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Hedgehog Concept Ltd
Hedgehog Concept Ltd
Hedgehog Concept Ltd
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

HCM People: Ed StanburyBLOK: CEO and co-founder

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled...

Published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 3
BLOK founder, 
Ed Stanbury, is
building a global lifestyle brand
BLOK founder, Ed Stanbury, is building a global lifestyle brand

How did BLOK come about?
I went to look at a warehouse in Upper Clapton for my property and construction company and fell in love with the Victorian tram depot next door. It had stunning original features – vaulted ceilings and cast iron pillars – but was in a serious state of disrepair so was standing vacant. I offered a low rent and the landlord accepted.

I’m quite entrepreneurial – if I see a deal I usually take it and then work out what to do with it afterwards. So I found that I had an amazing building, with around 2,500sq ft of left-over space. I started asking my friends for ideas and Max Oppenheim, a high end fashion photographer, suggested turning it into a film and photo shoot location.

At that time Max and I were doing a lot of boxing and yoga and my wife, Reema, had started going to class-based gyms. We began to think it would be more interesting to open a boutique studio, with boxing and yoga.

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled.

What was your design vision?
We really wanted to create a space which has a vibe to it, not just somewhere with loud pumping music and dark rooms. Our inspiration has come more from the restaurant and bar sector – where it’s a labour of love to design, build and curate an experience. I don’t believe we’ve really seen that in fitness yet.

Because of our location, we couldn’t rely on having the heavy footfall of a high density area, so we set out to create an environment where people would want to hang out together – somewhere our friends would like.

We designed as we went along, sometimes we had to take down walls which had just gone up. Still, it only took four months to complete and we opened on 1st February 2016.

Within three weeks of the launch, Wallpaper voted BLOK one of the 30 coolest gyms in the world and Harpers Bazaar said it was one of the best gyms in London. As we were so small, we were always full, which added to the reputation.

To cope with demand, we rented another unit and turned it into a dedicated boxing studio – we kept all the original features and just added a ring and hung the bags off the original beams – it looks very raw.

This studio has been a backdrop for major shoots with brands such as Adidas, Apple and Under Armour and is definitely one of our most iconic spaces.

I don’t want to overplay the art element, but at the same time it’s a key part of what makes us unique in the industry. It’s part of the overall experience, creating an environment where you want to spend time. To this end, we have partnered with amazing artists like Arran Gregory and Ben Cullen Williams, both of whom have permanent exhibitions and sculptures at our sites.

What were the main challenges of launching a gym?
Arguably, having zero knowledge of the industry was a challenge, but it did mean we were open to ideas. We overcame this by sourcing great teams and giving them autonomy to make decisions.

Many operators want to have complete consistency across the brand, but we want to be constantly evolving, changing and adapting, so we encourage our instructors to try new things and make the classes different every time.

You launched a third club, in Manchester, in September, how did this come about?
We were approached by amazing restaurant operators, Bistrotheque, to be the fitness operator in an exciting development they were involved in, in a Victorian warehouse in Manchester, and we said yes right away.

We’ve made a real effort to integrate with the local community and businesses and tell them what we’re doing in advance and have found that people have bought into the concept. From our point of view, the market in Manchester isn’t that much different to London.

We’ve found that people have just as much disposable income and as much desire for the experience. What’s been more of a challenge is recruiting instructors, as many didn’t have as much experience in group training, so we needed to provide extra training, but now we have a strong team that rival our London instructor base.

BLOK ran its first retreat this year, are there plans for more?
Yes, we’re planning to build it into a sizeable arm with at least 10 and up to 20 retreats each year. We might even look at having some permanent retreats. However, in 2020 we’ll be looking to open four new clubs in London, so we’ll only be running one or two retreats this year as we need to prioritise the core business.

We already announced the first retreat for 2020, which will be hosted at a former French cognac estate. Each morning starts with a run, followed by meditation. Every day there’s a yoga class and a fitness class and either a longer yoga or fitness workshop. This year we’ll have a nutritionist and chef who’ll be preparing mainly plant-based food designed to go with the training regime.

It’s all about community, building strength and skills-based progression. It’s not a bootcamp or about weight loss.

