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Fit for purpose!
With a host of transferable skills from his Forces training, a burning desire to break out on his own and the support of some very valuable mentors, ex-RAF Aerosystems Engineering Officer David Smith found himself well equipped to step out into civvy street as the owner of his own gym, CrossFit Spitfire
David Smith, 37, joined the Royal Air Force in 2002, was commissioned in February 2003 and qualified as an Aerosystems Engineering Officer in October of that same year. He had joined the RAF as the result of a childhood passion for military aviation, and as an engineer this also presented him with the opportunity to work at the pinnacle of aviation technology. It also allowed him to push himself and develop on a daily basis – both physically and mentally – with continual training that was second to none. It was during his time in the RAF that David developed a passion for fitness, functional movement, and strength and conditioning training/programming.
Finding his fit
Having left the Services in 2008, David spent some time working as a test and development engineer at Lotus Cars in Norfolk before embarking upon CrossFit Spitfire. ‘The decision to start my own business was inspired by my close friend and training partner, who is also a gym owner based in Colchester, Carl Saville (Carl is owner of CrossFit Colchester). I had always been intrigued by self-employment, and creating something special and new, but never brave enough to take the plunge having always enjoyed the reliability of secure employment and working for others. However, when I checked out the government website portal for start-up loans, I discovered X-Forces, gave them a call and sought their advice. After that, I decided to take the plunge!
‘Once I started to write my business plan it quickly became obvious that it was indeed the right thing to do, and presented an amazing opportunity that had to be seized with both hands. The opportunity to work for yourself, and also to help others through your product, was much too good to pass up.’
Is entrepreneurship for you?
We asked David what advice he would give to other people thinking about becoming an entrepreneur like him? His response: ‘Absolutely do it! It is 100% worth the time, stress, investment and sleepless nights while you’re creating it. Provided that you’re willing to commit fully and put the hard work in, you will be rewarded. I feel especially proud to have been able to do it with the support and mentorship provided by X-Forces, who have been so easy to work with and very supportive. There is no doubt that their help made the transition easier to cope with.’
ABOUT CROSSFIT SPITFIRE
CrossFit Spitfire is a premier strength and conditioning facility and CrossFit affiliate in Norwich, providing CrossFit classes, speciality weightlifting and gymnastics classes, as well as workshops, including circus training, providing unique and exciting classes to the local community. Meeting the challenge
‘The main challenge I have faced so far,’ continues David, ‘especially in the set-up stage of the business, has been having to engage and manage a number external organisations, such as estate agents, landlords, solicitors, local councils, equipment suppliers, tradesmen, clients and so on, and to tie everyone down, all together, to a timescale that meets the business plan, while ensuring the books balance too. Having a good, well-thought-through business plan has helped me with this significantly, as has maintaining the belief and confidence that it will work.
‘Without the support and guidance of X-Forces this whole venture simply would not have been possible. Sharda (my business adviser) has been there to guide me through the creation of my business plan from day one – all the way to the point of securing the funding required to make the business become a reality. It is especially gratifying to know that help and advice are only a phone call away should further support be needed at any time, and to have the network of other business start-ups to reach out to.
‘Needless to say, I am also incredibly proud of my team and all of my members. I have been overwhelmed by the level of support received from everyone, including local businesses, authorities and of course X-Forces.’
Up and running
‘CrossFit Spitfire was launched in July 2016,’ says David, ‘and since then we signed up more than 200 members. That was our business plan target for the end of Year 2, so I have been overwhelmed at the fantastic response. In that time we have also grown our coaching team to include four part-time coaches and three apprentice coaches. We have extended our opening hours and provided additional classes to meet the increased demand from our membership. We have also expanded the offering from our on-site massage clinic to include osteopathy, acupuncture and traditional massage services alongside sports massage.
‘On top of all that, we have also launched the incredibly exciting CrossFit Spitfire Kids, which has been a huge hit so far, with more than 40 children between the ages of 4 and 15 years old attending our exciting open day back in January of this year. We now have a regular kids’ class timetable for each age group, with more planned to expand the programme further.
‘Since the launch, I have also reinvested heavily back into the business to cement its success. This has included a variety of equipment, ranging from additional new rowers and bikes, to a peg board, strongman equipment, weighted vests, dumbbells, mobility equipment, barbells and bumper plates, and rig upgrades. We have also adjusted the floor area to increase the gym space as much as possible, in addition to proving an online streaming mobility/yoga service and competition programming free to our members. And there’s much more planned to come!
‘We had our very first in-house competition for our members at Christmas, which saw more than 60 people taking part in a number of team-based workouts over one very exciting day ... all done in crazy fancy dress! It was an epic day and thoroughly enjoyed by all, including me dressed in a Santa/reindeer combo.’
THE X-FORCES FACTOR
Since its launch in July 2013, X-Forces – the MoD’s official training partner for self-employment, delivering training through the CTP – has nurtured and guided 853 new businesses, and facilitated £9.3 million in seed funding. It supports Service leavers, veterans, spouses, reservists, cadets and dependants.
Take a look at the report on page XX or, to find out more about running your own business and the support available from X-Forces, visit www.x-forces.com
David’s advice for budding entrepreneurs
‘If you’re thinking of starting your own business, my advice is to ensure you always have a business mentor, or at least access to one. It can be very lonely starting a new venture, and having someone there to call upon for reliable advice is an extremely valuable asset.’
If, like David, you are considering a career in sport and fitness, read our in-depth online feature at www.questonline.co.uk/careers/career/sport-and-fitness
t: 0800 307 7545
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