GymNation to offer members chance to become shareholders

As original founders return, the UAE chain flexes its appeal with crowdfunding scheme

Front row from left, GymNation's co-founders Frank Afeak, Loren Holland and Ant Martland with staff. Photo: GymNation
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Home-grown fitness chain GymNation is planning a crowdfunding scheme that allows members to own a stake in the company.

“The crowdfunding will allow members of GymNation to become small shareholders, and partake in the rewards that come with our growth,” co-founder Loren Holland tells The National.

Founded in 2017, the fitness chain has 11 branches in the UAE with about 60,000 members.

“Having our members become shareholders alongside us is something we feel very passionate about,” says Holland.

“In turn, some of our members are very passionate about GymNation. They already invest a lot of time, energy and hard work to their fitness, and in turn to the business – and now they can invest and be financially rewarded as well."

This decision comes as Holland, along with co-founders Frank Afeaki and Anthony Martland, recently bought back all the equity held by the company's previous owner, JD Gyms. The deal was backed by UAE companies Tricap Investments and Ruya Partners.

Aside from the trio, 15 members of GymNation's management team from the UAE have also become shareholders of the company.

When JD Gyms acquired GymNation last year, the British company said it wanted to penetrate the growing fitness market in the UAE. But Holland says this is no longer the case after a corporate shake-up early this year.

“We saw that JD Gyms was undergoing a strategic shift and going back to their main retail business, so we saw an opportunity for the management buyout and bringing control back in our hands,” he explains.

Further expansions are on the horizon for GymNation, with four more branches in the UAE, as well as six locations in Saudi Arabia. The company has also finalised expansion plans in Qatar and Bahrain.

The team aims to launch the crowdfunding scheme early next year. Aside from seeking financial gains, members who will invest will also “have a voice in how we can further grow the business”, Holland adds.

The move speaks directly to the founders' original idea when they launched – to “democratise” the fitness industry by offering affordable gym membership. The chain offers a monthly subscription of Dh199.

Holland recognises that directly engaging members and allowing them to become stakeholders could be crucial to business growth. “We are still refining what the crowdfunding scheme looks like, but there will be other benefits such as town halls and annual general meetings," he says.

Updated: November 23, 2023, 11:23 AM