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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

HCM People: Sol GilbertCo-founder: Underground Gym

It’s our goal to launch two more self-funded clubs in the next three years. After that we’re open to anything: mergers or a private equity acquisition

Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 4
Sol Gilbert
Sol Gilbert

What is your backstory?
I’m an ex-professional MMA fighter and have been in the industry since I was a teenager, first with a gym in Brighton, then Courtney’s in London and Dragons back in Brighton. After that, I went on to launch my own martial arts school.

In 2014, I teamed up with my business partner, Alan McGuinness and we expanded my gym, so members could do their strength and conditioning work with us. At the same time we rebranded to Underground Gym, so we would be perceived as less of a fight school – which was intimidating to some people – and attract a more diverse crowd.

What’s the Underground Gym brand all about?
We have three equal parts. Combat, comprising MMA, boxing, Brazilian Ju Jitsu and Muay Thai. Strength training with free weights and plate loaded equipment and power and Olympic lifting. Finally, we offer conditioning with disciplines like Parkour and calisthenics.

The mix of these three aspects means the gym floor is not as ‘alpha’ as bodybuilding gyms and our members train across a number of disciplines. Our USP is the community we create at each club, which is largely down to our staff, who are all former professional athletes – their personalities create the atmosphere and DNA of the brand.

Do all three sites offer the same?
Each site has been slightly bigger and more costly! Brighton, the original flagship site, offers the core facilities. Newhaven was the second site and is slightly larger, with a sauna and a group exercise studio. Tunbridge Wells is the largest site and has a Fit 3D body scanner, MMA Octagon, a Parkour area and Eat Naked restaurant.

What’s the membership model?
Gym membership is £39 a month, with a £20 joining fee which gets waived for certain groups, such as single parents or service personnel. Gym and fitness classes are £49 a month and gym and the more specific classes, such as Olympic lifting or Parkour, are £59 a month.

There’s also a pay-as-you-go option which costs £9.99. We’ve just developed a small group training package to help people to get better results without the expense of PT. This starts at £12.

Who are your members?
A large proportion are millennials who come before and after work. But we do have more 40-50-year-olds coming mid-morning and there’s about a 60/40 split between males and females.

What have been the main challenges with getting the brand up and running?
We’ve self-funded, so sometimes that’s been stressful. Finding the right sites and the right staff is a challenge.

As we now have multiple locations, the main goal has been to ensure we offer the same experience across all three and that they run efficiently, offering the same quality experience – even if Alan and I are only in the club once a week.

To do this, we’ve created a more formal staff structure, with managers and supervisors, to make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.

What do you look for in a site?
We look for industrial units in residential areas, with ample parking and supportive councils. Our aim is to own the south coast of the UK, so Tunbridge Wells was further north than we’d originally planned, but it was such a good location that we had to go for it.

Retailers like John Lewis and Marks & Spencer and showrooms for Bentley and BMW are within a kilometre of the club in Tunbridge Wells – it’s such an affluent area, we thought if we can’t make a gym work here, we might as well give up!

It’s an old gymnastics facility, so loads of the infrastructure was already in place, including a foam pit, which has allowed us to create a Parkour, street-running park.

We opened on 23rd November after a 30-day turnaround, adding a restaurant, widening the reception area and bringing in new kit from Core Health and Fitness, Carbon Claw and Xenios.

What are your future plans?
It’s our goal to launch two more self-funded clubs within the next three years and we’re looking for sites in Worthing and Eastbourne. After that, we’re open to anything: mergers with other chains or a private equity acquisition.

What are your predictions for the health and fitness industry?
More focus on boutiques and small group training. I also think people will get fed up of data and technology and want workouts to be more simple. There will be more cross training, but less club hopping – people will get bored of going to different places because they won’t build a community. So, I think we’ll see more ‘clubs within a club’, offering an interesting mix of facilities.

Alan McGuinness
Alan McGuinness
Gilbert and McGuinness look for industrial units in residential areas
Gilbert and McGuinness look for industrial units in residential areas
The Underground Gym offers a combination of combat, strength and Parkour/calisthenics
The Underground Gym offers a combination of combat, strength and Parkour/calisthenics
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/imagesX/156873_625136.jpg
Underground Gym's co-founder, Sol Gilbert, talks about breaking the rules with a new gym model
Sol Gilbert, co-founder: Underground Gym ,Sol Gilbert, Underground Gym, combat, strength, Parkour
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features

HCM People: Sol GilbertCo-founder: Underground Gym

It’s our goal to launch two more self-funded clubs in the next three years. After that we’re open to anything: mergers or a private equity acquisition

Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 4
Sol Gilbert
Sol Gilbert

What is your backstory?
I’m an ex-professional MMA fighter and have been in the industry since I was a teenager, first with a gym in Brighton, then Courtney’s in London and Dragons back in Brighton. After that, I went on to launch my own martial arts school.

In 2014, I teamed up with my business partner, Alan McGuinness and we expanded my gym, so members could do their strength and conditioning work with us. At the same time we rebranded to Underground Gym, so we would be perceived as less of a fight school – which was intimidating to some people – and attract a more diverse crowd.

What’s the Underground Gym brand all about?
We have three equal parts. Combat, comprising MMA, boxing, Brazilian Ju Jitsu and Muay Thai. Strength training with free weights and plate loaded equipment and power and Olympic lifting. Finally, we offer conditioning with disciplines like Parkour and calisthenics.

The mix of these three aspects means the gym floor is not as ‘alpha’ as bodybuilding gyms and our members train across a number of disciplines. Our USP is the community we create at each club, which is largely down to our staff, who are all former professional athletes – their personalities create the atmosphere and DNA of the brand.

