I built a fitness brand by working on myself first

The fitness industry is enjoying a renaissance as people in urban centres get more concerned about lifestyle diseases. However, the business opportunities in the sector have yet to be fully exploited.

For a fitness business to thrive, though, one must display the utmost professionalism and discipline to draw customers. Titus Matheka (pictured) is a fitness coach and the founder of Titoh Fitness Centre in Kajiado County’s Rongai. He set up the business six years ago and shares what’s worked for him.

What got you into the fitness industry?

I started this business as a trainer who wasn’t too sure about what he was getting himself into. I had no idea what it took to train clients to achieve their desired physique. The worst part is that I was personally not in shape, which made clients who entered my gym lose confidence in my ability to help them.

How did you deal with this?

My clients’ reactions motivated me to work harder, so I started with my own body, which meant losing weight. Once my body was in shape, I was able to market my business. I’d show clients my before photo where I was overweight, and they could see the transformation. This helped them believe my process could work for them.

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But this wasn’t enough. You decided to also go to school.

Yes, I wanted to become a professional fitness coach, so I enrolled at Sadili Oval for a four-month course that taught me about a whole new world that combined fitness with related issues like nutrition, managing delicate health conditions and helping clients deal with physical injuries.

Titoh Fitness has found quite a following online. How did this happen?

Once I could call myself a fitness coach, I went into social media to further develop my brand. Since many of my customers were students, I could engage with them easily through platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

I would post some of my clients’ progress, which drew in people who’d never believed their body goals could ever be achieved. The silver lining in this industry is that if you satisfy one client based on how involved you are in their personal journey, you create room for another client to believe in the process.

How important has word-of-mouth been?

Women have played a major role in the success of my career as a fitness coach because they take the initiative to post their fitness achievements on social media. Men, on the other hand, tend to be more secretive about airing their physical abilities and progress.

Most of your clients appreciate the community feel of your gym. How did you build this sense of camaraderie?

This was a step I took to build my brand. I wanted to create a sense of family among my gym members. To do this, I held outdoor training sessions, picnics and organised hikes to get people to think about fitness as being about more than going to the gym. I also established unique timetables for special sessions, such as aerobics, to draw in different types of customers.

What challenges have you faced along the way?

A lot of them revolve around client mindsets. For instance, if a client wants to lose weight yet they eat 2,000 more calories a day than they should, they won’t see any changes and may question your abilities.

A lack of discipline from clients can be problematic in that you can be blamed for their lack of progress. It always results in irregular payments. I also once had a gym session with a customer who never made me aware he had asthma, so when he started losing his breath, we had to get medics involved.

What are your charges?

I charge Sh1,000 a month for normal gym sessions, and an additional Sh1,000 for outdoor activities.

What would you tell an entrepreneur looking to get into this industry?

This kind of business requires you to have an unwavering passion for training people. Being passionate is a good sign to a client that you’re capable of delivering their dreams despite the personal huddles they may have to go through. Also, your location matters. Clients want an easily accessible and reliable gym. And when a client calls about personal issues involving training sessions, you need to be ready to help.

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