Hannah Khan and Adam Waters are taking on CrossFit and F45 with their new functional training franchise The Shredquarters
The Shredquarters gym is just a few minutes walk from Tilehurst station in Reading. Inside, members are sculpting their bodies using barbells, kettlebells, rowing machines and seemingly every other functional fitness tool imaginable. Those physical transformations are only the beginning – the founders are now aiming to challenge incumbent chains by franchising the company. “There’s absolutely no reason why it can’t stand up against the big boys in the market,” boasts Adam Waters, co-founder of The Shredquarters. And the original gym by the edge of the River Thames is the epicentre of this planned expansion across the country and, if the new franchisors get what they want, across the world.
However, the story of the functional fitness franchise only happened because Waters’ co-founder Hannah Khan had an accident that could’ve left her without the use of her legs. “I literally forgot something in the house,” Khan remembers. “I ran back, slipped on the grass, landed on the concrete and then that was it. I slipped a disc. So unfortunately it wasn’t a very glamorous injury but it was what changed the course of my life.”
She’d worked as a makeup artist for films and TV prior to the accident. But the injury changed all that by forcing her to undergo emergency surgery to ensure she’d recover. During her rehabilitation Khan recognised that training shouldn’t be about how you look but about what you can do. “A lot of the current culture and the media is very one-sided and focused more [on visuals],” Khan explains. With The Shredquarters, she and Waters are using a different approach. “Here it’s more about coming down to a community no matter where you’re at in your journey,” she says. Recognising the difference, she made a career pivot and became a personal trainer. And it was through her new job that she met Waters. “He was training in the gym that I was working at,” she explains.
Not only was Waters into his fitness but he also ran his own company. This combination provided the perfect position to leverage the rising popularity of boutique gyms. Over the past decade, studio franchises like F45, YourZone45 and Bodystreet have offered an alternative to standard gyms. Waters was one of the people eager to try them out. “I fell in love with this sort of training [that was different from] your old conventional gym where you put yourself on a running machine or focused on the weights,” he recalls. At the same time, Waters and Khan noticed that these specialised studios created an opportunity for them to tap into the market. “[Most of them are] very specific in what they do,” he continues.
Together, the two realised they could create a functional fitness concept with more variety. And that’s exactly what they’re giving their clients today with The Shredquarters. “We’re incorporating pretty much everything within our workouts and they change daily so you never have the same workout,” Waters explains. “You may have the same format but you will never have the same exercises.”
More importantly, each planned session is kept secret until the workout actually begins. “You never know what you’re walking into,” Waters warns. The reason for this is that he believes it will encourage clients to give it their all and, consequently, get better results. “Most people when they exercise they’ll – as in most things in life – take the path of least resistance, which means going into a class they know they can do,” Waters explains. “They’re going into a class that they know they will feel comfortable with.”
Another difference is that instead of working out for themselves, each session has the clients divided into different groups competing against each other. “[It] has actually been scientifically proven that it makes you work up to 15% or 20% higher which in turn will give you greater results,” Waters continues.
The Shredquarters’ co-founder Hannah Khan’s accident gave her a whole new view on fitness. Photo credit: Shredquarters
But to get to this point took a lot of work. Having incorporated the company in 2015, the co-founders spent most of the next year setting up the business. For one thing, they needed to find a facility that met a few requirements and not just in terms of its size. “[It needed to be] in a relatively well-populated area with a demographic [with] expandable income because we aren’t a £20 per month gym,” he explains. “We’re engaging with the people who come in and completely coach them.”
Having found their Reading facility, Khan and Waters began preparing for the September 2016 opening date. “It was nerve-wracking coming into the new area without having any ready-made members as such,” she remembers. Despite this trepidation, the founders kept pushing by handing out leaflets, doing local radio interviews and investing in social media marketing. Then the grand opening came. “That was on the Sunday and then on the Monday our first and only member was at the 6am class,” Khan says.
After the first month The Shredquarters had 30 members and after six it had 100. Today the gym has 400 members and that’s about as big as they want it to be. “Any gym can have 1,000 [members] but we want to know everyone by their first name,” Khan explains. This ambition to create a community feeling around The Shredquarters also sees them plan special days with the members. For instance, in the past the gym has taken the members with them to Tough Mudder races and go-carting events.
As the popularity grew, several clients began asking whether or not the gym was part of a franchise. “After a few times we started [asking ourselves if] this should be a franchiseable model,” Waters recalls. Deciding to see if there was a chance to use franchising to expand it, the entrepreneurs enlisted the help of a few franchise consultants. Not only did the consultants investigate how The Shredquarters would stand up against the competition from the likes of CrossFit but also helped create a replicable model for franchisees to tap into. Moreover, the franchisors hired a franchise property acquisition officer to help the inbound franchisees find sites worthy of The Shredquarters brand. They also created a workout library for new franchisees and trainers to tap into. “We didn’t want to go into it half-baked,” Waters explains.
And The Shredquarters may’ve already found its first franchisees. “They’re two ex-Olympic swimmers and they’ve been members of the gym for some time,” he says. “We mentioned to them that we were franchising and they were very much saying we would certainly be interested.” At the moment the franchisor is just waiting for the first members of the network to sign the dotted line. “Hopefully we’re looking to open the door in the next six or seven months,” Waters says.
In the next five years the co-founders hope to bulk up the operation to cover the rest of the UK. We can only applaud their ambition.