Startups have been at the forefront of the economic recovery, helping to regenerate areas, create jobs, and innovate. One such business is our StartUp of the Week, Bodyworx 360 Health and Fitness Club. They took a run-down building that had been empty for four years and have now turned it into a thriving gym, attracting people to the shopping precinct where they're situated and hopefully setting a precedent for further businesses to move in and shake things up. Bodyworx 360 Health and Fitness club is supported by Virgin StartUp delivery agents Enterprise First. We chatted to founder Patrick Muwanga to find out more.
1. Explain your business in thirty seconds or less
We are an independent fitness studio and gym that provides a friendly and affordable space to train. We help people at every level of ability to improve their fitness and health. Clients can get advice on training, techniques and nutrition and get personal workout plans, plus use of the latest high-spec fitness machines for running, cross training, rowing, plus weigh ttraining. We also provide personal training sessions and High Intensity Training classes within a really unique workout space. The studio has been designed to engage the senses and make training enjoyable. The style is a cross between steampunk and New York loft, with plenty of great music and TV screens.
2. Where are you based and why is it a good location for your business?
We are based in the main shopping precinct at Leigh Park in Havant. It’s a good location for our business as it’s a densely populated area, in the middle of what was once the largest council housing estate in Europe. We want to encourage a whole cross-section of the community to join the gym (not just focus on those who are already fit) and our shopfront gives us the opportunity to talk to people in the area about their fitness goals, and provides us with great visibility.
3. How did you come up with the idea?
I am very passionate about fitness and the benefits it has on the mind and body. I have been a personal trainer for many years and it has always been my desire to set up my own fitness studio to reach a broader cross-section of society. Not everyone can afford to pay for one-to-one personal training sessions, so the gym allows us to offer a really affordable training facility to suit everyone's pockets.
4. What stage was your business at when you applied for the Start Up Loan?
We had acquired the premises and were partway through the refurbishment. After four months of work it became obvious that further money would be needed to complete the project, as the building was in a really poor state.
5. How have you used it to grow your business?
We have used the funds to finish the ground floor gym and have successfully launched the business. Since opening at the beginning of July we have signed up lots of new members. We also use the money to start work on completing the studios/workout spaces on the first floor. Once finished our members will benefit from a greater choice of classes and it will create additional income for the business as the space will be rented out .
6. Who is your mentor and how have they helped you?
Julie Easterbrook is my mentor and she helped me get the start-up loan. She also ‘stress-tested’ our financial predictions to ensure that our business could survive, if our business didn’t perform as expected. She’s a fitness advocate herself, and has even helped us to get new clients by spreading the word about our gym.
7. How did they help you get a Virgin StartUp loan?
We didn’t know about the start-up loan until Julie knocked on the studio door one day to introduce herself as the local business adviser. That’s when she told us about the support available through Virgin StartUp and Start Up Loans. It was really good to hear that there was a scheme that could support us. She then helped by guiding us through the process and giving specific advice to help us get the loan. Importantly, in anticipating the questions that would be raised so that we could put together a convincing business plan and provide the right evidence to support our application at the beginning. This gave Virgin the confidence to back our venture as they could see everything had been fully considered and contingency measures put in place to cover any potential issues.
8. Biggest achievement so far?
Getting the doors open and signing up so many new members was brilliant, as well as seeing our mission to improving the health and fitness of the locals happening. We’re also quite proud of the part we’ve played in rejuvenating this end of the old shopping precinct The large site we now occupy was derelict for four years before we took it on and in a very poor state. It now looks great on the outside and has improved the area. Hopefully we will continue to draw people in and inspire them to stay local, which in turn may help the survival rate of other businesses around us.
9. What’s next for your business?
When work on the upstairs studios are complete, we will expand classes to include a broader spectrum of disciplines and hope to include Body Pump, pilates, Body Combat etc. The studios will allow us to change our offering as fitness trends change, so that we will always remain current. If this goes as well as we hope it will, we will be looking at opening more clubs in the area too.