A week’s retreat is a great opportunity for our members to immerse themselves in an experience and make new connections and gives us another platform to engage with our community.

What other plans do you have?
We’re fundraising for expansion, including a move into digital fitness this year. This will allow us to take the brand beyond the studios to a wider audience who either live too far away or can’t afford classes. We have amazing spaces to use as backdrops, great videographers and more than 200 instructors, so we have the potential to create so much content.

BLOK – key facts

• There are currently three BLOK sites – Clapton, Shoreditch and Manchester, with plans to open four more in London in 2020.

• This high-end concept comprises studios for group exercise, changing rooms, reception area, art gallery and a café.

• The brand has been built on art, architecture and a highly designed environment, where people want to spend time.

• Classes are focused on building strength, skills and progression in order to keep clients coming back. There are strength and conditioning workouts, as well as yoga, barre, boxing and calisthenics.

• Each studio offers between 160 and 180 classes a week.

• Prices vary across the three sites, with a single class costing £15 in Manchester and Clapton and £17 in Shoreditch. Prices drop significantly if you commit for 12 months, with 10 class-a-month memberships costing just £84 in Manchester and Clapton and £100 in Shoreditch.

• Retreats and digital fitness are also in the pipeline.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/2020/618988_524940.jpg
The CEO and co-founder of BLOK tells how he developed ‘one of the coolest gyms in the world’
Ed Stanbury, BLOK,boutique fitness
People
HCM people

Debra Wein

founder and CEO, Wellness Workdays
I’ve always felt that if individuals had more education and understanding of nutrition and healthy lifestyle principles, we could literally change lives
People
HCM people

Dan Bond

Owner, CrossFit Fort Ashton
We’d explained leading up to the lockdown that if everyone decided to freeze or cancel, then there would be a possibility of not having a gym to come back to
People
HCM people

Dave Courteen

MD and co-founder of Mosaic Spa and Health Clubs
I set myself the goal that if I found someone famous to write the foreword and a publisher, then I would write the book
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feature
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Supplier showcase
Bannatyne has driven member engagement with Les Mills during the lockdown
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Latest News
Virtuagym has launched its new Stronger Together programme, marketed as the fitness industry's first all-in-one, ...
Latest News
Rainer Schaller, the founder of budget gym megabrand McFIT, has added iconic franchised chain Gold's ...
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A set of posters created by a fitness studio manager, mimicking the government's COVID-19 NHS ...
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In a boost to the gym and physical activity sector, the UK's deputy chief medical ...
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Publicly listed operator, The Gym Group (TGG) says it has retained 80 per cent of ...
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PureGym's operations in Europe have helped the business through the UK lockdown, according to CEO ...
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Following its announcement that grassroots sport could restart on 11 July and that gyms and ...
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Industry body ukactive has launched an Independent Operators' Steering Group, catering for members who run ...
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Fisikal chosen as tech partner for ‘JP4’; new health app from fitness expert, Jessie Pavelka
Fitness expert and television host, Jessie Pavelka has collaborated with Fisikal, experts in digital management solutions, to create the new JP4 app, a premium 12-week personal health and fitness transformation programme that takes the user on a journey of change through four key elements of health.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Let's get restarted: Physical Company offers advice on keeping gym members safe
As countries around the world gear up to relax their lockdown rules, there remains a question mark over gyms and studios, which in many markets will be one of the last sectors to be given the green light.
Company profiles
Company profile: Wattbike
Wattbike is the creator of the world’s most advanced and innovative indoor bikes, developed in ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Gympass
On a mission to defeat inactivity, Gympass is a corporate wellness solution that builds mutually ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Locking solutions
Monster Padlocks: Locking solutions
Exercise equipment
Technogym: Exercise equipment
Fitness software
Go Do.Fitness: Fitness software
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Design consultants
Zynk Design Consultants: Design consultants
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Direct debit solutions
Harlands Group: Direct debit solutions
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Property & Tenders
Greywell, Hampshire
Barnsgrove Health and Wellness Club
Property & Tenders
Derby City Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
22-23 Sep 2020
Heythrop Park, United Kingdom
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
27-30 Oct 2020
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
03-06 Nov 2020
Online,
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
23-26 Feb 2021
IFEMA, Madrid, Spain
Diary dates
03-04 Mar 2021
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-06 Jun 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
16-17 Jun 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates

features

HCM People: Ed StanburyBLOK: CEO and co-founder

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled...

