Lancaster startup pivots to new market

A Lancaster startup is taking a new tack in distributing its product, an app that helps people improve their health through better eating, sleeping and exercising.

The company, Fizika Group LLC, had focused on senior-living communities, said its founder, Martha Lester Harris. But the communities often have their own resources, like gyms and fitness programs, for promoting health.

Now, the company is targeting Medicare insurers and providers of affordable housing, which may be looking for tools to help members and residents stay healthy.

Martha Lester Harris is founder and CEO of Fizika Group LLC. (SUBMITTED)

“It’s an evolution of where our product is needed,” said Harris, who began canvassing affordable-housing providers last year.

The evolution is getting a test this summer through a pilot study undertaken in partnership with HDC MidAtlantic, a Lancaster-based developer of affordable housing.

HDC is planning to enroll up to 24 residents at two apartment complexes in Lancaster city, King Theatre and Duke Manor. While HDC’s basic mission is to provide housing, the nonprofit also works to promote health and wellness among its residents, said Deborah Gable, director of resident services for HDC, which operates 57 communities with nearly 3,700 apartments in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.

“Particularly in senior housing, one of the goals is to help people age in place successfully,” Gable said. During the pilot, residents will set and seek to achieve their own health goals.

“We have lots of senior communities and people of all ages that could benefit from it,” Gable said of the app.

The King Theatre apartment building in Lancaster city is one of the sites where residents will be using the Fizikaflex app. (SUBMITTED)

How it works

Fizika Group’s app, Fizikaflex, allows people to track their food consumption, sleeping time, water intake and exercise. It can sync with fitness trackers made by Fitbit.

A screenshot of the Fizikaflex app (SUBMITTED)

Harris based the app on her research into the impact of nutrition and activity on cognitive decline in older people. Positive behavior can slow or halt decline, potentially preventing strokes and other medical problems. The app encourages seniors to improve their health through friendly competitions, lending it a social dimension.

HDC decided to give the app a try based on input from residents who were interested in programs to improve health in an encouraging group setting.

“It was a really great match,” Gable said.

First, HDC needs to enroll residents, not all of whom have access to wifi or smartphones, Gable said. Some Spanish-speaking residents may face language barriers.

HDC is working with Harris to translate material and create ways that people can track their activity offline.

The year-long pilot is being supported by a $4,000 grant from a Washington, D.C.-based housing nonprofit called NeighborWorks America.

What is Fizika

Harris, a former official with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, founded Fizika in 2010 after a previous entrepreneurial venture. 

Fizika’s initial focus was the education market. Backed by brain science, the company works with teachers, families and students to apply strategies that boost children’s cognitive, social and emotional development.

Fizika branched into the senior market in 2018 after Harris graduated from a Harrisburg-based startup accelerator called Catamaran. The accelerator is operated by Harrisburg technology design firm AndCulture.

Also in 2018, Harris created a holding company called b_Fizika. It is a Pennsylvania Benefit Corporation, a government designation for companies that embrace social and environmental responsibilities in addition to a financial bottom line. 

By Joel Berg, editor of BizNewsPA

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