Do all three sites offer the same?
Each site has been slightly bigger and more costly! Brighton, the original flagship site, offers the core facilities. Newhaven was the second site and is slightly larger, with a sauna and a group exercise studio. Tunbridge Wells is the largest site and has a Fit 3D body scanner, MMA Octagon, a Parkour area and Eat Naked restaurant.

What’s the membership model?
Gym membership is £39 a month, with a £20 joining fee which gets waived for certain groups, such as single parents or service personnel. Gym and fitness classes are £49 a month and gym and the more specific classes, such as Olympic lifting or Parkour, are £59 a month.

There’s also a pay-as-you-go option which costs £9.99. We’ve just developed a small group training package to help people to get better results without the expense of PT. This starts at £12.

Who are your members?
A large proportion are millennials who come before and after work. But we do have more 40-50-year-olds coming mid-morning and there’s about a 60/40 split between males and females.

What have been the main challenges with getting the brand up and running?
We’ve self-funded, so sometimes that’s been stressful. Finding the right sites and the right staff is a challenge.

As we now have multiple locations, the main goal has been to ensure we offer the same experience across all three and that they run efficiently, offering the same quality experience – even if Alan and I are only in the club once a week.

To do this, we’ve created a more formal staff structure, with managers and supervisors, to make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.

What do you look for in a site?
We look for industrial units in residential areas, with ample parking and supportive councils. Our aim is to own the south coast of the UK, so Tunbridge Wells was further north than we’d originally planned, but it was such a good location that we had to go for it.

Retailers like John Lewis and Marks & Spencer and showrooms for Bentley and BMW are within a kilometre of the club in Tunbridge Wells – it’s such an affluent area, we thought if we can’t make a gym work here, we might as well give up!

It’s an old gymnastics facility, so loads of the infrastructure was already in place, including a foam pit, which has allowed us to create a Parkour, street-running park.

We opened on 23rd November after a 30-day turnaround, adding a restaurant, widening the reception area and bringing in new kit from Core Health and Fitness, Carbon Claw and Xenios.

What are your future plans?
It’s our goal to launch two more self-funded clubs within the next three years and we’re looking for sites in Worthing and Eastbourne. After that, we’re open to anything: mergers with other chains or a private equity acquisition.

What are your predictions for the health and fitness industry?
More focus on boutiques and small group training. I also think people will get fed up of data and technology and want workouts to be more simple. There will be more cross training, but less club hopping – people will get bored of going to different places because they won’t build a community. So, I think we’ll see more ‘clubs within a club’, offering an interesting mix of facilities.

Alan McGuinness
Alan McGuinness
Gilbert and McGuinness look for industrial units in residential areas
Gilbert and McGuinness look for industrial units in residential areas
The Underground Gym offers a combination of combat, strength and Parkour/calisthenics
The Underground Gym offers a combination of combat, strength and Parkour/calisthenics
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/imagesX/156873_625136.jpg
Underground Gym's co-founder, Sol Gilbert, talks about breaking the rules with a new gym model
Sol Gilbert, co-founder: Underground Gym ,Sol Gilbert, Underground Gym, combat, strength, Parkour
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Physical activity bodies ukactive and EuropeActive have agreed to strengthen their partnership in the event ...
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The first-ever FIBO Southeast Asia fitness event will be held in Singapore next year. Taking ...
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Cancer survivors should undertake a minimum of 90 minutes of aerobic and resistance training each ...
Latest News
Thrive Global, the wellness and behaviour change tech firm founded by Arianna Huffington, has acquired ...
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Regular exercise is highly beneficial for all patients with cardiovascular disease regardless of age. A ...
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LXA has inserted a 2,000sq ft (186sq m) indoor/outdoor boxing gym into a mixed-use building ...
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Job search
POST YOUR JOB
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Fusion Lifestyle incorporates Power Plate into ‘INTENCITY Studios’
Fusion Lifestyle, the highly experienced sports and leisure management brand is working with Power Plate to integrate vibration training into its high intensity fitness studios.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Join FitNation - the new fitness congress about innovation
FitNation, the new premier event about innovation in the fitness industry, will kick-off in Amsterdam on 4 October.
Opinion
promotion
As an industry, we still underestimate the power of a truly varied fitness regime - and the growing appetite for it, especially among emerging customer segments.
Opinion: Collaboration vs aggregation - what’s the difference?
An ever-increasing number of Brits are engaging in sporting events, setting themselves goals and looking to increase their fitness levels....
Opinion: Dr Crionna Tobin on nutritional training for PTs and fitness experts
Company profiles
Company profile: Proinsight Research Ltd
We take time at the outset to understand your unique customer journey. Then we work ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Core Health & Fitness
Core Health & Fitness is the world’s largest privately-held marketer and distributor of commercial fitness ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Direct debit solutions
Debit Finance Collections: Direct debit solutions
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
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MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Member access schemes
Move GB: Member access schemes
Governing body
EMD UK: Governing body
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Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
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Ojmar: Locking solutions
Property & Tenders
Kirklees Active Leisure
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
28-30 Oct 2019
Hotel Royal Savoy, Lausanne, Switzerland
Diary dates
30-31 Oct 2019
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
05-08 Nov 2019
Koelnmesse, Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
21-22 Nov 2019
JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort, Aventura,
Diary dates
29 Nov 2019
The King’s Fund, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
29-30 Jan 2020
Holiday Inn San Francisco-Golden Gateway, San Francisco, United States
Diary dates
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Diary dates
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Diary dates
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ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
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