First establishing herself in the world of cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a keen photojournalist who is equally enthusiastic about fitness and sports. More of her at CherylTay.sg and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (cheryltay11).
Chung Tze Khit was only 23 when his first business venture – the 1,700 square-feet Unleash Fitness gym at Turf City – failed due to differing working styles and opinions with three other partners.
Unleash shut its doors for good in less than a year and Chung’s $50,000 investment – painstakingly saved up from working as a personal trainer over seven years – was gone.
Fast forward six years later and Chung is now the managing director of Gold’s Gym Singapore (not to be mistaken with the American Gold’s Gym frequented by Arnold Schwarzenegger), a local chain of 17 personal training centres.
One is owned by Chung while the rest are run by franchise partners.
Humble, ‘mobile’ beginnings
“(Because of) my father who runs his own photography business, I’ve always wanted to do my own business as well,” said Chung.
Chung first found his passion in health and fitness when he started hitting the gym to bulk up during his second year in junior college.
Three years later, Chung and his friend Dan Teng set up a website called Results Personal Training, a portal matching clients with trainers which still exists today.
The next step was an innovative “mobile gym”, with Chung moving equipment around in his van to offer personal training services at parks or clients’ homes.
At the time, he was balancing his freelance work with a university education through distance learning.
Chung’s “mobile gym” became so popular that at its peak, he was handling 20 clients by himself and after over a year, he decided to enter the ill-fated Unleash Fitness venture.
Although it didn’t pan out Chung picked up valuable lessons on how to set up a gym and run the business.
These came in handy when he eventually founded the Gold’s Gym Singapore brand with a new business partner.
Lifting the scene
Gold’s Gym Singapore works on a master franchisor system, with Chung helping franchise operators set up their individual gyms with steps like sourcing for locations, equipment and renovations.
“It is only natural for trainers to want their own place after being out there for a while, but owning a gym can be a huge challenge and a totally different skill set is needed,” he explained.
“That’s where we come in and help to set everything up so they can just take over and get things going,” Chung added. “At the same time, our franchisees also benefit from our central marketing platforms where we pass them leads.”
By the end of this year, he plans to have a total of 30 gyms – and spas – under the Gold’s Gym Singapore banner.
The first Gold’s Gym Spa is located at Nanyang Technological University Alumni Club and complements personal grooming like facials, massages and manicures with personal training.
Besides expanding his business, Chung is also actively trying to develop the local personal training scene.
He established Singapore’s first industry association – Personal Trainers Association of Singapore (PTA) – and brought in a reputed accreditation programme – National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) – from the United States.
“There is no association in Singapore and it is quite messy in terms of certification and standards. For example, there is no regulation that trainers need to be CPR certified,” Chung observed.
“For a start, we are offering insurance for trainers and accidental insurance for clients at a low cost, to over 100 trainers currently registered with PTA,” he said. “We feel that some standards need to be set in the personal training industry.”