Gymnasiums are capital intensive investments but they are worth the risk

Peter Mutavi, proprietor of Aim Global Ltd.

Fitness hubs have gained massive popularity as Kenyans resolve to healthy living

By Caroline Mwendwa

Business is borne in identifying a need and rising to satisfy it. With increasing cases of lifestyle associated illnesses, Kenyans are waking up to the reality of the need to exercise and live healthy. The lifestyle, especially among Nairobi residents, is characterized by long sitting hours either in the offices, or in traffic. It is estimated that on average Nairobi residents spend up to four hours in traffic due to congestion and relatively poor roads. As a result of this, increasing cases of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure among other illnesses are being diagnosed. More and more people are coming to terms with this situation and are seeking methods to evade the implications of unhealthy living. This has increased awareness of the dire need to consume healthy foods while at the same time exercising. Considering that the city is a congested area, residents, have very limited places for exercising, the only option left being the gymnasium. A large population of the working class in Kenya have enrolled for fitness sessions and this has become an area of interest for several entrepreneurs. But what does it take to own a gymnasium, and is the profit generated from this business commensurate to the high capital it attracts? We follow one entrepreneur who is improving many lives health wise, creating employment opportunities to other Kenyans while gaining profits from it.

Peter Mutavi the owner of Aim Global Ltd is a long time entrepreneur who begun by selling agricultural products in Juba Sudan. He eyed the arising keenness to healthy living with a plan to invest in it. “I began at Juba, with a little capital then moved to Kenya and opened another gymnasium Centre with the same name ‘Aim Global.’” He explains. “Business requires a risk taking aptitude. To set up a successful exercise centre requires heavy investment without which the business is set to fail.  One has to have in mind a spacious facility that can accommodate the number of clients that he / she aspires to acquire overtime.” Peter continues stating that rental spaces in Nairobi are highly expensive. Despite this he put approximately Sh20 million into the business idea and strategized on how to let it grow. This he used to buy the necessary equipment, rent offices and spaces for workout and hired human resource to facilitate marketing, accounting and training the clients. His gymnasium is always busy with clients running sessions from as early as 5.30 am in shifts to 10.00 pm. “Today fitness is a profession and many have pursued it even at a degree level.” Peter explains saying that he has employed six trainers who pursue fitness training as a career. Working out requires professional guidance as different people are looking for very different results. That is why, most gymnastics diversify packages driven towards achieving various results. At Aim Global for example, there are several services clients can receive ranging from: Zumba, massage, karate, aerobics, fat burning, body toning, steam & Sauna, Team Building, Rhumba Zumba, Kangoo Jump, and Stretches. There is also space for Muslim clients who want to exercise but are restricted to dressing. “As an entrepreneur, one has to diversify products to increase returns. The more products you offer, the more clients you attract,” Peter quips.
“Running a fitness facility requires high standards of maintenance,” Peter explains pointing out that there is hardly any difference between a gymnasium and a hotel. “A slight decline in level of cleanliness, is bound to send away clients,” he adds. Peter continues to explain that spaces must also be accommodative of large numbers of people, and be suitable enough to enable comfortable freshening, as after work out, people need to bathe and change.
He further explains that running such a facility also requires that an entrepreneur has figured out alternative sources of water and power in case the governmental supplies fail. “It would be unimaginable to work out at 5.30 am without electricity. Water shortage can also be a great impediment to the business growth,” he remarks.
Peter’s woes all point at costly investment and running of the facility. “This is a challenge that the government can however tackle through reducing taxation on imported equipment,” he posits explaining that all equipment from treadmills to the simplest of them cannot be acquired locally and therefore investors in this industry have to import. He observes that encouraging healthy lifestyles should be a priority to the government as the economy is directly affected by an unhealthy population. Considering this therefore, Peter argues that the government should offer incentives to reduce costs of fitness equipment, let alone reducing taxes.
Looking forward, Peter aspires to set up fitness centers in many other places within the country, even localizing them to the counties.