Young CEO credits Pi Kappa Phi as foundation for rise to success

Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity alumnus Mark Springer is making a name for himself in the health, fitness and nutrition world. As the founder and CEO of Avatar Nutrition, the 2011 initiate of the Beta Omicron Chapter at Northwestern State University is utilizing 8 years of firsthand experience helping people overcome frustrations in the world of health and fitness.

Earlier this year Avatar Nutrition launched an app that aims to change the way society looks at food by eliminating shame and struggle. Their motto is “Eat what you want. Feel great about it. Period.”

We recently sat down with Springer to why Mark has made it his mission to help people positively transform their bodies by adjusting their diet. Can you tell me a little more about Avatar Nutrition?

Mark Springer: The whole reason why Avatar exists in the first place is because the health and fitness industry is broken, and has been failing, and even taking advantage of the people who need what it promises. This is because crafty marketers rule the landscape in this industry, and for decades have used pseudo-science to prey on the desperate to turn a quick buck. We’re putting a definitive end to this with Avatar. What we’ve done is unite the foremost minds in both theoretical and applied nutrition research under one banner to create a system that both educates and guides our users to lifelong results. “You can give a man a fish, and feed him for a day – or you can teach a man to fish, and feed him for life.”

In a sense, we’ve uncovered the holy grail of nutrition that’s been hidden in plain sight for decades. Every person on this planet has a unique need for protein, carbohydrate, and fat (macronutrients) and these are the building blocks of all food. Depending on your physical attributes and lifestyle, along with your goals, there is an optimal amount of each macronutrient specific to you. As your body changes, so to do your macronutrient needs.

With Avatar, you weigh-in to the system each week and our software analyzes your response to the prescribed macronutrient targets, and then adjusts them accordingly to keep you on pace to hitting your goal. There is more than just software, we’ve got an entire team of highly qualified experts (Registered Dietitians, PhDs, etc.) that every user has unlimited access to in order to seek out guidance and answer questions at any time.

We believe that knowing why you’re getting results is just as important as getting them in the first place, this is why the educational component of our software is so essential. We believe that with the system we have, we can take tangible steps towards reversing and eventually putting to an end the obesity epidemic. How has your role with the company evolved?

Mark Springer: As the CEO and Co-Founder of Avatar Nutrition, my main role is to serve as the guardian of the company culture and ensure that company focus remains locked on fulfilling the greater purpose we all hold so dear. “Speak the truth, give hope to the desperate, stand with science.”

Having 18 full time employees and expanding like wildfire presents a unique set of challenges, but maintaining operations is made much easier by having a phenomenal team at my back. We are hyper-selective with hiring, and ensure that we only bring in the best of the best who are also mission driven. There are no “punch the clock/working for the weekend” types in our office, we all understand that there are ultimately lives on the line when it comes to the work we put in, and that means that we all feel a tangible passion in the air every time we come into the office. The amount we accomplish in one day never ceases to amaze me. Your social media reach is impressive. How do you remain relevant among all the chatter?

Mark Springer: The social media aspect of Avatar is definitely an entertaining one. People at large are frustrated with all the ridiculous fads that dominate the industry, and since we’ve planted our feet firmly beside the river of truth, we’ve had a fiercely loyal tribe of followers gather around us. We make it very clear who the charlatans are, and aren’t afraid to take shots.

At the same time, we love putting out good information to the masses in fun and engaging ways such as live streams, memes, short form copy, etc. The key is to find a point that is relatable, present it in an eye-catching way, and then inject good scientific information into the post. We’ve helped educate tens of thousands of people this way and prevented a lot of headaches for a lot of people.

As for strategy, the social reach we have is something we use to build and maintain relationships with current and prospective members – many people who are current users of the service were long time social media followers who eventually decided to make the leap to subscriber status after gathering information and seeing how our services could be something that makes a positive impact on their life. How did Pi Kappa Phi prepare you for this venture?

Mark Springer: My time at NSU and in Pi Kappa Phi played a huge role in shaping me into the person that was required to make all of this happen. My big brother David Hogan actually was the first person to introduce me to the concept of flexible dieting, at the time known as “If it fits your macros.”

Working part-time at the NSU WRAC as a trainer, I saw the common problem with all my clients was that there was a tremendous amount of conflicting information regarding nutrition, and nothing seemed to be based in any real science. I knew that the only way to really help people was to access the knowledge tucked away in the minds of researchers and then to build a platform to make it both understandable, accessible, and applicable to all – knowledge and applied science are the drivers of human progress and innovation. The field of nutrition is decades behind the curve.

Pi Kappa Phi taught me the importance of a life lived to serve your fellow man, and my time spent in the Louisiana Scholars’ College taught me how to think critically, objectively, and how to solve problems with science. It really was a natural synergy of my time spent in Natchitoches that got the ball rolling on everything that was ultimately to become Avatar, but without the lessons learned in that cherished time I have serious doubts that any of this would have happened. What opportunities do you see in your future?

Mark Springer: This may sound like a lofty goal, but the mission is none less than to end obesity. Much like we have vaccines for diseases like polio, etc., we need to have a “vaccine” for obesity. This is what Avatar will become – it will be a household name globally and a known quantity that anyone who is in need of help an lasting change in their life regarding their health can access. Childhood obesity especially breaks my heart, and if I can do something that prevents kids from going through that I’d say it’s a life well lived.

I also strive to maintain the quality of the working environment for all of the employees at Avatar – never in my life have I seen so many happy people all working together in harmony with a true passion for what they do. I told myself years ago that if I’m ever in the position of the employer, I’ll be damned if I don’t create the kind of work that people actually look forward to going to!

Smiles and laughter abound in the office, and at the same time problems are solved with creative energy that is had in abundance. No matter the scale of the company, this aspect of our culture will hold true. Employees are compensated abnormally well with full benefits, worrying about things like health care and making rent detract from the ability to focus on the company mission. If I were not the owner and CEO, I would be still be proud to be an employee of Avatar in any capacity.

A 2011 graduate of the Louisiana Scholars’ College at Northwestern State University, Springer excelled academically and was recognized on the NSU Dean’s list from 2007 to 2011. While an undergrad, he was a member of Blue Key Honor Society, historian of Phi Alpha Theta Historical Honor Society, and was selected as a Scholars’ Mentor for three years. Springer was a member of both the NSU Football and track & field teams and helped found the Demon Dodgeball club sport.

Upon graduation, he defended and published his undergraduate thesis, ‘Victory in the Peloponnesian War: The Downfall of Sparta.’ He also found time to write as a columnist for the Washington Times and even gave a guest lecture on Wedgewood pottery at the Norton Gallery in Shreveport.

Springer is a member of the Beta Omicron Alumni Chapter and aims to mentor younger Pi Kapps looking to find their own form of success. You might say Pi Kapp runs in his blood. Mark’s father, John, is a 1973 initiate of the Beta Omicron Chapter at NSU.

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