Inspirational figures defeat business doubts for health club founder

Whenever Andy Anderson thought “I’m screwed” as he worked to build his dream of a health and fitness club, he’d look at a wall where he’d posted pictures of inspiring figures.


One-time Mr Universe, actor and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was there, perhaps obviously for someone in the fitness industry, but also light bulb inventor Thomas Edison and US industrialist Henry Ford.


“They were people who started with zero but changed the world,” Anderson told StartupSmart over coffee in a Melbourne café.


“Every time I thought ‘I’m screwed’, I’d read more about their lives. That’s what inspires me, knowing what other people have done before.”


Schwarzenegger came from a very strict family, Edison developed hearing problems as a child and Ford was born on a farm. And yet from humble beginnings they have all made their marks.


Anderson, 27, is a former carpenter who came to the fitness industry after deciding he no longer enjoyed partying and its unhealthy lifestyle.


“I wanted to get a better body and live a happier, healthy lifestyle,” he says.


“I’d always done sport like amateur boxing and got a black belt in tae kwon do, so I looked at doing a personal training qualification.”


From there he worked at a gym chain and conducted boot camps before deciding to start his own health club that combines psychology, nutrition and physical training to achieve long-lasting fitness and health results.


And now he’s caught the entrepreneurial bug.


He opened Ultimate You Fitness about four months ago at Melbourne’s Southbank, behind Crown casino, and already has close to 500 members. His ultimate goal is to franchise the business and have 100 clubs operating around the country in 10 years.


Given Australia’s rising obesity rate, the fitness industry is significant, with industry researcher IBISWorld estimating gym and fitness centres in Australia would see revenue of $1.3 billion in 2013.


But getting the health club off the ground wasn’t easy, especially when he and fiancée and business partner Andrea Hui had zero capital to start with.


Funding initially came from close friends and clients who believed in his idea.


“That gave me the confidence to keep going,” he says.


He struck several low points along the way, including some potential investors who were unable to provide funding they’d promised, and not knowing whether they had enough money to paint the club’s interior.


Anderson was undeterred however, confident that more investors would come on board when he could take them through the site and show them its floor plan. He solved the paint issue by brokering a deal with a paint company, receiving paint in exchange for free memberships and their logo on staff uniforms.


“We bootstrapped everything,” Anderson says of their start down the new business road, which included drawing on his past as a carpenter to fit out the club’s interior, including building the toilets and laying floors, and flying to China to access materials.


“It has not been easy at all,” he says.


But he says the club combines his two passions – business and fitness – and that since it opened, “I have been the happiest I’ve been”.


“It’s exciting to launch things. I want to invest in other businesses.”


Anderson, who left school in year 10, says learning, and consistently learning, is one of the biggest business lessons he’s taken from launching Ultimate You Fitness.


“Negotiating leases, sub leases, legal matters, accounting, tax, you have to keep learning,” he says.


He says he reads two books a week, listens to audio books, goes to seminars and engages with mentors.


“If sitting in a classroom doesn’t do it for you, if you don’t think a (university) degree will do it for you, you’ve got to find out ways to get educated,” he says.


“I want to surround myself with people smarter than me.”


Anderson’s six tips for healthy living


1. Learn emotional intelligence and the ability to improve your state of mind no matter what the situation.


2. Learn to eat right for your body type and always consider your hormonal function when choosing foods. If you know what macro nutrients affect what hormones and specific parts of your body you will finally have control of your weight for life!


3. Increase water and whole foods; eliminate packaged foods and sugary drinks. The beauty of this is you get to eat way more delicious food without getting the negative effects of low energy and weight gain.


4. Sleep. I can’t stress the importance of recovery for all facets of your health – mental, physical and spiritual. I believe you must play at 100% when training, but you need to support that effort with adequate rest as that is when hormonal output is at its peak and we grow and recover while sleeping.


5. Always aim to shock the body with your workout and remember that you will eventually adapt to whatever exercise you throw at your body. Add weight, change the reps, switch up the exercises, these things help to keep the body guessing and keep you getting results!


6. Have fun and live with passion, these two things are the keys to an energised and healthy life. If you use this philosophy with your health, fitness, relationships or business it will forever serve you endless positive results.


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