From the left: GFIT Wellness Partner, Chief Strategic Officer, Arturo Orellana and GFIT Founder, CEO, Grant Reid.
When Arturo Orellana visited Winnipeg from sunny Spain 15 years ago as an international student holding a law degree and a master’s in management and marketing, he didn’t expect to stay more than a year.
But Winnipeg is where he met his future wife and the city is now his home.
It would still be many years before Arturo would become a partner in Winnipeg-based GFIT Wellness—an online fitness coaching company that recently expanded to a more holistic mandate of physical, mental, and emotional wellness consulting—and leverage WIL Digital to accelerate its growth.
Arturo’s professional journey started with the realization that law wasn’t his calling. The couple moved to Spain shortly after they met, where Arturo worked for 10 years on a cultural project called Disfruta Madrid Mas. This collaborative effort helped make Madrid one of the top destinations for international students in Europe.
“We created a platform with [Madrid] City Hall, Madrid Tourism, and local universities that catalogued all the art institutions, restaurants, theatres, and cultural events to help international students become locals and enjoy our city and culture to the fullest, so they would become the best ambassadors of Madrid when they returned home,” Arturo says.
The skills he acquired from this elaborate online marketing platform became the backbone of Arturo’s marketing and business know-how when the couple then returned to Winnipeg five years ago. Adding to that his entrepreneurial drive, he founded Culture Card, a tech company that showcased the best of Winnipeg.
“From day one, I fell in love with this city, with its sense of community. I wanted to help Winnipeg be even better,” he says. “Culture Card was basically an app that provided information about everything that’s going on in Winnipeg while also organizing really cool events featuring the talent of local artists and celebrating multiculturalism, arts, and culture in Winnipeg.”
Arturo’s knack for business development and networking (he collaborated with thousands of artists in the first year for Culture Card and won awards for best marketing and community engagement campaigns by Tourism Winnipeg and the Government of Manitoba) caught the attention of tech company SkipTheDishes, which hired him for the role of strategic partnerships and community engagement.
That year-long marketing stint with SkipTheDishes rounded out Arturo’s knowledge of the Canadian market and ultimately led him to GFIT.
In October 2019, he became a business partner in the company, with an inspired vision to expand GFIT’s coaching and consulting into the corporate wellness sector.
“We rebranded GFIT inside and out to move from an online fitness company to an online wellness company. We designed a new website that showcases our new holistic approach and started hiring registered professionals, such as dietitians, social workers, clinical counselors, etc. We also started collaborating with institutions such as the Canadian Mental Health Association and Canadian Cancer Society to run different wellness initiatives.”
Eight months in as partner in GFIT, the company is blooming. Its client base is one of the fastest growing in Canada, its staff has swelled to 20, and it is launching corporate wellness programs across the country.
“Many companies are looking for something they can offer to their employees beyond a traditional benefits package, especially post COVID-19. Most employees only use their benefit plans when they get sick, but our approach promotes the opposite: our proactive program allows their employees to take action right away—all while having a group of coaches guide them every step of the way and provide them with the accountability that they need to start building a healthier and happier lifestyle.”
A collaboration with Winnipeg’s Red River College accelerated GFIT’s work on a new app that highlights the company’s eight pillars of wellness: physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, social, environmental, occupational and intellectual. Red River College also provides GFIT with an office, access to mentors, research experts, and students to help develop the app.
“This is where ICTC also plays a role. We brought on a more senior student through the WIL Digital student work placement program and the results have been amazing,” Arturo says.
That WIL Digital student worked as a software programmer on the wellness app and has since been hired full time.
“We’re now planning to add six to 10 WIL Digital students in the next month,” Arturo says. “WIL Digital is an unbelievably effective program! Every tech employer should be jumping on this program.”