As we continue to celebrate 20 years of Gymbox, it's only fitting that we asked our co-founder David Cooper to spill the tea on how the Antidote to Boring Gyms came about. Our blogger Kat caught up with the man himself to talk all about the early days, the challenges, his proudest moments and our goals for the future...
You co-founded Gymbox alongside Richard Hilton. How did your partnership with Richard come about?
I managed a gym Richard was a member at. We had a lot of banter early days, mainly around his bad exercise form and bad dress sense! He obviously liked how I ran the place and decided to share his business plan.
He said he was going to revolutionise London’s tired, vanilla gym offerings…In a nutshell, what he was saying was: gyms are boring with white walls, generic classes, bland advertising, no community and nothing that gets the fitness savvy Londoner excited. What he wanted to do was find a unique space, get it designed by a Nightclub designer, fill it with sound by live DJs, create unique classes in authentic spaces and talk in real language, not corporate BS. But he didn’t have the money or know how to make it work ...so he asked me if I was interested.
What were your key goals for the company in the early days?
The key goal in the beginning was to find the right people and create the culture. We knew that Gymbox would live or die by its amazing characters - they had the responsibility of bringing what was on a business plan to life. Commandeering a table inside Benji’s coffee shop, we set about interviewing people.
The criteria was simple: big personalities that made us smile and had a twinkle in their eye.
Very early on we had the discussion on whether we contained the madness of one Gymbox or whether we spread it to other parts of London. Members of our first gym in Holborn seemed to love what we were doing, so why not the rest of London? We still had no money, but luckily, (thanks to Holborn) people were a little more interested in lending us some so that we could open more.
What have been some of your proudest moments with Gymbox over the last 20 years?
Finding the characters that brought Gymbox to life and building the culture is something I am proud of. Without this, we would just be smoke and mirrors.
Community is at the heart of what we do, so I’m proud of finding CrossFit, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Weightlifting and Calisthenics communities and allowing them to operate their clubs inside Gymbox.
Being voted one of London’s hottest hangouts is also something I’m proud of!
What have been some of your biggest challenges?
In terms of challenges, we have had everything apart from a plague of locusts! Flooding of the gym on the first week of launch forced us to close, and in the anarchy of the early days we were regularly writing responses to the Advertising Standards Agency defending our Ad campaigns.
We stretched people to make them grow and we electrocuted people to make them train harder…then we got a HR department! Thankfully we have grown up since then, but challenges come in many forms and navigating the last couple of years and continuing to grow has been a new challenge for our management team.
Looking forward, what are some of your current goals for the company?
The next thing for Gymbox is how do we continue to spread our unique take on fitness whilst maintaining our boutique feel. I would love for Gymbox to travel, proving hopefully that Europeans have a sense of humour and don’t harbour any fitness Brexit grudge!
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