Glen Kelly started Leanplan while studying for a degree in business management, after he helped a friend who was struggling to lose weight. He talks about setting up the business ahead of the If We Can You Can competition.
What did you do before setting up your business?
I originally started the company as a social enterprise while studying BA Business Management at Teesside University. I graduated this summer with a first class and am now working on Leanplan full-time, having recently registered it as a limited company.
What inspired you to set up your business?
I have always had a passion for health, nutrition and helping people. I helped a close friend of mine to lose weight after years of him trying and failing, and the feeling I got from seeing his transformation and how happy he was as a result made me want to do the same thing for others. So was born the "Leanplan".
What makes this business different?
The problem with the health industry is that there is a vast amount of conflicting advice and information about what you should actually do to lose weight. Leanplan recognises that everybody is unique and enjoys different foods and exercise; chicken rice & broccoli and hill sprints aren't going to get you in long-term shape if you hate every meal & workout. This is why we ask customers to fill out a detailed questionnaire upon purchase about their favourite foods, activities and general day-to-day life. With that information we build a program around them that includes their favourite foods, be it pepperoni pizza or Cadbury's dairy milk chocolate, as well as exercise that is appropriate for their experience level. This way they stick with (and enjoy) the program, form healthy habits and make a lifelong sustainable change.
What inspired you to enter the If We Can You Can Challenge?
I have been a part of the Launchpad FUEL programme run by the Teesside University Enterprise team. Charlotte visited one day to tell us about the challenge and it sounded like a great opportunity.
Where do you see your business in three years’ time?
In three years' time I aim to have a team of dedicated staff in Teesside, providing our services nationwide and exporting internationally to Europe and America. I would like Leanplan to become a household name in the North East; first by drastically reducing levels of obesity (which are highest here than anywhere else in the UK) and secondly by creating jobs in the area through rapid growth and scaling.
What has been the most rewarding part of your journey so far?
Definitely seeing the weight loss results in my customers, and the subsequent increase in confidence, self-esteem and happiness. Not to mention the reduced risk of things like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Scaling. I am currently trying to shift to an operational structure where all clients can be managed through an online portal by me (and staff) instead of sending out each customer's programme one-by-one in a separate document. I am reluctant to go to market with my current structure because, as I've learned in the past, I won’t be able to cope with high demand. I have had a design for the online portal drawn up by web developers, however it is approximately a £10-15k build.
Who/what gave you support or advice?
I've been pretty lucky actually in the support that I've had so far. Teesside University have been very encouraging; the Students' Union awarded me an £1800 investment after I won the 2017 Entrepreneur Challenge with Leanplan. I was also part of the Launchpad FUEL scheme, an 8-week incubator programme for startups, which was a hugely fun experience. I have also been fortunate enough to receive support from the North East Social Enterprise Partnership (NESEP) for my efforts towards tackling obesity levels in the area.
What advice would you give to someone looking to set up their own business?
I've always believed that the best jobs in the world are the ones done by those who enjoy doing them. So, I would tell them to start a business that lives in the intersection between three circles; the first circle being what you love doing; the second circle what you are good at; and the third circle being the zeitgeist (the zeitgeist is what you've seen before all the others; a shift in an industry). Where these three circles overlap is where you will be most alive, and the chances of you making a real change will be greater there too. I read that in a book by a guy called David Hieatt a few years ago and its always stuck with me.
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