The UK is a nation full of aspiring entrepreneurs, with the number of new businesses launched in the country hitting a record high in 2016*. However, for many, taking an idea and turning it into a functioning business is a reality which often eludes them.
Dinusha Ileperuma is an example of someone who wanted to own a business and build a long-term future, but who had yet to pinpoint the right idea or how to deliver it. He was also reluctant to walk away from the security and income of his existing career before his own venture was up and running.
A software consultant, Dinusha was already self-employed developing systems for the investment arm of a global financial services firm in London, but he had always harboured greater entrepreneurial ambitions. Over the course of time he’d had a variety of business ideas and loose plans for ventures of his own but, as he admits, they never made it beyond just that: ideas.
During conversations in 2015 with a like-minded friend and co-worker, Dinusha and his colleague identified that there was a gap in the market in his local area for a quality gym.
As Dinusha and his friend researched their latest idea, the two software developers agreed that a franchise would be their strongest route into the market. It would enable them to go into business together on a venture with the backing of a successful brand and a proven business model.
Anytime Fitness, the global number one franchise**, were expanding their successful network of 24-hour gyms in the UK at the time Dinusha and his new business partner were exploring their options. As well as demonstrating great business results, the access-all-hours model that the fitness brand operates, appealed to the two entrepreneurs.
In the very same week that Dinusha and his business partner were doing their research, The British & International Franchise Exhibition was being held at Olympia London. Anytime Fitness were to be exhibiting there, so the two men headed to the event to meet face-to face with the brand.
Dinusha explains: "The timing really was perfect. We’d finally set our sights on an idea that met a need, and had agreed on a path - franchising - which could turn our idea into a reality. Now we just had to agree on which brand to partner with, so we headed to the event to speak in person with the company we felt excited about."
Dinusha and his business partner invested in their first Anytime Fitness license in 2015 and opened the Woolwich site in summer 2016. They will be opening their second gym with Anytime Fitness this year, in Dalton, and Dinusha has his sights set on a third franchise after that.
With no prior experience of setting up or running a gym, Dinusha has nothing but praise for the support he and his associate received from Anytime Fitness in getting their first gym off the ground.
He comments: "From training us on the business model, brand and operational systems, to finding premises, sourcing materials, builders and tradesmen, Anytime Fitness provided invaluable support. We honestly could not have opened the gym without their guidance and input.
"The fact that the franchisor has been through the process multiple times before and has finessed every aspect of the model brought tremendous efficiency to the process, and filled me with confidence that we were going to hit the ground running from day one."
Dinusha continues to work as a software consultant, even as an owner of an operational gym. He explains that this is possible due to the business model of the gym. He employs a small team to operate the gym on a day-to-day basis, sharing the responsibilities as co-owner with his business partner. In addition, the gym members are largely self-sufficient, with security fobs giving them access to the gym any time of day or night.
Dinusha comments: "I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to continue with my day job while learning all about setting up and running my own business – a business which has been open for over a year now. As I open more sites, it will become my full-time occupation, but this phased approach has been ideal for me."
Brett Edwards, General Manager of Anytime Fitness, comments: "Dinusha and his business partner have been excellent to work with every step of the way. Their drive and ambition has been combined with a great attitude towards the Anytime Fitness brand and the franchise model. They leverage our support and combine it with their own energy and focus to deliver a great experience for their local Anytime Fitness members."
Dinusha concludes: "Investing in a franchise provided me with a finely tuned blueprint I have to follow to launch and grow my own business, which will see me into the future. I’d recommend franchising to anybody aspiring to run their own business."
If you are interested in following in Dinusha’s footsteps, visit The National Franchise Exhibition on 13 & 14 October where Anytime Fitness will have a strong presence as event sponsors for the fourth consecutive year. Taking place at the NEC, Birmingham, the event is the perfect opportunity to discover the lucrative franchise industry. Book your free ticket online to save £15 on the door.
For more information on all aspects of the event and to book tickets please visit FranchiseInfo.co.uk.