Ruth Mitchell

£60,000 boost for new gym concept

The North East’s first ‘no frills’ fitness club is coming to the region, thanks to a £60,000 investment from the Finance for Business North East Fund.

Brothers Paul and David Pearson have opened the first OneGym is Bishop Auckland, which will offer users access to fitness equipment without costly add-ons like swimming pools, saunas and fitness classes they don’t necessarily want to use.

The new venture has created 7 jobs, and the Pearson brothers now hope to expand the concept to other parts of the region. They have plans to open a second premises by the end of 2012, eventually expanding to 10 centres across the North East.

The pair chose the location in the centre of Bishop Auckland due to the town’s population size and lack of similar facilities in the surrounding area. A similar business model has already proved to be a success in the US and Europe, with membership costs kept significantly below those charged by hotel leisure facilities and lifestyle gyms.

OneGym managing director Paul Pearson, who has a long-standing background in the regional health and fitness industry, believes that the north east will be very receptive towards the no frills fitness concept.

He says: “The cardiac and resistance equipment and changing facilities in which we’ve invested is the same standard as you’d find at any high-end fitness centre – where we’re able to bring membership costs down is by cutting out all the added frills that gym users don’t necessarily want, but end up paying for anyway.

“The concept is based on doing the simple things brilliantly – everything from our opening times and car parking through to our membership costs and management systems has been planned in meticulous detail, and we’ve recruited highly-skilled staff to deliver the service in an area where we’re confident there will be a real appetite for what’s on offer.”

More than £100,000 has been invested in equipment in the facility, and members can join online or at a purpose built booth on the premises.

Paul continued: “We’re confident that we’ve got the right model in place, and think the North East has a lot of locations in which the OneGym concept would be a success – our aim is to open a second facility before the end of the year and we plan eventually to build a network of venues right across the region.

“NEL were recommended to us by our bank, and the team very quickly understood the commercial potential of what we were offering them – the process of applying for the investment went very smoothly, and we’re very excited to have now opened for business.”

David Thomas, investment executive at NEL Fund Managers, added: “The OneGym concept makes a lot of sense from both a user’s and an investor’s point of view, and the expertise and ambition that the management team brings to the overall package adds to an already-compelling business case.”

Aimed at regional businesses which are at a development and growth stage, the Growth Fund forms part of the wider Finance for Business North East Fund.

Managed by North East Finance, it will see £125m of investment capital injected into the region by the European Investment Bank, the European Regional Development Fund 2007-13 and the regional development agency over the next five years.

NEL is looking to make around 130 investments over the five-year life span of the Growth Fund, and is actively looking to speak to ambitious north east companies with robust business plans.

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