LEARNING CURVE | Fitness fanatic Melissa’s goal is to transform lives
Passionate about fitness and changing people’s lives has led Melissa Meiring to owning her own gym, called Star Fitness, in Fairview, Port Elizabeth.
Meiring has put blood, sweat and tears into this business and the results have shown in her satisfied clients.
• Please share some background on yourself and how the business was started?
I am 29 and started with the idea of Star Fitness at the age of 19 in Mossel Bay, I grew up in Johannesburg, relocated to the Garden Route and have been living in PE for seven years. My passion came from martial arts and my mentor Phillip Goodger, my sensei at the time. I competed in karate, kick-boxing, K1 and muay thai fighting and graduated to a first-degree black belt (first Dan) at the age of 17. I am passionate about the fitness industry and live and breathe for transformations and changing people’s lives
• What is your core service?
• Where was the idea born?
I started instructing classes at the age of 16 and assisted in or took classes for my coach from time to time.
• What makes your business unique?
Its unique recipe to success as well as the staff’s genuine passion and energy.
• If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?
They could franchise my business as I am in the process of looking to open up studio number two.
• What were some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground?
Financial stability, risk, fear of the unknown.
• Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?
If you have a dream and a vision, pursue it with every ounce of energy you have. You need to believe in yourself, take calculated risks.
• What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?
To be honest, we have our odd hassles of bad debt or late payments, here and there but so far we have been blessed with amazing clients and most days go by hassle-free.
Non-qualified trainers who offer the same service as you at lower prices. People have negative experiences due to lack of education. They are basically “killing” and also following the industry. Most people think it is just exercise, anyone can do it, but its much more than that, you are working with a real life and prevention of injuries and pre-screening/medical screening are imperative.
• What is the best advice anyone gave you on success?
Success is hard work, full stop, there is no other way around it.
•How do you measure or define success in your business?
Number of clients for the business as a whole.
• What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?
Consistency, risk-taking, professionalism, honesty, team effort, commitment.
• What kind of advertising do you do?
Social media, Facebook mostly.
• What is your company’s vision?
To open multiple branches, have each staff member manage their own branch in PE.
• What is your target market?
We specialise in weight lost mostly, lifestyle change and transformation, so anyone who feels they need a change in physique, mood, lifestyle, fitness, sport specific training and so on, mostly aged 6-70.
• What have some of your highlights been in running your business?
Meeting some incredible people.
• How important is social media and an online presence for your business?
Vital! Core marketing.
IG, Facebook, Website and so on — www.starfitness.co.za / @starfitnesssa / #starfitnesssa
• How many people do you employ?
• Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?
Yes, we have plans for this year actually and are discussing means to move forward. We plan to open up another branch soon, followed by branch number three in PE.
• How did you acquire funding for the business?
I saved for 2½ years and literally put every cent I had into my first business. It was make or break for me, one of the risks I had to take.
• What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your business journey so far?
Do not take anything for granted, don’t act impulsively, think things through.
• What have been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like Port Elizabeth?
Challenges — Not knowing anybody seven years ago, having to build a network of friends, clients, just people you know from scratch, challenges as a city. Transport for workers who don’t have their own has been a challenge here and there. Crime is definitely a factor or something we are aware of and cautious of. Limited shops who supply commercial gym equipment, so opening a gym and to source the equipment I wanted in my gym was a challenge and an extra expense as I had to source equipment from overseas, Cape Town and Johannesburg. This was and is costly.
Advantages — People in Port Elizabeth are into health and fitness, many enjoy living healthy lifestyles and engage in a lot of fitness-related activities such as running, cycling, mountain bikini, ocean swimming, surfing and so on. Because it’s a city it was easier to establish a business here and grow quickly. Also most people I know support local business or make a point of supporting growing local businesses and people in PE are also very loyal. This helps business a lot.
• How important has mentorship been to you in your entrepreneurial journey?
Honestly, I follow my own mind. I have this vision in my head and I’m going for it. I have been inspired through people like my uncle, who grew up in an orphanage and today is a multimillionaire. He educated himself, identified his strengths and regardless of any setbacks he faced was determined to be successful and I watched him as I grew up. Everyone spoke highly of him and he was inspirational in that he came from nothing, which showed me anything is possible. But I also saw it came from hard work. I used to sit back and think how someone can turn pennies into an empire from absolutely nothing. His life and story moved me and that was when I decided I wanted a different life for myself and my family as I also grew up poor. My family struggled to put food on the table daily. I decided I wanted to be successful — and anybody can be, it is up to you!
• What do you think are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?
Risk taking, passion and determination.
• How do you motivate staff?
I think, I inspire them through my story. Set goals and include them in the vision and growth of Star Fitness, basically paint a picture of where they could end up if they work hard and commit to the growth of Star Fitness. I actually remember having a meeting at a coffee shop with my first staff member, Viwe. At the time it was only he and I in the first small branch of 80 square metres. I remember explaining my vision to him — the branch we are at now, 360 square metres — and I remember the blank look on his face, probably thinking to himself that it would be impossible.
• What do you wish people knew about your industry?
I wish people knew that working in this industry is highly rewarding as you help and change people’s lives and improve their health and fitness level. This industry is one of the few that allow you to track clients’ progression and watch them transform and achieve their goals. It is also a tough industry as many people who work in the industry are not qualified and that is just unfair to us who had to study and now earn an income from this industry. So it is very important that you work with a trainer or personal trainer who is qualified because it’s not a cool exercise session, there is much more to it than that.