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Health Club Management

Health Club Management


People profile: Charlie Kemper

Co-founder: Flykick

Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 2
Tech venture capitalist Kemper, right, spotted an untapped fitness market opportunity for group exercise boxing studios
Tech venture capitalist Kemper, right, spotted an untapped fitness market opportunity for group exercise boxing studios
I don’t think there’s a better way to shred fat and build definition than via group exercise kickboxing/boxing and more importantly, it’s flat-out super fun

How did Flykick come about?
I had the genesis of the idea when I moved to London from New York and wanted to continue my favourite workout of group exercise boxing and kickboxing. This is one of the largest studio concepts in the US, so I was really surprised to find there was hardly any penetration in the UK.

There are around 45 independent spin studios in London, but only a handful of group exercise boxing studios. Recognising an untapped opportunity, and the chance to build a friendly and aspirational brand with the aim of offering best-in-class customer service, I decided to set up my own concept.

As a career tech venture capitalist, I had no experience of starting a retail business, so sought out people who could help pull off the dream. I was introduced to Ben Leonard-Kane, who launched the first F45 in the UK and Elyse Moland, who had been working with Psycle and Lululemon, and we shaped the concept together.

Tell us about the concept
It’s a boutique studio with a core focus on excellent customer service – we want people to think of their visit as the best part of their day.

The 55-minute workout has been designed with six elements, to work people both physically and mentally. The warm up is followed by a HIIT section, then a stretch, a boxing/kickboxing section, core work and cool down to finish.

The boxing/kickboxing section is non-contact, where customers face off against heavy punch bags through a series of punching and kicking combinations. With so many elements to focus on, people swiftly forget about other things going on in their life, so group boxing is a great stress release, as well as building strength, stamina and confidence, and torching fat.

What has fuelled the boxing boom in New York?
There has been a recent uptick in non-contact boxing as a form of fitness across the US, mainly driven by its ability to deliver outstanding results. I personally don’t think there’s a better way to shred fat and build definition than via kickboxing/boxing and more importantly, it’s just flat out super fun.

Boxing has also been popular for centuries and is both an Olympic and Commonweatlh Games sport. The earliest evidence of fist-fighting sporting contests and boxing rules dates back to Ancient Greece, when it was established as an Olympic game. Boxing further evolved from 16th and 18th century prize fights, largely in Britain, so I like to think of the UK as the home of boxing, and it makes sense to build from here.

Do you think the London group exercise boxing scene will emulate New York’s?
Yes. The focus on living well and exercising among the younger generations is a global trend, not just a New York one. Group exercise is alive and well in London and is growing at a rampant pace. Early brands, like Psycle and 1Rebel, educated the consumer to appreciate the boutique concepts and group exercise boxing/kickboxing is currently underserved.

What were the main challenges with setting up the club?
Finding the right location for our flagship club was definitely the biggest challenge. It took about 18 months to find our perfect site, which has massive frontage on Euston Road and is close to four tube stops and an overground train hub. However, while we were searching for the right site, it did give us time to hone the concept so that we could hit the ground running in April 2018.

What has the reaction been?
The London market can be hard to please, but they do appreciate a fresh and new concept, so we’ve had an incredible response. Our users are varied, the core audience is women ranging from 25 to 40, but we’re attracting quite a lot of men as well. We have also had amazing success stories, such as one man who lost two stone in just 12 weeks, after working out three times a week.

What is the pricing model?
There is no membership and no contract and classes are competitively priced for London. Depending on the package, classes range from £13 to £21. We now offer seven or eight classes a day.

What are your plans going forward?
We are aiming to open a second site in London in the second half of 2019 and then we’ll be looking for sites of around 3,500 to 4,000sq ft in metro centres further afield – in cities like Dublin, Manchester and Bristol.

Other than that, our goal is to be the best at delivering our particular style of fitness experience and building an engaged community around it.

Will boxing become the new spinning?

Boxing is the new spinning in New York, with many independent boutique studios commanding prices of around $35 for a 45 to 60 minute class. Most studios are suitable for beginners and the workouts generally involve a mix of bag work, stretches, core and bodyweight exercises, in cool, Instagrammable studios.

While London has a number of boxing gyms, it lags behind New York for boxing group exercise. However, there are some operators which have also spotted the niche and have created group exercise boxing and kickboxing formats. These include Kobox, which has three sites in central London; the new Victus Soul in east London and Another Space, which has two sites in central London.

Founded by three brothers, the Paragon Gym has been going since 1997. Group exercise boxing classes are also available at 1Rebel and Frame.

Flykick’s core audience of users tend to be women aged 25-40, although more men are also starting to attend classes
Flykick’s core audience of users tend to be women aged 25-40, although more men are also starting to attend classes
Charlie Kemper, Flykick co-founder, on how he took advantage of an untapped opportunity in the London group fitness market...
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