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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.

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
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Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of the world’s health and fitness clubs are currently ...
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Although the facts may seem less relevant now due to the coroavirus pandemic, new numbers ...
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Fitness professionals should use the coronavirus-induced lockdown – where possible – to enhance their knowledge ...
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The US government has passed a motion that will see gig workers, independent contractors and ...
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POST YOUR JOB
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The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) is proud to be the industry leader in water-related safety qualifications and training. More than 40,000 pool lifeguards qualify with a RLSS UK National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) every year.
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The modern training gym champions functional fitness in a small group personal training model, with a premium service experience at its heart
Opinion: Overcome membership attrition with this surprising new industry trend: the modern training gym
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Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
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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.

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
One of the factors that has made the coronavirus outbreak so severe across the globe ...
Latest News
Mindfulness app provider, Headspace, is making a bid to support US-based healthcare professionals curb anxiety ...
Latest News
Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of the world’s health and fitness clubs are currently ...
Latest News
Although the facts may seem less relevant now due to the coroavirus pandemic, new numbers ...
Latest News
Fitness professionals should use the coronavirus-induced lockdown – where possible – to enhance their knowledge ...
Latest News
The US government has passed a motion that will see gig workers, independent contractors and ...
Latest News
The physical activity sector is adapting to the difficult circumstances caused by COVID-19 (Coronavirus), according ...
Latest News
Joe Wicks, the personal trainer who has become a global star thanks to his daily ...
Latest News
Physical activity sector bodies have welcomed the government's measures to help the UK's self-employed workers ...
Latest News
Hollywood star Chris Hemsworth is making his online fitness programme Centrfit available for free for ...
Latest News
American Council on Exercise (ACE) has urged US policymakers to not leave the fitness sector's ...
Job search
POST YOUR JOB
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: ZIVA & Physical Company: A new partnership to meet all needs
Physical Company and ZIVA have announced a new distribution partnership that will see Physical Company become the exclusive UK distributor of ZIVA's commercial products.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: RLSS UK - First choice for all aquatic rescue, pool management, first aid qualifications and training
The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) is proud to be the industry leader in water-related safety qualifications and training. More than 40,000 pool lifeguards qualify with a RLSS UK National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) every year.
Opinion
promotion
The modern training gym champions functional fitness in a small group personal training model, with a premium service experience at its heart
Opinion: Overcome membership attrition with this surprising new industry trend: the modern training gym
Video Gallery
DFC: We do more...
DFC
DFC are a leading direct debit collection company, providing cash flow solutions to happy clients from all over the UK. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Octane Fitness
A global innovator of high-performance fitness equipment, Octane Fitness, a Nautilus, Inc. brand, continually redefines ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Harlands Group
Harlands Group is the leading provider of membership management services to leisure operators, processing over ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Fitness software
Go Do.Fitness: Fitness software
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Locking solutions
Ojmar: Locking solutions
Management software
Fisikal: Management software
Exercise equipment
Technogym: Exercise equipment
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Skincare
Comfort Zone - Davines S.p.A: Skincare
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Independent service & maintenance
Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
Fitness equipment
Stages Cycling: Fitness equipment
Property & Tenders
Greywell, Hampshire
Barnsgrove Health and Wellness Club
Property & Tenders
Derby City Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
19-24 Apr 2020
tbc, Beijing, China
Diary dates
04 Jun 2020
Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel & Country Club, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
13 Jun 2020
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
17-18 Jun 2020
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
06-07 Jul 2020
Eastwood Hall, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
30-31 Oct 2020
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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