Meet Africa's Outdoor Gym King

Tim Hogins on his partnership with government to bring fitness to the masses


Tim Hogins, founder and CEO of Hogins Enterprises


In 2008 while taking a walk in his hometown of Toekomsrus on the West Rand a couple of teens doing pull-ups on trees and push-ups on the rocky gravel at a near-by park caught Tim Hogins' attention.

He had an epiphany at that moment - gyms don't have to be indoors and they don't have to be exorbitantly expensive.

This epiphany led to him establishing, what he refers to as Africa's first outdoor gym company, Green Outdoor Gyms (GOG). Two years later, in 2010, the first of the outdoor gyms opened with the express purpose of taking health and fitness to the masses, particularly to those who cannot afford commercial gyms.

Today, the company has made inroads into all provinces across the country and has installed outdoor gyms in over 150 local sites and more than 50 across the continent.

The business has been able to expand, in part, because of his partnership with the South African government.

Not only was the idea well received, but GOG was included in the country's National Development Plan, government's strategy for solving some of the country's biggest challenges - including poverty and inequality - by 2030. One of the ways of achieving this is through sports and healthy living.

The successes that Hogins has seen were not by accident. While the partnership with government was a significant milestone and a catalyst for the growth of the business, Hogins says, making sure that the service they were providing was worth it, was the first step to securing the partnership.

"I approached the municipality with the idea and they liked it. I was given the first project after a couple of months of negotiations and due diligence. The local government was quite impressed with our project, I think because, while there are lots of parks in the country most if not all were not being used for their intended use. They are instead being used for loitering and are sometimes quite unsafe. With our Green Outdoor Gyms, they started seeing ordinary people coming into the parks and enjoying the parks as intended. In many cases the people themselves were making sure that the facilities were clean and taken care of."

image supplied

People working out at one of the outdoor gyms.

From that initial success the business was contracted to build other parks and have now built over a hundred parks across the country.

Jumping through hoops to secure the deal

Getting this far wasn't without its challenges for Hogins.

The due diligence process they had to undergo to secure the contract was quite intense, he says, and among some of the requirements that they had to fulfill were various business registrations and financial assessments.

"I think one of the most important was making sure that we were capable of delivering. The process was quite lengthy and required intensive attention from my part as the director as well as my other business partners," he says.

Red tape was also a hurdle for the startup.

"It took us months to get the due diligence process done and while it is important, it could have been done a lot quicker and more efficiently," he says.

This was further compounded by the fact that he was working across many different municipalities and districts across the country. 

See also: A conversation with 'Black Industrialist' Khudusela Pitje


Streamlined to becoming government's next black industrialists

Besides improving the quality of life for ordinary citizens, Hogins is focused on creating jobs.

This focus on creating employment is the idea behind the black industrialists program, which is the government's plan to help black-owned businesses, such as Hogins', to grow and become big players in the country, and in turn help grow the economy.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry’s Concept and Policy Framework on The Development Of Black Industrialists the concept of black industrialists refers to black people directly involved in the origination, creation, significant ownership, management and operation of industrial enterprises that derive value from the manufacturing of goods and services at a large scale.

This policy is, among other objectives, intended to accelerate the number and qualitative participation of Black Industrialists in the national economy.  The policy allows the state to fast-track the integration of these businesses into selected industrial sectors.

"From my perspective, being taken as a supplier at such a big scale is, as I see it, a way of grooming black-owned businesses to grow and become job creators and help grow the economy," he says.

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