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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: 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.

If you would like to get each issue of HCM magazine sent direct to you for FREE, plus the weekly HCM ezine, sign up now!
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
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
We did some research comparing monthly turnstile swipes with online classes during lockdown, and found the correlation was 96 % – people were maintaining their usual routines
People
The pandemic has sped up our progress towards the strategy we’d outlined – to become a coaching company that happens to have clubs and support people in achieving their goals, wherever they choose to work out
Features
The way I see it
As Technogym launches its new virtual and on-demand services, Francesco Arlotti, head of digital solutions, shares his thoughts with HCM
Features
Partner briefing
BMF, the outdoor fitness franchise company co-owned by Bear Grylls, is launching a £1m initiative designed to offer financial support to PTs and exercise professionals in getting back to work after the lockdown
Features
feature
As the health and fitness industry gears up for reopening, Caroline Constantine, MD of Right Directions, shares critical guidance about safe operating procedures
Features
Staff welfare
As staff and members prepare to return to the gym, Dr Dane Vishnubala gives advice to operators on gearing up to offer them mental health support
Features
Statistics
More than 65,000 people responded to a survey designed to gauge what members want and expect from the sector after lockdown, as Leisure-net’s Dave Monkhouse reports
Features
Opinion
The over-70s were treated as one homogenous group during the lockdown and advised to shield. Colin Milner, founder and CEO of the International Council on Active Aging says this is leading to an increase in ageism that the industry must fight to overcome
Features
Supplier showcase
Working with Precor, Aberdeen Sports Village has undergone a £500k overhaul to strengthen the user experience and put digital connectivity at the core of its offering
Features
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 ...
Latest News
Exercising increases levels of a protein hormone secreted by the bones which has a powerful ...
Latest News
A free-to-access training platform has launched to help the sport and fitness workforce confidently return ...
Latest News
Glasgow Life, which runs leisure and culture facilities on behalf of Glasgow City Council, has ...
Latest News
Fitness equipment firm Nautilus Inc is looking for a buyer for its commercial equipment brand ...
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: EGYM presents Corona Gym Solution, for the successful re-opening of fitness studios
Finally, the time has come: fitness and health facilities around the globe are gradually resuming operations.
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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.
Video Gallery
Technogym mywellness app
Technogym
Improve your training experience. All your data in a single app. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Core Health & Fitness
Core Health & Fitness is more than gym equipment, we offer innovative solutions for all ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Safe Space Lockers
Safe Space have over 25 years of experience in the UK leisure and fitness industry, ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Management software
Fisikal: Management software
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Skincare
Comfort Zone - Davines S.p.A: Skincare
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Exercise equipment
EXF Fitness Equipment: Exercise equipment
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Fitness equipment
Healthcheck Services Ltd: Fitness equipment
Gym flooring
REGUPOL/Berleburger Schaumstoffwerk (BSW): Gym flooring
Design consultants
Zynk Design Consultants: Design consultants
Fitness Software
FunXtion International BV: Fitness Software
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: 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.

If you would like to get each issue of HCM magazine sent direct to you for FREE, plus the weekly HCM ezine, sign up now!
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
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 ...
Latest News
Exercising increases levels of a protein hormone secreted by the bones which has a powerful ...
Latest News
A free-to-access training platform has launched to help the sport and fitness workforce confidently return ...
Latest News
Glasgow Life, which runs leisure and culture facilities on behalf of Glasgow City Council, has ...
Latest News
Fitness equipment firm Nautilus Inc is looking for a buyer for its commercial equipment brand ...
Latest News
Technogym has announced the launch of live streaming and on-demand classes. The new content will ...
Latest News
A number of gym operators are concerned that local lockdowns could come into effect in ...
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: EGYM presents Corona Gym Solution, for the successful re-opening of fitness studios
Finally, the time has come: fitness and health facilities around the globe are gradually resuming operations.
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.
Video Gallery
Technogym mywellness app
Technogym
Improve your training experience. All your data in a single app. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Core Health & Fitness
Core Health & Fitness is more than gym equipment, we offer innovative solutions for all ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Safe Space Lockers
Safe Space have over 25 years of experience in the UK leisure and fitness industry, ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Management software
Fisikal: Management software
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Skincare
Comfort Zone - Davines S.p.A: Skincare
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Exercise equipment
EXF Fitness Equipment: Exercise equipment
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Fitness equipment
Healthcheck Services Ltd: Fitness equipment
Gym flooring
REGUPOL/Berleburger Schaumstoffwerk (BSW): Gym flooring
Design consultants
Zynk Design Consultants: Design consultants
Fitness Software
FunXtion International BV: Fitness Software
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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Hedgehog Concept Ltd
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