Published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 3
BLOK founder, 
Ed Stanbury, is
building a global lifestyle brand
BLOK founder, Ed Stanbury, is building a global lifestyle brand

How did BLOK come about?
I went to look at a warehouse in Upper Clapton for my property and construction company and fell in love with the Victorian tram depot next door. It had stunning original features – vaulted ceilings and cast iron pillars – but was in a serious state of disrepair so was standing vacant. I offered a low rent and the landlord accepted.

I’m quite entrepreneurial – if I see a deal I usually take it and then work out what to do with it afterwards. So I found that I had an amazing building, with around 2,500sq ft of left-over space. I started asking my friends for ideas and Max Oppenheim, a high end fashion photographer, suggested turning it into a film and photo shoot location.

At that time Max and I were doing a lot of boxing and yoga and my wife, Reema, had started going to class-based gyms. We began to think it would be more interesting to open a boutique studio, with boxing and yoga.

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled.

What was your design vision?
We really wanted to create a space which has a vibe to it, not just somewhere with loud pumping music and dark rooms. Our inspiration has come more from the restaurant and bar sector – where it’s a labour of love to design, build and curate an experience. I don’t believe we’ve really seen that in fitness yet.

Because of our location, we couldn’t rely on having the heavy footfall of a high density area, so we set out to create an environment where people would want to hang out together – somewhere our friends would like.

We designed as we went along, sometimes we had to take down walls which had just gone up. Still, it only took four months to complete and we opened on 1st February 2016.

Within three weeks of the launch, Wallpaper voted BLOK one of the 30 coolest gyms in the world and Harpers Bazaar said it was one of the best gyms in London. As we were so small, we were always full, which added to the reputation.

To cope with demand, we rented another unit and turned it into a dedicated boxing studio – we kept all the original features and just added a ring and hung the bags off the original beams – it looks very raw.

This studio has been a backdrop for major shoots with brands such as Adidas, Apple and Under Armour and is definitely one of our most iconic spaces.

I don’t want to overplay the art element, but at the same time it’s a key part of what makes us unique in the industry. It’s part of the overall experience, creating an environment where you want to spend time. To this end, we have partnered with amazing artists like Arran Gregory and Ben Cullen Williams, both of whom have permanent exhibitions and sculptures at our sites.

What were the main challenges of launching a gym?
Arguably, having zero knowledge of the industry was a challenge, but it did mean we were open to ideas. We overcame this by sourcing great teams and giving them autonomy to make decisions.

Many operators want to have complete consistency across the brand, but we want to be constantly evolving, changing and adapting, so we encourage our instructors to try new things and make the classes different every time.

You launched a third club, in Manchester, in September, how did this come about?
We were approached by amazing restaurant operators, Bistrotheque, to be the fitness operator in an exciting development they were involved in, in a Victorian warehouse in Manchester, and we said yes right away.

We’ve made a real effort to integrate with the local community and businesses and tell them what we’re doing in advance and have found that people have bought into the concept. From our point of view, the market in Manchester isn’t that much different to London.

We’ve found that people have just as much disposable income and as much desire for the experience. What’s been more of a challenge is recruiting instructors, as many didn’t have as much experience in group training, so we needed to provide extra training, but now we have a strong team that rival our London instructor base.

BLOK ran its first retreat this year, are there plans for more?
Yes, we’re planning to build it into a sizeable arm with at least 10 and up to 20 retreats each year. We might even look at having some permanent retreats. However, in 2020 we’ll be looking to open four new clubs in London, so we’ll only be running one or two retreats this year as we need to prioritise the core business.

We already announced the first retreat for 2020, which will be hosted at a former French cognac estate. Each morning starts with a run, followed by meditation. Every day there’s a yoga class and a fitness class and either a longer yoga or fitness workshop. This year we’ll have a nutritionist and chef who’ll be preparing mainly plant-based food designed to go with the training regime.

