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James and Nerissa Zhang
James and Nerissa Zhang, pictured here with their three kids, launched The Bright App in September 2019 to connect fitness trainers with clients and services. Courtesy photo
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Carlsbad couple takes on fitness through app

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CARLSBAD — The fitness industry is undergoing big changes and one of those is in part thanks to one local couple.

James and Nerissa Zhang used their strengths and experience to build a mobile app to help people continue their workouts, while also acting as a connection for trainers to expand their client base. All this was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For nearly three months, though, gyms and workout facilities were closed due to the pandemic, but the Zhangs saw an opportunity to expand their user base for The Bright App. The company has acquired 2,000 users since September.

“I never went to the gym until I met my wife,” James Zhang said. “She was complaining every week about how tedious it is to do something like bill her clients. I looked at the problem and came up with a solution.”

James Zhang is a software engineer and entrepreneur who once worked at Google and built more than 40 apps, including the YouTube app. Nerissa, meanwhile, is a fitness trainer who owns two gyms in San Francisco, where the couple met before moving to Carlsbad, and she is the CEO of The Bright App.

Last fall, though, she saw a chance to help trainers expand their client base outside of contracting with brick-and-mortar gyms. Additionally, the Zhangs focused on taking less of a cut of that revenue compared with gyms, which can run between 40% to 50% of a trainer’s revenue.

The Zhangs charge just 4% for fees to trainers, thus allowing them to take home more income.

Leaning on her personal experience and James Zhang’s skills developing apps, the couple launched The Bright App and have since been aggressive in connecting individuals with trainers as the pandemic forced at-home workouts.

They also certify their trainers who are looking to build out their clientele. Currently, there are 11 verified trainers connecting with clients, a group that includes an Olympic silver medalist and professional MMA fighter.

“We introduced the marketplace two weeks ago to address the problem of gyms being closed and connecting trainers with clients,” Nerissa Zhang said. “This app the was a B2B (business to business) tool first and now it allows clients to find you.”

As gyms reopen, though, Nerissa Zhang said the new protocols in place will not allow for large-scale attendance, thus leaving members and trainers looking for new ways to stay connected.

Through the marketplace feature, clients and trainers can do virtual sessions through Zoom or other video integrations. Additionally, the app also streamlines the business end for trainers, such as scheduling, billing and payments.

“Virtual training is great because it’s super convenient,” Nerissa Zhang said. “You can keep your coach forever. Before, this was not possible. When I travel, I can still use my trainer.”