A FORMER Gaelic player has transformed his garage into a fitness studio to deliver one-to-one personal training, thanks to help from the Go For It programme in association with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.
The Go For It Programme is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) programme.
Eoghan Heaney (22), from Armagh, plays for Pearse Og GAC and also played at county level when he was younger before discovering his passion for training others.
He launched his own fitness studio, Tribe Fitness, in October and soon found himself with a waiting list of interested clients - until the most recent lockdown forced him to adapt to an online service.
Eoghan was working in a warehouse when he came up with the idea of becoming a personal trainer.
“I got home from the gym one day and I said to myself ‘I love fitness, I love the gym environment, I love coaching - why not become the personal trainer? It’s the perfect occupation for you’,” he says.
His dad was worried that it might be unwise to leave his job to pursue a new career, but Eoghan underwent the training and ended up working at another gym for several years, before making the decision to launch his own business where he could put his own ideas into action.
During the first lockdown he moved into a new house which had a large garage, perfect for converting into a gym. And before launching Tribe Fitness, he joined the Go For It programme.
The Go for It Programme is delivered free of charge by a team of experienced business mentors across all 11 council areas of Northern Ireland. It provides expert advice and help with developing a robust business plan to help turn ideas into a commercial enterprise.
“I learned about how to manage the finances and became very clear on how many packages I needed to sell to make a profit and make sure the business was running well,” he says.
Eoghan launched his new gym in October, offering one-to-one training and online fitness sessions, and soon found himself with a waiting list of clients eager to seek his advice.
But when lockdown returned, he had to adapt to a new way of delivering personal training and invested in a training app that he could use to pre-record exercise demonstrations for his clients and help them to fine-tune their regime, while supporting them with regular one-to-one Zoom sessions.
“It can be very easy in lockdown to think ‘I don’t want to do it today’ and just not do it. So, it’s about keeping that one-to-one aspect, keeping the clients accountable, making sure they show up and do their three or four sessions a week,” he says.
“With people being in their own houses all day, looking at the walls, it’s like being in a fancy prison - it would drive you mad. So doing a bit of exercise and building up a sweat can be good for mental health and good for overall health.
“I encourage them to get out of the house as much as they can as well - as soon as we’ve finished the Zoom call, I tell them to go out for a walk of 2 to 5K to get away from the computer screen - that’s the biggest head saver.”
The online approach has also meant it has been easier for clients signing up from further afield to keep in close contact with their personal trainer.
“I do have some clients from Monaghan or Portadown - having to come the whole way from there doesn't make sense, so for them, the online approach makes sense and is a lot cheaper,” Eoghan says.
“With the restrictions starting to lift, I am also starting to get a lot of people texting me now with enquiries about coming back to face-to-face training.”
Eoghan says he received a lot of support from his Go For It mentor Dermot Hicks on how to design his business.
“We sat down and discussed what I hoped to achieve by the end of the year and how many packages I needed to sell to turn a profit and make the business run smoothly,” he says.
“For somebody who is starting out and needs some clarification on how to manage and structure a business the Go For It programme is definitely the thing to do.”
Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Kevin Savage, said: “The Go For It Programme, delivered by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, provides new entrepreneurs with accessible, free and tailored support in the start-up stage of their business in areas such as financial and business planning, and sales and marketing to help get their business up and running.
“I wish Eoghan every continued success in developing and growing his enterprise and encourage anyone thinking about starting their own business to get in touch with the Go For It Programme!”
Dermot Hicks, Business Advisor at Armagh Business Centre Limited, said: “Eoghan approached the Go For it wanting to transfer his passion for sport and knowledge of fitness and nutrition into a viable business opportunity. We were delighted to help him achieve his dream, by offering him the support and guidance he needed to develop a business plan.
“The business plan really helped Eoghan focus on the financial aspect of running a business such as developing a two-year financial forecast and costing various packages to suit his target market, as well as the necessary sales and marketing techniques required to get the business up and running.
“Eoghan has done an amazing job so far and hasn’t let the latest lockdown hold his business back by pivoting to online sessions with clients. I have no doubt that his passion and drive for helping people achieve their fitness goals will help him build and sustain a very successful business.
If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business contact the Go For It Programme on 0800 027 0639 or visit: www.goforitni.com.