Unique Fitness

Sports:

Weightlifting , Fitness

Location:

Maesteg, Bridgend

Sport Wales doesn't just invest in local authorities or big organisations. We invest in the self-employed who want to make a sporting difference.

Of course, setting up your business can be a daunting prospect but if you're thinking about taking the plunge, then read on.

Back in 2012, Chris Morgan - a former Royal Marine - was desperately keen to set up a fitness centre serving the Maesteg area of Bridgend.

With a lot of hard work, passion and commitment, he managed to garner support for the idea from a range of local sports clubs including rugby, football and the local judo club. Local police and fire services also threw their weight behind Chris as well as members of the public.

Maesteg is listed as an area of deprivation and there wasn't anything in the way of what Chris had got planned nearby.

His dream was to open a centre where locals could safely take part in weightlifting, bootcamp, general fitness and cross training.

He approached Sport Wales with his business plans who then helped to shape the idea further. A grant of more than £10,000 followed. Of course, there are other agencies out there who can provide useful advice. Business in the Community also lent a helping hand.

The centre opened in February 2013 and today it is thriving. But what are the secrets of Chris' success?

Well, Chris was business-minded in his approach, forging fruitful partnerships that have gone a long way to creating the bustling centre you'll find today.

He linked up with the Ford Motor Company factory in Bridgend who offer an employee development and assistance programme scheme. This offers their staff the use of personal training,  or any of the classes on offer .

Similarly, he approached Ospreys Rugby Academy - where he had been a Strength and Conditioning Coach for three years - and now runs weight training classes for their Maesteg-based players.

And locally, it's making a massive difference. On the books, there are more than 700 members ranging from 14 years old to the over 60s. On an average week, Chris will see around 250 people coming through the doors.

One member is a 53-year-old lady who joined the gym when it first opened. She is there almost every day and has lost an incredible amount of weight, giving her a tremendous confidence boost and a more positive outlook.

Chris has also worked closely with a young man who has learning difficulties.

Initially lacking in self-confidence in how to use the equipment, he was reluctant to be left alone. After several weeks of working with Chris, the whole team noticed how his self-confidence and self esteem had increased. He is now happy to use the gym equipment by himself, he feels at ease in the gym and interacts with other gym members in a way he never would before.

Chris says: "His confidence has gone through the roof and he's got so much stronger."

The centre is also used by two local personal trainers and it has also helped them to build up their own businesses.

One of Chris' major passions was to build an Olympic weightlifting club at the centre.  The club is run by a weightlifting coach who trains at Unique Fitness who Chris describes as being "very passionate and an asset to the club." There is now a core group of ten lifters including a 16-year-old who had never done any weightlifting prior to the launch of Unique Fitness. He started classes in May 2013. He has since taken part in his first ever competition - the Welsh Schoolboy Championships where he won a gold - and broke the Welsh record en route!

 

So what are Chris's top tips for starting your own sports business?

 

  • "Do your homework first - what's the need locally? I spent a lot of time asking around about what people wanted and what they thought would work. I looked around to see what else was being offered and made sure that I was doing something completely different. I am local to Maesteg so I knew the community was crying out for something like this.

 

  • "Cater for different people - put a range of activities on so that you can attract more people through the doors. We do Olympic weightlifting but we do kettle bells and boot camp too which tend to attract more women into the gym."

 

  • "Don't expect to earn back your investment straight away - it takes time to build your business."

 

  • "Get plenty of experience - get the courses under your belt so you can pass on your knowledge. But get real work experience and lots of it - that way, you are much more credible.

For more info, visit their Facebook page.

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