Founder focus: James Balfour of 1Rebel
James Balfour, son of Mike Balfour OBE, Founder of Fitness First, grew up with front row seats to the ever-evolving fitness industry. Now, he is a pioneer of the boutique fitness space within London with boutique fitness space 1Rebel. 1Rebel have accelerated their growth with a continuous stream of studios launching across London, now totalling 8 clubs. We sat down with the founder to talk eureka moments, finding balance, and much more.
What was your eureka moment?
When I was 11 years old my father founded Fitness First, building it up to 550 clubs in 25 countries. Later we teamed up together and built another chain of 70 clubs in 7 countries, in a similar format to Fitness First. However it soon became clear that the old model of tying people into 12 month contracts was no longer relevant for today’s market, and the ‘big box’ gyms were no longer fun places to get results. The experience has to be disrupted.
What is your elevator pitch?
1Rebel is the leading boutique fitness operator, with a relentless focus on design, experience and innovation.
How did you test your idea?
There was only ever going to be one way to test the idea, and that was to open with our best foot forward and let the customers decide.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business of their own?
Put your business plan together and then take 30% off your predicted profits, if it still works then go for it. Mistakes are going to be made, but you are defined by how you react to them not the mistakes themselves.
Do you have a mentor or are you one?
My father is my mentor. He’s been there done it, but the most inspiring thing he has taught me is his tenacity to keep moving forward, solving problems, and never giving up.
What was your Plan B?
There’s only a plan A.
What is the most worthwhile investment (time, energy, money) that you have made?
Travel. I think travelling especially off the beaten track is the best education you can have.
What one failure are you glad you experienced?
There are too many to mention but I’m happy to have failed lots of times. You don’t learn anything climbing a mountain on a sunny day.
What’s coming up for 1Rebel?
We’ve just opened our 7th club in London, Holborn. The design is yet another brand new iteration and will definitely be a talking point – good or bad! We will also see the brand open overseas in the middle east and Australia in May.
What book would you recommend that everyone reads and why?
For business Peter Theil Zero to One as it distills some great principles for entrepreneurs.
How do you find balance in your daily life?
I wish I knew how to answer that one. The honest answer is there is no balance at all, but somewhere in the chaos I feel very comfortable.