If everyone wants to be active and healthy, why are so many of us neglecting our fitness? This is the question that MoveGB founder Alister Rollins has set out to answer. “Most gyms only keep consumers engaged for a few weeks,” he says. “The model is broken as high churn mean neither the operator or consumer get what they want.”
In 2013, Rollins launched his innovative fitness start-up to help solve the issue. MoveGB connects hundreds of gyms, exercise studios and fitness instructors, to 100,000s of 'Movers' (users of the service) allowing them to dip in and out of different types of activity. “Our interests change all the time,” he explains. “But there are so many barriers to trying new things. Maybe a friend is into boxing but you’re not a member of their club, or you just want to try something new but don't know there's a local hula hooping or parkour class nearby. We make that possible.”
MoveGB’s subscribers are reaping the benefits of the model, they are twice as active as traditional fitness users, and they keep active for four times as long. Customers become fervent fans because of MoveGB’s top-notch service: it sends flowers to injured members and if a membership is unused, it credits the cash back.
The start-up launched in Bristol and grew rapidly in the city, where it now boasts 65,000 customers out of a population of 400,000. It has now launched in Brighton and London too. “Year-on-year, we’re growing 100%,” says Rollins. “We started small to prove the model, so now we’re moving from one location to the next at rapid pace.
“We’re not worried about any potential competitors,” he adds. “Our only true competitor is inactivity.”
Rollins has international ambitions, with a pilot live in NYC and he has been travelling to China to scout out the fitness market there. “It’s a rapidly-growing industry that will be huge in a few years,” he says. “We want to get in there early and stop them following the Western model, which we know is broken.” In China, MoveGB will operate a franchise model, Rollins reveals, which will help the brand to get the offering just right through tapping into local entrepreneurs.
There have been many setbacks along the way, but Rollins says that being a serial entrepreneur has helped him roll with the punches. “It took me four years to get my last business right, then it grew really fast” he says. “I didn't want Move to take four years to find product market fit so we went to market early and expected to fail so we could learn and improve. You only ever truly fail if you give up. I’m comfortable with the idea of failure along the way. I expect it now. The trick is bet small, validate your assumptions and build a company that can withstand failure, and making sure your team are never demoralised, and don't make big bets on the unknowns.”
Physical activity is just the beginning for MoveGB, as Rollins has big ambitions to move into related sectors, from nutrition to mental health. “You’ve heard of FANG, the group of services we engage with the most Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google?” he says. “We believe Move will join this club looking after all your health and wellness needs. Amazon started out just selling books, and we are starting with active leisure but we see a future where every consumer invests in preventative health services, where they understand their body, their nutritional needs and have access to the activities to get the most out of their day-to-day lives.”