From a young age Dave Barnes participated in competitive sports and was always in and out of gyms with an interest in fitness. It was while setting up his own home gym at the age of 18 that he noticed a major gap in the online market for fitness equipment. And that’s when Gym and Fitness was born. We caught up with Dave to find out more about those early days and what’s in store for the future….
Talk us through the early days in the business and how and why Gym and Fitness came to be.
It all started in 2014 when I was in the process of setting up a home gym and struggling to find the equipment I was after online or in local stores. I came across an importer and distributor who had an excellent range of products and some great prices. I bought everything I needed to set up my home gym, but before unboxing it, I thought I would try my luck at selling it on eBay. A few days later, I had sold the equipment and managed to make a profit in the process. I then went back and purchased all the products for my home gym, and thought I’d try my luck selling it on eBay a second time. It sold again. I went back a third time to purchase some more equipment and the guy said “If you buy the last 600kg of weights, I'll give you a better price!”. That was my first investment into stock.
From there the business started out as an eBay store. Unfortunately, the fees became quite an annoyance, so I set up my own website. We operated primarily as a drop shipping business for the first five years until we decided to commit to stock and importing our own product as the market was changing.
What do you think sets Gym and Fitness apart from other fitness retailers?
Gym and fitness is one of the most trusted, largest manufacturers, importers and wholesale distributors of fitness equipment in Australia. We have stand out, innovative brands like Force USA and an industry leading eCommerce website. The main thing that differentiates us from our competitors is that we have our own innovative designs and that a large focus of our business is to keep on improving what is out there, in the marketplace. The other differentiator is that we have a team that is passionate about giving people a fit and healthy lifestyle and genuinely care about the customers' goals, needs and finding the best solution for them.
What would you say is the biggest challenge small businesses are facing today? And conversely, what do you think is the biggest opportunity?
The biggest challenge I see small businesses facing is the rapidly evolving digital landscape. The breadth of knowledge and skills required for small business, especially in the online space is evolving and getting wider month to month. It becomes increasingly challenging to keep up with the latest technology and trends, let alone deploying and integrating them into existing businesses. The other challenge I see is larger companies expanding into different industries or marketplaces, most notable is Amazon’s recent arrival into Australia. Conversely, the biggest opportunity is that those small businesses who are keeping up with the latest trends and implementing the most innovative technology, marketing, distribution, customer experience and ticking all the boxes, have the opportunity to stand out from the rest.
What advice would you have for someone keen to start a small business but doesn’t know where to start?
The entrepreneurial journey is certainly not for everyone. It's not easy and there will be blood, sweat, tears and many failures along the way. However if this is something you are considering, passionate about and losing sleep over, then I fully encourage you to have a crack. There is an old Chinese proverb that says, ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now’.
In regard to getting started, do lots of self-directed learning and reading and find a mentor or local business group i.e. Entrepreneurs Organisation (www.eonetwork.org), who have accelerator programs in most capital cities. Start small, limit your risk, test your product and market and always be ready to make changes according to feedback. Most of all make sure you’re having fun along the way!
What are the latest trends you’re seeing in the fitness world? What exciting developments are on the horizon?
Over the last few years we have seen a significant trend toward functional group fitness sessions such as F45 and high intensity interval training gyms. There has also been an increase in the use and availability of wearable fitness technology, apps, watches and other assorted trackers. The future will be very interesting. We are seeing innovation on some classic products for example the Assault Air Runner which is a non-motorised treadmill, which is just coming to the market now. We are also seeing a more holistic and integrated approach to health and well-being overall, with people having a better understanding of the interrelation of nutrition and exercise, and general health and well-being. I am very excited to be a part of this industry and love seeing the impact it can have on people's lives.