With the backdrop of some of the world’s greatest summer sporting events taking place, in this series we have been visiting some of our start-up loan recipients in the sport and leisure sector.
We spoke to Joe Elliot from North Shields-based sporty startup ClassFit, who shared with us his entrepreneurial journey.
1) What is the nature of your business and why did you choose to start up in the sports and leisure sector?
ClassFit is for people who lead busy lives and want to train hard then get back to life, work, family and friends. It is a small gym with a friendly community of members.
Myself and/or my sister Katie design each class with our members in mind and we have currently have 7 different styles of classes: Strength and Conditioning, Endurance, Cardio, HIIT, Arse and Abs, Power and Box.
I tried everything as a kid; swimming, judo, ice hockey etc., but then fell for what most kids in the North East fall for – football. I loved it and grew up knowing that I wanted to be involved in the sport in some way. I played to a decent standard and ended up winning the FA Vase with North Shields FC. But coaching kids and some fantastic and influential PE teachers helped me choose teaching as my career path.
I love teaching PE that will probably always be my day job. It’s about trying to make all kids engaged in sport, or if nothing else, aware of the benefits of leading a healthy active lifestyle. I don’t think there’s many things more important than that!
I retired from playing Saturday football because it was a huge commitment that I wasn’t enjoying anymore, it became more of a chore – especially the late midweek games.
So I stopped football and had recently completed my first Ironman Triathlon. As well as swimming, cycling and running, I had done all sorts of fitness classes to help with my strength and endurance for this. When I was doing these classes I thought, I can do this, and probably do this better because of my teaching background. Big gyms were really frustrating because they were often ‘full’ and you had to remember to ring up and book in to attend classes. So I decided to go for it, got qualified, encouraged Katie to do the same and we went for it.
2) What is your favourite success story to date? What has been the most valuable lesson?
My favourite success story is my sister’s. Just don’t tell her because we are really competitive and I would hate her to realise I actually respect and admire her!
Katie was born with hip dysplasia which was found when she was 12 months old and was put into plaster. By then she had developed Perthes’ disease. However, she had a normal childhood and was encouraged the same as me to take part in sport and stuck with swimming for longer than I did.
However, at 16 she was suffering so badly she needed a big operation on her hip and pelvis. Since then this hasn’t stopped her despite needing repairs for broken screws in her hip. The consultant has now said that the only thing they can do is a hip replacement and she is currently too young! She lives with real pain every day and like I say, doesn’t let it stop her. She says the fitter she is, the stronger her hip feels. She did this through attending cycling, spinning and other classes at local gyms. Since we opened the gym I asked her how she feels her fitness has improved. She replied with this…
- Increased Strength – within 6 months I was lifting way more than before.
- Stamina has improved, always been good but definitely improved, I can definitely do a lot more for longer and harder.
- I can run – never ever before, I couldn’t even walk around town shopping because I’d be in too much pain, now I’m jogging places! I’d cycle places to avoid standing and walking as the pain was too much but now I’m walking and jogging a lot.
- Flexibility and mobility has improved. Before I couldn’t even Burpee because the range of motion in my hips were so poor, now I do them every (effing) day. 100 in under 7:14 mins might I add.
- Weight has fluctuated but I have dropped inches. Particularly legs which I’ve always struggled with.
- Coordination has improved; I want to work on that more but with Box I can switch on command far quicker than before.
- I have a curve in the base of my spine through years on limping which can be very painful, core work has improved strength – definitely reducing the pain.
- I recover far quicker than before, when pushing myself to the limit my breath is back to normal very quickly whereas before I couldn’t push myself that hard as my breathing would take a long time to recover then the fatigue would take over.
- I can box jump! I can (almost) squat properly! Before I couldn’t stand on my bad leg for more than 10 seconds – now I’m stepping on boxes, doing box jumps, drop squatting without any apprehension – the increased strength means I can do more. Working on squatting properly means I feel it where I should now rather than just pain in my joints.
- Mentally it’s done wonders, before I talked myself out of doing something before trying. Now my confidence has improved and I think – ‘aye, I can do that why not!’, sometimes I may need to adapt an exercise but I still do it.
So that’s my favourite success story. My Mam dropping three stone since we opened is 2nd.
3) What is your favourite Olympic sport / event and why?
For a PE teacher and Personal Trainer this is an especially difficult and unfair question! I love all of the events that require maximum strength/speed/power/endurance; the swimming, the road and velodrome cycling, the track and field, the triathlon, the rowing and the gymnastics.
The Olympics is the perfect platform to showcase these events. You can see that all of the athletes have spent almost their entire lives training for their sport, their moment. For some it’s just getting there and participating. For some it’s to make the podium. For others it’s only winning. It makes great TV and hopefully inspires the adults to take a more active role in sport or start looking after themselves, but more importantly it’s about inspiring the next generation!
4) Who is your favourite sportsman or woman and why? In what way do they inspire you?
Alan Shearer. Easy. Best English goal scorer of all time, tough, strong, overcame serious injuries, a leader. Top man.
You know what though I after watching Andy Murray (who I have never liked – actually I’ve disliked him for a long time) in the Olympic final, you can’t help but respect what he has achieved. What I like best about Murray is that he is actually better as a team player than an individual, which might sound odd because he plays singles tennis. I honestly believe his best performances are when he is representing Great Britain, both in the Olympics and the Davis Cup he’s totally inspirational. Obviously he did ok at Wimbledon a couple of times too!
5) If you could give one tip to a new entrepreneur, what would it be?
Speak to people who have been there and done it. It’s a win-win situation. You might leave excited with a clear picture of what you want to do, or on the other hand you might feel deflated and you might even disagree with what they say. Either way you will have more information and knowledge than you had before!
To find out more about our start-up loans, visit our information page.