Dr Hajira Mashego recognized a spot for gyms in South African townships and peri-urban areas. In an interview with How we made it in Africa, she talked concerning the untapped potential within the nation’s health club trade, her best advertising initiatives and why nearly all of Health Junction’s members don’t primarily come to the health club for train.
Life earlier than turning into an entrepreneur
Mashego began her profession as a physiotherapist and went on to develop into a lecturer within the area. In 2007, she joined the nationwide Division of Sport and Recreation as a director for scientific help providers and, in 2014, was appointed the appearing chief director for sports activities and recreation within the Mpumalanga Province. Nonetheless, she grew to become pissed off with public sector work as she felt her labour had little affect. In 2017, after finishing her PhD and a part-time course in social entrepreneurship on the GIBS Enterprise Faculty in Johannesburg, she left her authorities position to start out her personal health club. She cashed in her pension to finance the tools for the primary health club.
Mashego’s choice to enter the health trade stemmed from her PhD thesis, which examined bodily exercise amongst South African adolescents. Her analysis discovered that in most townships (underdeveloped city areas that, till the tip of apartheid, had been reserved for non-whites), folks had little entry to bodily exercise services, which contributed to excessive charges of weight problems that results in hypertension, diabetes, cardiac failure and plenty of different continual illnesses of life-style.
Though South Africa has a comparatively developed health club trade – with giant gamers like Virgin Energetic and Planet Health – Mashego noticed an underserved market in townships and peri-urban areas. Most individuals resort to operating or strolling golf equipment to get their train. “In the event you drive right into a township within the morning, you see folks operating on the primary roads. It isn’t secure. In some townships, you get robbed whereas operating,” she explains.
Getting the enterprise up and operating
Securing her first website proved difficult as Mashego didn’t have a observe document she may present to landlords. After a number of rejections, the homeowners of the Madeira Buying Centre in Danville, Pretoria, agreed to supply her a lease. The situation was excellent; located between Pretoria’s western townships and the CBD, the place many work. Mashego surveyed motorists at visitors lights within the space to validate her assumptions that there was a requirement for a health club within the space.
Health Junction opened its doorways on 23 February 2018. On the primary day, the corporate allowed everybody to check the tools at no cost. It acquired numerous sign-ups on that first day and even ran out of receipt books.
Health not the first purpose why folks go to
Whereas Mashego’s preliminary worth proposition was to supply her clients with a facility to enhance their well being, she quickly found most of her members had been there for far more than train. They had been there to socialize.
“In South Africa, gyms, carwashes and nightclubs are kind of the identical. Folks gown as much as go to a carwash; they appear the half, they get a cooler field and sit on the carwash and socialise, braai meat and drink whereas their automotive is washed.
“A health club in our neighborhood is analogous. They gown up and put on the newest make-up to go to the health club. It’s extra of a social space; a spot the place you discover a accomplice or make new mates… It’s the place you might be seen to be in the proper social class, carrying the proper bag, carrying the proper sneakers. Solely about 25% go there primarily for the train.”
Mashego provides nearly all of her members – 65% are ladies – come for aerobics and spinning courses. They don’t use the train tools a lot.
The pandemic lockdown was an enormous setback for Health Junction. In 2020, gyms weren’t allowed to function for a number of months, and even after they may open, it needed to be at a lowered capability. Many individuals froze or cancelled their contracts. Mashego expects the enterprise to return to pre-Covid-19 ranges solely by September this yr.
Advertising: pamphlets work greatest
Handing out pamphlets in surrounding areas has delivered one of the best outcomes for Health Junction. The corporate pays folks locally R100 (US$7) a day to distribute pamphlets to homes and at visitors lights.
It additionally does activations equivalent to aerobics marathons at buying centres. “Each month, we maintain an aerobics marathon in a car parking zone. Everyone seems to be welcome; they don’t have to be a member. Folks find yourself becoming a member of the health club as a result of they’ve a lot enjoyable.”
Whereas the corporate does have a web site and social media presence, it’s aimed toward youthful folks. “College students discover us on social media however older adults discover us by pamphlets. They’re much less social-media savvy.”
On the time of writing, Health Junction had about 1,400 members, of which 1,000 are “energetic members”. “Our energetic members fluctuate due to bouncing debit orders,” Mashego reveals.
Though Health Junction’s predominant earnings is from memberships, it generates further income by leasing house to the operator of a juice bar contained in the health club. It additionally collects lease from a dance college for youngsters, which makes use of its facility on Saturdays.
Mashego sees potential to duplicate her enterprise mannequin in a number of outlying townships. “If I can get the funding, I can scale it to each township the place the massive boys aren’t keen to go. Folks have disposable earnings however there isn’t a lot to do within the townships; they work, go dwelling, have braais, drink and that’s about it.”
She hopes to open her second health club by the tip of 2022, relying on whether or not she will supply funding. “The bounce from the primary to the second health club is tough as a result of the cash we’re making is just not enough to help the opening of a second one. Set-up prices are fairly steep with the tools, renovations and different objects; you want a minimal of R3 million ($195,000).”
Health Junction CEO Dr Hajira Mashego’s contact data
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