I was working as a gym owner, fitness coach and personal trainer, and I was so encumbered by the endless routine of scheduling/rescheduling, billing, and accepting payments. It was difficult to retain those things myself as well as keeping my clients on the same page. It occurred to us one day that with James’ tech background, he could take my hurdles and pain points and translate them all into a simple phone app that my clients and I could use. And if I could use it for my business, everyone else in the business could surely benefit from it also!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

We wake up, eat breakfast with the family and set the tone for the day. We are scheduled and structured with our business and family life—because it’s important that we are present for all of it. We delegate where our input is not needed directly, but review and approve work that is done on our behalf in order to keep on track with our goals, mission and messaging. We live by our calendars, with our family time built in with priority focus, and even when it’s challenging we try to remain flexible in both areas.

How do you bring ideas to life?

My husband and I work really well together so we brainstorm a lot and we draw up detailed plans right away. We strategize what is worth our focus now, have a ticker system of projects that are on the back burner, and a someday file of projects that we’re not sure will ever see the light of day again.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Personal Trainers being fulfilled in doing what they love. Personal trainers owning their client relationships and creating their own studios, or partnering with other like-minded professionals. Personal Trainers having other options besides working for big box gyms.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

A strong work ethic and reliability. I always follow through. If I say I will do it, I do it. People learn quickly they can count on me.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Stay on the Lord’s path, for He loves you more than anyone else does.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Preventive health is the best way to save lives. If you start focusing your income on training with good trainers, you can free yourself and body from pain. In the last 100 years we have changed the way we work, eat and live, and it’s come with so many health issues that can be avoided.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I always make sure I am serving the customer. I consistently do what I can to serve the users, the team, gym members, etc. Often we get caught up in the bottom-line, and while we can’t lose site of the bottom-line, we can’t forget why we started the business in the first place. A business should originate to fix a problem and serve a need. Always check-in with yourself and make sure you are still doing that.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

We continue to innovate and listen to our users. With their feedback, we grow and develop a more robust, dynamic product that evolves to accommodate how our users work.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’ve had previous businesses fail because of my lack of belief in my own leadership. I currently make sure I make decisions with confidence, and even if I make a mistake, I revisit the cause/effect and try to learn what I can from it. I’ve learned trust my own business instinct, which allows others to trust me as their leader.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A comedy catering company. Serve good food cooked in fun designs and tell good jokes to entertain.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A fancy stroller for my baby boy so he can sleep comfortably during naptime.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Slack is great because my entire team is remote.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Federalist Papers. It’s a collection of over 80 essays and articles by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. I think Americans stopped reading good books lately.

What is your favorite quote?

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:10

Key Learnings:

  • Balance family and career with a schedule. It’s worth scheduling both, but being flexible.
  • For best results, tie your beliefs into your business. If you believe so strongly that fitness/preventative health is essential, you probably have a natural bent for fitness, health and wellness industries.
  • Why believing in yourself is critical. Until you have faith in your own strengths (such as leadership), others will not follow very long.
  • Work with someone who ignites a fire in you, someone with whom you can brainstorm. Two heads are better than one.
  • Be reliable and consistent.