IT is a year since Karen Hanly and Peter Halpin and their store, Hanly’s, won £3,000 worth of free advertising in the Business Accelerators Contest, backed by Isle of Man Newspapers.
Diamond House on Westmoreland Road, where Hanly’s is based, is also home to Salon Rouge, which is owned by Karen, but is a hive of activity for self-employed businesswomen who provide a wide range of hair and beauty treatments.
The building also has a very large warehouse and for the first couple of year’s trading the space was rented out by Karen and Peter as storage space.
Over time the couple came up with idea after idea of how the space could be put to better use.
Peter said: ‘One evening after work we sat at the table armed with a bottle of wine and the Yellow Pages and we literally went through it from start to finish looking at each and every business category and asked ourselves ‘Could we?’
‘Following on from this a number of possibilities stood out and we did more research to assess the viability of each idea. Unfortunately none of the ideas, which ranged from an international catering school with restaurant to a launderette could justify the level of investment that would be required – not only that but as strange as it may sound they didn’t feel right for the building.’
It was a couple of weeks after their brain-storming session that Karen came up with the idea of converting the warehouse into a gym. ‘I thought it was a great idea,’ said Karen, ‘but Pete was far less enthusiastic.
‘Generally speaking I am the ideas person and Pete, as the accountant, tries to rein me back in by talking numbers. It is one of the reasons we work so well together as a team. After about a week of carrying out some intensive market research it was actually Pete who suggested creating a ladies only facility.
‘There are a lot of women, myself included, who would like to go to the gym and keep fit but who are either too self-conscious when men are in the gym, or they simply won’t go at all. We didn’t need to think about it any more – this was going to happen.’
The couple say they have gone through every possible emotion imaginable up to January 21 this year when Warehouse Fitness opened its doors.
Peter said: ‘We brought in Peter Tyreman as our architect as we had worked with him before when he did plans for our home.
‘We didn’t expect the planning process to be easy but we hadn’t anticipated how emotionally draining it would be – even getting builders to tender for the work proved to be difficult and we had to put the project out to tender twice.
‘Eventually we appointed Carlton Construction as our contractors and work finally began in the summer.
‘I am always the cautious one who analyses everything to the nth degree – and so I was absolutely devastated when, two weeks after work had begun, I got a call from the bank to say they would not be able to offer us a loan.
‘I remember sitting in the car (which was parked at the side of the road) and feeling my world crashing down.
‘I went home and told Karen the news and I think we just sat in silence for about an hour.’
Peter had prepared a comprehensive business plan and the couple knew that the plans they had would work, but in these current times, with the credit departments of banks being far tighter with loan finance than they have ever been, they had not realised how significantly the bank would ‘‘discount’’ their projections.
The couple decided, perhaps with blind optimism, that somehow they could work things out.
They had some savings and so they knew the first few payments to the contractor were covered.
Over the course of the construction work Karen admits that there were a couple of occasions when they nearly rang the contractor and asked him to stop work but somehow, by scrimping and saving they managed to make the payments on time.
Karen said: ‘We were 65 per cent into the project with perhaps enough cash left for one more payment and Pete contacted the bank again with updated plans showing how much we had managed to invest ourselves.
‘At this point the bank came back very quickly with a positive response confirming they would see us through to the end.
‘The sheer relief was indescribable.’
The vision the couple had was to create a perfect place for women to exercise and socialise, while retaining the warehouse feel to the building. It certainly appears that their vision has been realised.
Not only have they invested significantly in the structure of the building, they have also given a lot of thought to the equipment and finishings.
The main gym area has a New York warehouse feel to it with its high metal beams and industrial air conditioning pipes.
There is even a view of the night time Manhattan skyline which has been beautifully painted by Dawn and Gemma from Interior Rehab.
There are some items of equipment that the couple believe are new to the island.
The treadmills include Virtual Active which is a suite of fully interactive, cinema quality, video based cardio workouts.
Users will be engaged on all levels as the workouts include audio soundtracks and ambient soundtracks in addition to stunning video footage.
The incline of the machine adjusts to match the terrain shown in the video. There are also two Krank Cycles which provide an upper body cardio workout – these can be used by everyone but importantly they also offer the opportunity of a cardio workout for members who are in wheelchairs or have limited leg mobility.
The gym also has two studios in which a wide variety of classes run from early morning until late evening and a separate strength training room.
But it seems Warehouse Fitness is not just about going to the gym to work out, there is a strong relaxation theme running through the building too.
There is the spa area which houses a jacuzzi, sauna and aromatherapy steam room; a seaweed bath and salt rub treatment centre, and finally the Karma Coffee Lounge which is a tranquil place to relax either before, after, or even instead of the workout!
One large room in the building remains empty and the couple have applied for planning permission to use this as a crèche facility for gym members which will allow mums with young children to come to the gym.
Despite owning half of the business even Pete is not allowed into this women’s only development and the couple have employed a dynamic team to help them deliver the highest possible levels of customer service.
Ashleigh, Jess, Joanna, Kate, Lizzy and Rachel each bring different skills and experience to the team which helps to ensure all members are well looked after and there are classes available to suit everyone.
Karen freely admits that everything is not yet perfect.
‘At the end of the day Pete and I are not gym people and we do not have a franchise in the background.’
Phone – 679419
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Website – www.warehousefitness.co.uk
Facebook – warehousefitnessiom