Founders of gym chain split up
From a modest start in a Brisbane garage, they launched an innovative chain of gyms across the country and toughed out the worst of COVID pressures.
But the two co-founders of Fitstop Australia have agreed to go their separate ways as the business aims to recover in 2021.
Peter Hull (illustrated) and Richard Bell opened their first studio at Morningside in 2017 with just 30 members and it swelled to 200 in the first 18 months.
Armed with $1.4m of investment funding in early 2019, they grew the model to have 25 franchised outlets across Queensland by early last year and more than 3000 clients.
With outposts in NSW, Victoria and WA as well, the pair estimated their national franchise model was worth more than $11m and today there are 42 gyms in the network.
To help them drive growth, they tapped Stuart Cook, former boss of fast-food group Zambrero, to serve as a director and company chairman nearly two years ago. He heads up Sydney corporate advisory and investment outfit TWIYO Capital.
(For those of you wondering, that stands for "the world is your oyster''.)
Hull came to the enterprise via a background as a personal trainer, while Bell is a Sydney-based investor through his company Business Leaderz Group Pty Ltd.
The two met through a business education program and decided in their fitness gambit to focus on offering the public some key points of difference.
Among these were group classes that combined strength, high intensity and cardio elements, as well as nutritional advice and multi-week challenges.
The offering caught the eye of athletes, including Lee Carseldine, Kris Smith and Ninja Warrior contestant, Ryan Solomon. Former volleyballer Nikala Cunningham started as a member and eventually snared a franchise.
Before the pandemic, the two gents hoped to have at least 100 locations in operation by this year.
SET TO LEAVE
Bell confirmed that he is now in the process of exiting the business, although he declined to divulge financial details related to the split, which only fully comes into effect this July.
But City Beat understands that Bell, who remains a shareholder in Fitstop, will leave with a payment of nearly $500,000 to be doled out in instalments over several years.
We hear there was a dispute over Fitstop's contract with Bell's firm to provide training to franchisees in person, which obviously was a non-starter during lockdown but theoretically could have played out over Zoom.
Bell acknowledged only that "differing opinions'' had arisen ahead of his decision to leave.
"For us, I think the strategic vision for the business may have differed,'' he told your diarist when we rang for a chat on Tuesday.
"I think it's an incredible company with amazing franchises and I wish Peter and the team all the best.''
Hull declined to comment about the split but hinted at "some really exciting things'' ahead for the business.
He said Fitstop aimed to open another 40 franchised gyms this calendar year but he wouldn't reveal any details about revenue forecasts or profitability.
There are even plans to expand around the world after 2021, he said.
Originally published as Founders of Brisbane gym chain split up