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One of the first things you learn in muay thai is resilience.
Speedfit Kotara co-owner and muay thai fighter Amy Hart knows this lesson particularly well.
She spent three and a half years training in remote Thailand, her days filled with sweaty sparring, training and bookended by long runs through the Thai countryside.
Then, she would head out to the fields to pick the vegetables she would cook for her dinner.
“We had a couple of drills in Thailand, where we were training a particular movement or style of kickboxing, or push ups or sit ups and we would compete against each other for the last person to stop doing that exercise,” she told Yahoo Finance.
“The Thai trainers would come around and kick the absolute crap out of you if you stopped first. There’s a lot of mental toughness that goes into this type of training, and a lot of discipline as well.”
When she wasn’t training, she was still carrying out physically demanding work as a remedial massage therapist.
Even before the injuries that derailed her muay thai career, she would sustain broken bones in her feet by kicking the rocks at the bottom of the boxing bags, she’d broken both of her hands and her nose too.
The love of the brutal sport kept her coming back.
Today, the co-owner of electronic muscle stimulation (EMS) training gym Speedfit in Newcastle’s Kotara, Hart believes this resilience is what helps her succeed in business.
Hart opened the Kotara Speedfit in September 2020, and has since built it up to become the most successful Speedfit franchise in Australia.
Here’s how she did it.
Two significant injuries to her shoulder and hip ended her time in Thailand. At her worst, she could barely walk.
And while she saw a chiropractor and a physio, it was EMS that really worked.
EMS is a physical therapy procedure in which stimulators send mild electrical pulses through the skin to stimulate injured muscles and reduce pain. Speedfit offers EMS in the form of once-weekly 20 minute sessions, with memberships starting at $59.95 a week.
At the time, Hart was living in Perth and had heard about the benefits of EMS for martial arts fighters.
She got a job as an instructor at the local Speedfit while she underwent her own training with them. She progressed to manager, and within six months of her relationship with Speedfit, she knew that this was something special.
“What they’re doing is incredible - the amount of people that it’s helped is endless. There is obviously a lot of work that goes in behind the scenes as well.. as a manager, and I was thinking, ‘How can I take this and turn this into more of a business opportunity?’” she said.
“My whole family was training with them as well, so we started chatting to [Speedfit founder] Matej Varhalik about franchising opportunities.”
When her sister fell pregnant, she and her sister moved to be closer to their family in Newcastle, which was where Hart ultimately decided to dive in.
Owning a franchise is like being part of a family: Hart
Hart knew she wanted into Speedfit, but she also knew she couldn’t quite afford to open it herself.
She approached Varhalik and they worked out a plan to provide her with 50:50 ownership, with an eventual goal of 100 per cent ownership.
“I was upfront about the fact that I couldn’t afford to buy a franchise on my own but instead of saying, ‘No’, Matej, the owner, said, ‘Let’s work something out.’”
“The part-ownership model works perfectly for me right now and fits into my plan to not only one day have 100 per cent ownership but also open a few more studios.”
For Hart, the benefits of the franchise model are clear, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She’s worked across several companies in the past and has seen her fair share of mistakes.
“The thing I like about this company is that if something isn’t running smoothly, they’ll do anything they can to switch and change the procedure and make things better and more streamlined,” she said.
“Everything’s already set out for you with [Speedfit]. All of your training is there… so you know how to open and operate a business right from the very first moment that you open your doors, whereas if you’re on your own you need to work all of that for yourself.”
The main thing is having a team. When she would run into a problem, she wasn’t stuck trying to figure it out on her own.
“If there’s something you don’t understand, you’ve got a team of about 10 different people you can call on, so the support is amazing.”
It comes back to resilience
Launching a business during the best of times, let alone a global pandemic, requires a lot of resilience.
Even with the support of Speedfit, Hart faced hurdles every step of the way.
“It was obviously the middle of COVID and I had to do everything myself, like look at locations and source builders and carpenters and plumbers,” she said.
“It was just one roadblock after the next - it was so hard. It was horrific, you’d finally find something good and you’d think, ‘Yes! This is going to work,’ but then that would fall apart.”
Hart nearly signed the lease for the Speedfit space in June 2020 but a COVID-19 flare-up forced her to postpone for several more months.
“It was a little bit of a battle… I certainly learnt a lot of lessons then, and made a lot of mistakes.”
At the time, she thought she would never sign up to launch a business again.
“But now, it’s so successful and amazing and I’m thinking, ‘I can’t wait to do it again.’”
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