Names: John Laurie and Paul Duffy.
Ages: 33 and 35.
What is the business called?
Burn It Bootcamp, which is undergoing a rebrand in order to change to Burn It Fitness.
Where is it based?
Head office in Livingston, but we operate outdoors in 11 locations across Scotland.
When was it founded? May 2010.
What does it produce?
Burn It is an outdoor fitness company providing bootcamp-style group sessions, nutrition and weight-loss support, residential retreats and corporate training.
To whom does it sell?
Our research highlighted a significant gap in the market for outdoor fitness targeting 25 to 50-year-old non-regular gym-goers who make up 60-70% of the population.
What is its turnover?
£122,000 (doubled from previous year). Profits rose from £3000 to just over £33,000 last year.
Why did you take the plunge?
We received a call from a contact at a local business looking to recreate the "boot camp" phenomenon that their counterparts in the States were doing.
Bootcamps were mainly a military style of fitness training that always took place outdoors, whereas our original idea was simply to open our own gym facility.
After getting another corporate inquiry about running a bootcamp, which fuelled calls from the public, we realised the change of direction into outdoor fitness was what people were looking for, so we took a chance.
Before we realised it, running Burn It had become a full-time job and we explored the possibility of building a business out of it.
What were you doing before you took the plunge?
I h ad just completed my MBA from Edinburgh while working as general manager of a club in a national gym chain, John Laurie explains. Paul was working as the sales and marketing manager at the same facility. We were looking to start up our own facility, but a property deal on premises fell through almost exactly the same time as we received a call from an old contact asking about devising and delivering a staff corporate teambuilding programme using outdoor fitness.
How did you raise the start-up funding?
Using our personal savings and selling our cars.
Starting up during an economic downturn was not an easy task and it was a struggle to get any kind of financial support from the banks.
With no trading history or similar business examples upon which to base our projections, it was a chore just to get a high-street bank to give us a current account. We have missed a couple of opportunities due to maintaining a tight rein on our finances, but it has also helped us to build a healthy cash flow.
What was your biggest break?
A real turning point for us was when we launched Burn It in Falkirk in February last year.
Up until that point we had been operating successfully with up to 30 participants in each session, but when we launched there we had such a big response and ended up with 80 participants in three sessions per week. It was a big realisation for us in terms of where we could see the company growing.
What was your worst moment?
We have been through a couple of tough seasons – our first winter in business had the heaviest snowfall in 20 years, and we had the wettest June on record this year.
Both these seasons had an obvious impact on our potential earnings in terms of new sign-ups but not as much as we had expected, particularly with existing clients.
Even during the heavy rainfall we still recorded up to 50 people attending several camp sessions. We made a business commitment to never cancel a session as a result of the weather.
What do you enjoy most about running the business?
Being able to create where there is demand – much like how the business first came about.
We have developed into quite a community-focused business and the high level of customer interaction, not only through the camps themselves but also through social media, gives us the feedback we need from customers and staff to introduce new ideas, shape sessions and grow our offering with a quick turnaround – as opposed to the rigidity and longer timescales that exist within larger organisations.
What do you least enjoy?
Accounting and administration. This is understandable for a business which centres upon outdoor training, but getting the numbers right is essential for our growth – and you can always take the laptop outside on a sunny day-
What are your ambitions for the firm?
We have recently started moving down the franchise route with our business which has enabled us to expand into a further five areas in Scotland working with partners in each area. It is our intention to have started our first move into England by this summer. However, we have already had interest in taking our brand abroad to Spain and the Middle East.
What are your top priorities?
Our brand is the most important part of our business, and without being as strong as we can make it, we will never be able to sustain the growth we are hoping to achieve.
Employing the right people is also crucial to us.
Motivation and people skills are just as important as professional ability for us, as a significant number of our customers feel too intimidated or insecure to walk on the gym floor.
What could the Westminster or Scottish Government do that would most help?
We would love to see ministers take a wider view and look more closely at supporting businesses that can provide people with a source of income or often a second income which allows them to be flexible in order to fit around commitments such as family, training, education and existing work.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned?
You need to be able to work with the people in your business and all have the same vision for where you are going.
It is easier to get there if everyone is travelling in the same direction, so listening and sharing ideas is a key part of the business as well as not being afraid to take risks.
How do you relax?
Exercising is a great form of respite – but small children at home don't allow for much relaxation.