When Andre Leenher decided to leave a successful family business in Holland that he had run for 27 years to relocate to Kenya, not even criticism from his friends could deter him from following his passion— to start a fitness business.

Eleven years down the line, Mr Leenher’s success story is now the Colosseum Fitness Centre located in Adam’s Arcade, Nairobi and not the cheese-making venture.

It all started from a small room in Adam’s Arcade shopping centre where he started training Muay-Thai boxing—a form of martial arts.

With the money he got after selling his house in Holland and ‘soft loans’ from relatives and friends he set up the business.

At the time, he only had two members with two employees, workers that he sourced from the former occupant of the building.

Today, the gym has more than 75 members who pay monthly subscriptions.

Choosing a gym

On average, many well maintained gyms will charge Sh63,000 per person on an annual subscription.

On a group yearly subscription, each person can pay an average of Sh50,000.

There are also packages for couples that range between Sh54,500 to Sh56,000 annually, per person.

Off-peak offers range Sh51,000 per person per annum.

He has seen his business grow from only coaching Muay-Thai boxing to a gym offering various types of exercises among them aerobics, yoga, spinning classes, and Tae Bo—combining dancing with elements from martial arts.

He has also invested in equipment worth Sh5 million and plans to acquire more gym equipment worth Sh3 million by the end of the year.

So what exactly is the secret behind this success?

“Just like any other activity you undertake, starting a gym requires one to have a passion in what he is doing. Without passion one will always work in a very dull manner that will hinder performance,” says Mr Leenher.

He adds that because of his passion for starting up a gym, he quit his former employment amid criticism.

Just like other small and medium businesses capital is not the only factor that dictates the success.

He points out at patience and motivation as key in steering growth of a business.

For him, striving to make the unhappy well-paying professionals feel confident about their bodies is what drives him daily.

Motivated staff also contributes to a successful business.

“A successful gym is like a chain, if one link is missing then the whole thing is disrupted. You have to keep your staff motivated otherwise they cannot impress your customers. Motivation comes in terms of giving them good salaries as well as taking care of their needs which sometimes may involve mentoring on personal finances and health.”

“As a gym owner you have to learn how to be patient with your employees and give them time to fit in your style of work. Instructors contribute a lot in determining the number of members who subscribe to your gym. Low motivated instructors will only help in discouraging your customers,” he says.

Besides motivating his staff, Mr. Leenhar says as gym owner, he strives to fit in his clients’ shoes as this is the only way the customers can build confidence in him.

“A gym will attract all types of people. It is, therefore important to understand each client as he is. Sometimes I am approached by people who have been drug addicts and that means I have to treat them in a manner that makes them feel accepted at the same time remain assertive as this is the only way I can achieve the best results.”

Apart from health fitness, Mr Leenhar comes up with healthy diets for his customers, but he says, this is only done on request.

As a fitness expert, he says one has to be careful when choosing a gym.

The most important thing in a gym is comfort in the sense that you should be able to fit in and feel accepted in the gym.

That way you get the value of your subscription. This begins with how you are treated the first day you step into a gym, he says.

Besides the employees, the gym has to be well equipped so that you can access the right equipment for your training.

A good gym should always uphold high hygiene standards.

His gym offers training to both locals and foreigners from various countries among them Germany, Brazil, Australia, Italy and Norway.

Douglas Mutua is among the professional boxers who have trained at Colosseum gym.

He has taken part in boxing competitions in Thailand, Belgium and Holland.

Out of 30 fights he has emerged winner with 18 knock-outs.