SAMANTHA DURKIN, CEO & Co-founder of Switch2Health

Goal: To create a culture where physical activity is not only healthy, but also fun and socially desirable.

Business model:

Studies show that two thirds of the South African population is either overweight or obese, of which 20% are children. With these statistics in mind, Durkin bought into the Switch2Health programme– a wellness programme that originated in the United States and designed to get kids and adults more active by incentivising healthy living – in 2010. 

A person’s activity is measured by pedometer or a wristband tracker that generates reward codes for every 10 000 steps taken or for every 60 minutes of physical exercise. Reward codes can be exchanged for discounts and vouchers with rewards partners that include Woolworths, Xbox, Apple and the MTN Lions.

Durkin says their current target market is schools to encourage more children to become active from an early age as well as corporates.

Funding it:

Durkin was fortunate to avoid bank loans as she bought the exclusive rights to promote the product in South Africa, with her life savings and an investment by a family member. 

Marketing tools:

Switch2Health utlises social media platforms Facebook and Twitter to promote the programme and engage users on the latest industry developments and new reward partners through their website.

Durkin’s top business tip:

·       Have a clear idea of what you want to do and what you want to achieve when starting a business. The plan may change along the way and that’s ok.



On a social level Durkin is a confident person who doesn’t over think things.

She just needs to find a way to translate her confident personal behavior into her business behavior.


Durkin lacks self confidence and a lot of her self worth is invested in other people. She’s also being held back because of her fear of rejection.

She says ‘should’ often. Saying the words should, must and try should be avoided. Try is a cop out that we often say to make ourselves feel better.

Developmental areas:

·       Durkin is currently feeling overwhelmed by the different balls she’s juggling as a business owner working alone. Whenever she’s feeling frantic about something she needs to remember to stop and breathe. It calms you down and brings you into your body. When you’re in your body you’re not in your past or future, which is where we carry most of our anxiety.

·       Listen to your intuition, which speaks to you in the silence. Find time to be quiet and to connect your intuition with your body.

·       Durkin needs to start a relationship with her body in the sense that your body carries a lot of wisdom and it communicates with you in ways most people don’t realize. There’s an intelligence to your body and often it knows things that are not of the mind, your body knows what is wrong and what is right.

·       Durkin is who she wants to be sometimes, but not all the time. To be that person you want to be it’s useful to learn how to get things to come to you which isn’t as easy. It sounds lazy, but it has more to do with her embodying the energy that makes those things attractive to her. Often if you are very clear about what’s important to you, your passion, you’ll find things come to you and there’s no hard work involved.


What impressed him:

·       As a start up business trying to establish itself in the market I thought it was clever business acumen for Durkin and Austin to join forces with a well-known name in fitness health circles to create the three-month SWITCH Challenge with Lisa Raleigh. Attaching their brand to an established brand (Raleigh) will help propel and grow their brand. ‘Piggybacking’ is the quickest way to finding new customers.

·       Self funding the business meant that Durkin was able to dodge high interest rates on a bank loan. It also demonstrated her will to make the business work because she took a risk by putting up her own financing.

·       Durkin has a good financial model in that she’s set up an annuity income through monthly subscription payments as opposed to a once off payment fee. Entrepreneurs need to figure out and adopt the best model for their business that’s going to make money when they’re not there.

Challenges faced

·       Being the new kids on the block, so to speak, means Durkin faces major barriers to entry and the onus is on her to convince consumers that their product is effective, both in terms of cost and benefits. Key to this is her ability to sell the socks off their products, but she hasn’t solidified her sales or elevator pitch. If you don’t have a single message or hook you don’t have a business.

·       Durkin doesn’t like picking up the phone and making those cold calls which is killing her business.

Developmental areas

·       Durkin is a technical entrepreneur and often these kinds of entrepreneurs forget that the product needs to be sold because their focus is developing and implementing systems. She needs to identify and formulate a hook for her business so that she can sell the impact (the result) she’s creating with her product.

·       Durkin needs to learn to focus on one thing at a time. She has many ideas for growing the business, which as an entrepreneur is fantastic, but she’s stumbling because she’s trying to do too many things at once.

Gaining perspective from the masters

Durkin on Msimango:

Friends and family see my positive traits, but I haven’t. I tend to put myself on a lower pedestal because you don’t want to seem arrogant, but it’s not about being arrogant it’s about being who you are and claiming your strengths.

Durkin on Phokaners:

I know that I am all over the place in terms of my focus. Because I run a business on my own I find myself trying to do everything at once. I’ve learnt that to stay focused I need to make sure I’m continually communicating with my mentors to maintain a balance. 

To read about more entrepreneurs who underwent business clinics go to page 162 of the July issue of DESTINY