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The Grand Gymnasia

The Grand Gymnasia

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iFitness is one brand you cannot ignore if health is your wealth

Inspiration

Cause and effect – two words that matter, especially as they make you understand how one comes up with an idea and turns that idea into reality. Sometimes, it is a need to solve a lingering problem; there are other reasons. For Folusho Ogunwale, iFitness “was born out of the need to provide a solution to two problems: non-availability of convenient/decent fitness centres and the loss of a friend’s younger brother to a heart condition and diabetes. These two gave me a sense of mission.”

He continues: “You know, living in Lagos comes with its own dose of stress; the last thing you want to do is to add to that daily dose of stress in the name of getting fit. While I pondered on solving this problem, I realised that creating a decent and convenient chain of fitness centers spread around every city in Nigeria would mean that we are solving a bigger problem – that is; improving the health and wellness of thousands and possibly millions of people through our centres.”

Initial Challenges

Tell us if you started on a smooth ride and continued with a silver spoon, let’s understand if this happened in paradise or not. Folusho says infrastructure was his initial challenge, but “funding for start ups weren’t new to me. It has become our reality around here to provide everything for our businesses from boreholes, generators to even transformers to ensure steady power supply etc.”

But he tells us that he encountered a bigger challenge: “the fitness industry is young, in fact, non-existent about 10 years back.” Then the question arose as to if Nigerians were ready to add ‘fitness’ into their daily routines. “Were people going to embrace fitness if we start-off our fitness chain? Was the market deep enough for the investment we were making? Where would we get skilled human capital? How easy would it be to raise funds with a young business in an untested industry? Where do we learn the operations to support the scale at which we wanted to grow? What if we failed altogether?”

He adds that a lot still needs to be done and “we have to keep raising the bar and challenging ourselves to do better always. That’s the only way we can attract and retain our members and by so doing, we are bridging the gap in health and wellness.”

Playing A Part In A Growing Industry

Important one indeed. He entered a relatively uncharted market and stayed on through now that fitness has become a daily conversation, so how has iFitness played its role?

First, he admits that the industry has indeed grown. “It’s amazing!” he says, then continues, “The culture has grown significantly in the last 4 years, especially in the big cities. There are 3 contributing factors: presence of more fitness centers/fitness studios, better health consciousness, and a strong social factor, which is: the pressure (especially on millennials) to look good.”

Brand Values And Philosophies

We can actually deduce all that from what Folusho has said earlier but he says he will shorten iFitness’ values to: “Convenience, Fun, Service, Community. These philosophies all point to our mission – providing a fun, youthful and functional fitness experience that promotes a culture of health and wellness. Our expansion is not in itself just a spread of branches.”

The fitness enthusiast and entrepreneur adds, “We want fitness to be an integral part of the urban lifestyle; not just an option that you pick and drop at every slight excuse. I always ask myself a lot of questions which then turn out to help us in daily operational decision making. How can we be more youthful in terms of our look and feel, remembering that our membership base is largely the upwardly mobile people? In planting our branches, can we ensure that our network is brilliantly laid out to provide convenience for our members? This means that we, intentionally, locate our branches in places that are either densely commercial spots (work places) or highly residential spots (close to homes). How do we get reactions, feedback from our customers on key areas of our services so we make quick adjustments? When a member is unhappy, how swift are we to resolve and institutionalize the changes we need to make?”

Particular Focus

“First and most importantly, especially in line with our business model, is the expansion of our branch network. The bigger it is, the more people we attract and retain. This is crucial. Without increasing our footprint, especially in urban communities, then we will compromise on reaching potentially thousands of Nigerians.

“Secondly, we will simultaneously back the expansion up with a good experience. Recall that many Nigerians are still not fitness aware and many more who are aware are not motivated or willing to commit to living a healthier lifestyle. Therefore, we have to unlock the market by providing an experience (a fun experience) in each of these centers to inspire our members into embracing the lifestyle and taking charge of their health.

“Thirdly, improving the skill base of our team, and by extension educating people (members and non- members) through our online channels and even within the branches will go a long way to help.

“There will also be strategic partnerships with other organisations within the health and wellness space to provide services (some are free), and events to enable the entrenchment of fitness especially in the urban communities of Nigeria.”

Staying Consistent

If you want to scale, then you need to pay particular attention to consistency – no argument. Folusho says, “iFitness is totally different. Most of our members come to the gym nearly every day. iFitness for a lot of people has become the “3rd place” after work and home. We are indeed humbled, grateful and equally excited about this! For this reason, there’s a lot of pressure on us to always think ahead. We think of convenience to members, the functionality of our gym spaces, in each center, etc. and how all these translate to good customer experience to our members.”

The Future

“We are working to see iFitness becoming the preferred fitness destination for the average urban youth; that is, we want to be the preferred neighborhood gym for the average urban dweller. We will be touching thousands and millions of lives by God’s grace. In line with our vision; we will be Nigeria’s preferred fitness destination.”

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