Tim West grew up in boxing and loved the sport, moving through the ranks as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer and gym owner. As the co-founder of UBX (you-box) explains to Elite Franchise: “I had always used boxing as a conditioning tool for myself and my clients. In my experience, boxing is the ultimate workout.”
Yet, despite boxing’s proven effectiveness and popularity historically, no one had developed a product that combined all the benefits of boxing with a science-based strength programme, according to West. ” My clients also struggled with committing to a workout programme; work and family life often got in the way. I wanted to create a place where people could experience a world-class boxing and strength training workout at any time that they wanted.”
Which is where Australian four-time world boxing champion, Danny Green, comes in. West approached Green for feedback on the concept. “Danny embraced it, stating, ‘This is the way I trained throughout my entire career’ and invested in the company as co-founder,” says West.
UBX first opened its doors in Australia in 2016 and now has over 90 gyms across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. More recently (December 2021) it launched operations in the UK – West’s reasoning being the UK and Ireland boast long and proud boxing histories. “We see a huge opportunity to modernise boxing using our proven and innovative model in this region. There’s increasing consumer demand for boxing, off the back of Anthony Joshua’s and Tyson Fury’s successes and the good work being done by UK companies like Matchroom and DAZN to promote the sport in general,” as West puts it.
He adds: “After meeting with Empowered Brands, we knew they were the perfect strategic partner because, with over 100 fitness clubs already open in the UK and Ireland, and a strategy to build a powerful brand stable across Europe, we knew we had a partner who matched our ambition to grow fast in a marketplace that demands innovation, flexibility and simplicity, which is what UBX provides.”
In terms of UBX’s business model, a franchisee – in simple terms – purchases a territory, sources a site, opens their gym and operates their business using UBX’s systems, partners, technology and services, all with the ongoing support of the UBX team. In exchange they pay an initial franchise licence fee and an ongoing percentage of revenue in the form of a royalty. From a costing standpoint the initial franchise fee is £30,000 for a 10-year licence.
As West explains: “UBX is a low to moderate CAPEX model with a very low break-even point, so there is a great opportunity for franchisees to get strong returns. More scale focused franchisees will look to further minimise risk and maximise returns by establishing multiple gyms across a cluster of territories.”
Franchisees are fully supported through all phases of their journey, with provision of one-to-one support through the Onboarding (Phase 1) and Presale phases (Phase 2), as well as one-on-one and small-group support throughout the Operation phase (Phase 3).
In addition to support provided in these phases, extensive self-serve content via the company’s proprietary “Performance Hub” technology platform is available too.
Within the Performance Hub solution is another proprietary application called Marketing and Print that facilitates the creation of on-brand content complete with the gym’s meta-data embedded. These files are then rendered in the formats required for print and digital marketing, according to West.
In essence this system “makes it quick and simple for franchisees to access high-quality, on-brand, customised content for every campaign scheduled in their marketing calendar,” says West.
When it comes to the type of individual UBX is looking for, West is clear, namely a team player with passion and a good cultural fit. They will also be committed to exceeding members’ expectations and have the capital and competency to operate a successful business, according to West.
“We expect to see them come from three key groups: personal trainers looking to step up into bricks and mortar, existing fitness businesses looking to diversify their portfolios, and ‘corporate refugees’ – individuals who might be leaving the workforce and rethinking their career path,” says West.
Unsurprisingly, the company, like many others, didn’t escape the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, though that didn’t necessarily mean it stood still. “Operating during the pandemic has been challenging and contradictory,” says West: adding: ” In some cases, it feels as though we have lost the COVID affected years, but in others, we’ve been hyper-productive and been able to implement change at a more rapid pace than we would have been able to under normal trading conditions.”
On the technology and business front, for example, the company recruited well (doubling its roster), released the Performance Hub, “Coaching Screens” and a digital offer amongst a myriad of optimisations and updates.
“I have learnt that I am more creative and productive when I get a chance to step back from the daily operations and consider the business as a whole. In a way, Government imposed lockdowns allowed that to happen,” says West.
One benefit of the pandemic though is that West quickly learnt his team got better with pressure and did what needed to be done to support the members and the franchise network. “Sharing adversity creates a bond and our team and business is stronger for the experience we’ve been through over the last 2 years,” he notes.
And he’s optimistic about the future too. “Our ability to not only survive but grow during the COVID lockdowns proves the resilience of our model and, with heavy investment in our team and technology during the pandemic, we’re now primed for growth,” he says.
Being primed for growth means sticking to core principles. And that means, in UBX’s case, democratising boxing. As West explains: “Our success has come from our ability to rethink boxing and rethink group fitness in a way that gives members access to a unique mix of boxing and strength training in an ultra-flexible format that removes class timetables and bookings altogether.”
He adds: “We’re always striving to ‘Rethink Impossible’. This philosophy is our driving force and guides everything we do, from how we and our franchisees develop our members, to how we create new products and services, to how we work and operate as a business.”
It also means they’ve been better prepared to face off against major competitors – most of whom existed prior to UBX’s founding. That meant West had the opportunity to research their models thoroughly and consider their strengths and weaknesses while developing his own product. “We identified a gap in the market for flexible group training, and our business model is ultimately built around this idea,” he says.
“However,” he adds: “During the lockdown period, we saw the rise of connected-fitness giants like Peloton who did highlight the flexibility opportunity in digital. We realised that in the new fitness landscape, members demand and expect access to training wherever they are (in a gym or at home) and if you don’t or can’t provide it they will get it from your competitor.
Looking ahead UBX’s mission is to become the world’s largest boxing community. “We want to be the first place people think of when they think of boxing,” says West.
That means focusing on accelerated growth over the next five years and the continued evolution of the product to cement UBX’s position in the global fitness landscape, as well as being open to strategic partnerships with groups aligning with UBX’s core values, culture and ambition.
In the meantime, West will be hoping even more people fall in love with boxing.