This banker turned fitness entrepreneur plans to take over the corporate wellness market
It’s a good time to be a fitness startup. The fitness sector continues to enjoy popularity with many startups eager to take advantage of a growing market. While many startups have focused their offerings on individual users, Zenzele Fitness is taking on corporate wellness.
The startup, which launched in 2014, is establishing gyms in some of South Africa’s most successful companies catering for corporates who are eager to promote employee wellness.
Zenzele Fitness designs, furnishes, operates and manages wellness and fitness facilities. They currently offer their services to corporates, universities and government departments with nine wellness centres in the Gauteng province, they have also just launched their first commercial health club in the Limpopo province.
“We, however, go beyond offering simple gyms,” says founder and CEO, Tumi Phake, who adds that they combine exercise equipment with technology to develop personalised fitness programs for their members based on their aspirations and needs.
“Having a good business idea is important but not critical. What is critical is being able to execute”
Our technology also allows us to prescribe, monitor, engage and influence physical activity and exercise data, both onsite and remotely, he adds.
Phake is a former banker who left a job at Rand Merchant Bank where he had been for seven years to launch the startup after spotting a gap in the corporate wellness market.
“I wanted to become entrepreneur and I decide to take a leap of faith and to start my own business,” says Phake.
Zenzele Fitness is a result of Phake’s interest in sports and fitness. His strong finance background has, however, been advantageous, particularly in helping him to raise funding for the venture. It was reported that in the first year Phake successfully raised R9 million in seed funding.
On the vision
In the short-term we want to dominate the wellness and fitness market as the first black player in the space, and to have facilities in all provinces in South Africa.
The long-term plan is to expand to the rest of Africa and to become a publicly listed company on the JSE.
To date we have raised startup capital of R12 million consisting of equity and debt funding.
On getting customers
The first twelve months was spent building our everyday operations as well as building the expertise necessary to win deals in the industry.
“Passion and talent alone is not enough to make you successful in business”
On the differentiating factor
We go beyond just offering gym services, we are about changing peoples lives and producing real outcomes.We have developed a system that allows us to design personalised fitness programs for our members. This includes: wellness assessments, exercise interventions across all risk categories with proven outcomes, and e-learning platforms and technology which enable us to provide integrated detailed and relevant reports.
On hurdles and overcoming them
Being young with little experience in the industry was a great challenge, but because I had experience working with leading wellness players I was able to leverage their experience to bring world-class equipment, hi-tech systems and top services to my clients.
On being a job creator
The biggest surprise about being a startup founder is how important our role is, especially in creating employment. To date Zenzele has created 40 full time jobs.
On SA’s entrepreneurial ecosystem
We still lack the support necessary to help young entrepreneurs overcome early obstacles and challenges. A role the government should be playing is in helping to to accelerate funding and to establish more entrepreneurship incubation programmes.
On startup advice
– Always surround and work with people who are smarter than you
– Passion and talent alone is not enough to make you successful in business. If you don’t work hard on craft and then execute your plans, you will never make it.
– Having a good business idea is important, but not critical. What is critical is being able to execute.