What does it take to build a successful fitness business from scratch? We caught up with Pip, co-founder of Frame gyms to find out
Ever wanted to start up your own fitness business? Pip Black did just that, giving up her career in digital advertising to make the leap and turn her fantasy into a reality. Along with Joan Murphy, they created Frame in 2007 – a new type of gym based on a frustration of not being able to find anywhere fun to work out and motivated by their vision to provide a space where treadmills and lifting weights weren't the sole options.
Since launching, Frame is on the HIIT-lists of many a fitness enthusiast thanks to its wide variety of classes, expert trainers and unpretentious vibe – a triple threat in making working out more a pleasure than a pain. Now with five gyms across London and an own-brand clothing and equipment range under its belt, the company’s successes continue to go from strength to strength. What have been the standout moments of Pip’s climb up the career ladder so far? We caught up with her to find out.
GTG: What inspired you to create Frame?
PB: Joan and I were both working in advertising and beginning to get a little tired of constantly being hungover and just feeling a little 'average'. We'd spent our childhoods and university years playing top level sports and were missing the endorphin rush and feel good feeling that we were used to getting. When we met through friends on a surf trip in Cornwall back in 2007, we decided to hunt out somewhere to exercise which didn't require commitment, (almost impossible with year-long memberships still the norm), where you could go with your friends (most things required you to be able to commit to training at the same time every week, which our jobs wouldn't allow) and that was affordable, (all the Pilates and yoga places at the time were CRAZY expensive).
When we couldn't find anything, we decided that if it didn't exist, then we'd create it, and we haven't looked back since that day.
GTG: Could you tell us a little about your background?
PB: I studied Business at the University of Bath. As part of my degree, I did an internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers and realised quickly that it wasn't me. I did a second internship a year later at the Australian Institute of Sport, working on PR and Marketing in the lead up to the Athens Olympics which suited me so much better.
Post uni, I worked in Marketing at Mars while I saved to go travelling. When I returned to London, I worked first at Octagon (a sports marketing company) and then at Profero, a digital agency, where it was very much 'work hard, play hard'. I had so much fun for the year I worked at Profero, but I started to get itchy feet and realise that this wasn't going to be my lifelong career, and that's when I met Joan!
GTG: How did you build up the confidence to change careers?
PB: It helped that I was young (24) and had nothing really to lose. I didn't have a successful 'career' as such to risk, and my nature is that I've always been a total 'go getter' and very much of the attitude that if you want something enough, you can make it happen.
Having Joan by my side as a partner in crime definitely helped, and having the support of friends and family (once they had gotten over the fact that I was crazy for doing this) was invaluable to help keep pushing through when things got a bit rocky!
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GTG: What was the toughest part when you started out?
PB: The whole process was tough. We were trying to create something having absolutely no experience in any areas of the business. We were learning about booking systems, accounting, raising funds, finding property and hiring instructors all at the same time. At times it was definitely overwhelming. We put in an incredible amount of hours into setting up the business, alongside working part-time roles and living on basically no money, but I think the thing that I found hardest of all was patience. We wanted to make everything happen immediately. I've definitely learned over time the wonders of being patient, when is the time to push hard, and when is the time to sit back a little and let things take their course. In the first few years we created a lot of additional stress for ourselves by trying to make things happen to timeframes that were just impossible, as the other parties involved were never going to move that quickly.
GTG: The best piece of career advice you’ve been given and from whom?
PB: CASHFLOW, CASHFLOW, CASHFLOW. From Jeff Gilbert, our long term mentor and general legend. I think Jeff has had a say in most of the East London start-up successes. Keep an eye on your cashflow and if you don't have money, don't spend it! There are obviously loads of things we would like to spend money on all the time, but we have always been extremely careful not to overspend and to keep a tight check on our finances.
GTG: What are the most important lessons you’ve learned while being in the fitness industry?
PB: People will copy you, don't stress about it, see it as a complement and get on with doing what you're good at. Never rest on your laurels as someone will come and do it better. Customer preferences will change so make sure your business model can deal with this and, finding property is harder than you would think.
GTG: Where do you think the industry's headed?
PB: It's incredibly positive to see the huge numbers of young people who now exercise regularly (this was unthinkable nine years ago when we started!). I hope that it continues in this fashion, but with an emphasis on balance and seeing exercise as a way of staying healthy and happy. I worry slightly that the industry is becoming too hardcore, too intense, too competitive. If you haven't got a six-pack, you're no-one, if you don't feel like you're going to vomit, well there isn’t any point...we need to learn to respect our bodies, to move them every day, to fill them with nutritious, unprocessed foods, and then to get on with the rest of our lives, doing whatever it is that makes us happy!
GTG: Is there anything you would change and why?
PB: Just a bit more balance, an understanding that 100% isn't always best. Sometimes our bodies need to rest. Too many of us are suffering from adrenal fatigue as we strive for perfection!
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GTG: What’s in store in the future for Frame?
PB: More sites, more classes (we're launching Cardio-Barre in January and LIFT is coming to Shoreditch), yoga teacher training, a collaboration with Liberty and lots more pre and postnatal classes.