Tom and James Exton’s fitness blog has transformed itself into a thriving health and fitness business with a huge social audience. They tell us how they made it happen.
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
LDN Muscle started as a fitness blog in 2013, which we created to provide accessible advice and tips for anyone who wanted to transform both how they look and feel. It wasn’t our intention to create a business from the blog, but it organically grew as did our reach, so it felt like a natural opportunity to monetise it. We’ve gone from online training guides, to selling supplements, nutrition guides, fitness clothing and establishing a personal trainer academy.
What did you do before you started this business?
Before we started LDN Muscle, we were all fitness fanatics, but we didn’t have career aspirations to work in the health and fitness industry. At university, James studied law and Tom studied chemistry.
While Tom is still working in investment banking in London, James put his law career on the back-burner to run LDN Muscle full-time. We also co-founded the business with two other brothers, Lloyd and Max, who are just as excited about developing the business as we are.
What inspired you to start up?
As gym enthusiasts, we launched our blog to share our insights on health and fitness. People started to share their progress from our regimes on social media and within six months, demand for our fitness expertise was so strong, we decided to make a business out of it.
We also regularly get involved with helping startups and developing their social media approach. We’re ambassadors for this year’s Plusnet Pioneers, a programme which helps entrepeneurs overcome the challenges they may face in funding or marketing and reach their full business potential.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
Our business offers workout regimes, nutritional advice, and products to support people on their fitness progress. We help people incorporate fun workouts around their work schedules. We want others to share the same passion that we do for fitness, whilst also making it manageable and achievable!
Where do you get advice, support or help?
Advice for startups is readily available, you just need to look in the right places. Online is definitely the best place to start. There are many great guides and content available, such as the Plusnet Pioneers programme, which offers a range of marketing and funding tips.
We also recommend attending free events with keynote speakers and using every opportunity to network. These are brilliant ways to improve your knowledge. Signing up to business newsletters is also a good starting point.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
Research by Plusnet has shown that 48% of UK start-ups and small businesses have found it difficult to raise investment – most businesses don’t secure investment the first time they go looking for it.
When we released our first product, in February 2013, we weren’t setting out to make millions. At the launch stage, we had zero overheads and no staff, which converted into a decent profit. We had no capital investment when we started and only spent £1,000 on the website and £10,000 per quarter on social media advertising. As our following increased on social media we were able to release more products and therefore increase profit. This just continued to grow over time.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Our biggest achievement is our huge social media following. We have over 173,000 followers collectively, and social media has contributed to 90% of our success. It was predominately an organic achievement, with little paid spend on social media for two years before we invested in marketing at all.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
Customer service has always been very important to us. We reply to every single comment and question from users, being as helpful as we can. Every time someone tweets about how they’ve made progress with us it gets retweeted. Our personal approach is how we set ourselves apart from other businesses in the industry.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
Although it is hard work, being our own boss gives us the freedom to pursue our passions. Ultimately, the success of your business is down to your personal efforts. Some people start their businesses at the point where they are not ready to commit to the effort required. We are all extremely dedicated and focussed, and work well as a team. This makes the longest days more manageable.
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
One of the main growth areas of the business has been our academy, where we offer personal training qualifications. We’ve helped 500 graduates now through the academy and brought on a Head of Training.
We’re also hoping to release new products in the future, and our supplement line is going to expand. But who knows where we’ll be in five years’ time?
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
We recommend finding which social media channel works best for you by testing key social media channels. As your business grows, this may change depending on the needs of your business. Explore the benefits of different social media platforms for your company. We also recommend investing at least 10% of your business revenue into your marketing budget, directing money towards whichever platform is delivering the greatest return on investment.
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