It’s all about community, building strength and skills-based progression. It’s not a bootcamp or about weight loss.

A week’s retreat is a great opportunity for our members to immerse themselves in an experience and make new connections and gives us another platform to engage with our community.

What other plans do you have?
We’re fundraising for expansion, including a move into digital fitness this year. This will allow us to take the brand beyond the studios to a wider audience who either live too far away or can’t afford classes. We have amazing spaces to use as backdrops, great videographers and more than 200 instructors, so we have the potential to create so much content.

BLOK – key facts

• There are currently three BLOK sites – Clapton, Shoreditch and Manchester, with plans to open four more in London in 2020.

• This high-end concept comprises studios for group exercise, changing rooms, reception area, art gallery and a café.

• The brand has been built on art, architecture and a highly designed environment, where people want to spend time.

• Classes are focused on building strength, skills and progression in order to keep clients coming back. There are strength and conditioning workouts, as well as yoga, barre, boxing and calisthenics.

• Each studio offers between 160 and 180 classes a week.

• Prices vary across the three sites, with a single class costing £15 in Manchester and Clapton and £17 in Shoreditch. Prices drop significantly if you commit for 12 months, with 10 class-a-month memberships costing just £84 in Manchester and Clapton and £100 in Shoreditch.

• Retreats and digital fitness are also in the pipeline.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/2020/618988_524940.jpg
The CEO and co-founder of BLOK tells how he developed ‘one of the coolest gyms in the world’
Ed Stanbury, BLOK,boutique fitness
Latest News
Virtuagym has launched its new Stronger Together programme, marketed as the fitness industry's first all-in-one, ...
Latest News
Rainer Schaller, the founder of budget gym megabrand McFIT, has added iconic franchised chain Gold's ...
Latest News
A set of posters created by a fitness studio manager, mimicking the government's COVID-19 NHS ...
Latest News
In a boost to the gym and physical activity sector, the UK's deputy chief medical ...
Latest News
Publicly listed operator, The Gym Group (TGG) says it has retained 80 per cent of ...
Latest News
PureGym's operations in Europe have helped the business through the UK lockdown, according to CEO ...
Latest News
Following its announcement that grassroots sport could restart on 11 July and that gyms and ...
Latest News
Industry body ukactive has launched an Independent Operators' Steering Group, catering for members who run ...
Latest News
The UK's fitness industry can finally get back to business on Saturday 25 July, following ...
Latest News
HCM understands a decision on reopening dates for gyms and also for spas will be ...
Latest News
Interest in gym reopening in England is reaching fever pitch, with an announcement expected any ...
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Fisikal chosen as tech partner for ‘JP4’; new health app from fitness expert, Jessie Pavelka
Fitness expert and television host, Jessie Pavelka has collaborated with Fisikal, experts in digital management solutions, to create the new JP4 app, a premium 12-week personal health and fitness transformation programme that takes the user on a journey of change through four key elements of health.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Let's get restarted: Physical Company offers advice on keeping gym members safe
As countries around the world gear up to relax their lockdown rules, there remains a question mark over gyms and studios, which in many markets will be one of the last sectors to be given the green light.
Company profiles
Company profile: Wattbike
Wattbike is the creator of the world’s most advanced and innovative indoor bikes, developed in ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Gympass
On a mission to defeat inactivity, Gympass is a corporate wellness solution that builds mutually ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Locking solutions
Monster Padlocks: Locking solutions
Exercise equipment
Technogym: Exercise equipment
Fitness software
Go Do.Fitness: Fitness software
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Design consultants
Zynk Design Consultants: Design consultants
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Direct debit solutions
Harlands Group: Direct debit solutions
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Property & Tenders
Greywell, Hampshire
Barnsgrove Health and Wellness Club
Property & Tenders
Derby City Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
22-23 Sep 2020
Heythrop Park, United Kingdom
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
27-30 Oct 2020
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
03-06 Nov 2020
Online,
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
23-26 Feb 2021
IFEMA, Madrid, Spain
Diary dates
03-04 Mar 2021
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-06 Jun 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
16-17 Jun 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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