Founder Focus: Ed Stanbury of BLOK
One piece of advice that reverberates throughout our Founder Focus’ is that you need to love what you do because it will become your life. Ed Stanbury, Co-Founder of BLOK, echoes that sentiment and has truly built a life around his business.
With BLOK HQ located in The Tram Depot in Clapton where Ed also lives, his commute takes less than a minute door to door. Not to mention that his daughter’s school is also located in The Tram Depot meaning he can be at his desk for 8 am without missing the school run.
We caught up with Ed to find out how he maintains that relentless energy…
WHAT WAS YOUR EUREKA MOMENT?
Reema and I went to see a small unit at The Tram Depot in Clapton, and while there we just happened to see a massive derelict textile warehouse that wasn’t even being marketed as it was in such poor condition. It was vast and we knew to make it usable again would be a mammoth task but we also knew we had to do it and that it would be something really special.
HOW DID YOU KNOW BLOK WOULD WORK?
We did our market research first by hitting the streets and speaking to locals. We printed hundreds of questionnaires and asked anyone who would speak to us what they wanted from a gym. Later, we set up an online questionnaire and gave away a free class to anyone who would fill it out. Over 3000 people registered before we opened the doors!
HAVE YOU EVER HAD A MENTOR OR ARE YOU ONE?
I think the two things go hand in hand. Anyone who has ever had a mentor, and I certainly have, understands the value of guidance from someone who has experience in an area you don’t yet.
I don’t see myself as a mentor to anyone in particular, but I do my best to make time for anyone who comes to me for advice. I believe that you get the most from life if you help those around you whenever you can and that in the long run, that help will always come back to you when you need it most.
WHAT IS THE MOST WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT YOU’VE MADE?
Apart from my daughters, it would be BLOK. I have put almost all my time, energy and money into it but when you see the difference it makes to people’s lives it is so worthwhile.
Whether people are fully immersed in it every day, as so many of our staff, trainers and customers are, or whether they are just getting a taste for it at an event or a photoshoot, it never ceases to amaze me the joy it brings to people who come in to contact with what we have created. It really is incredibly rewarding.
WHAT ONE FAILURE ARE YOU GLAD YOU EXPERIENCED?
When I first left my job in property development it was to open a restaurant and bar. I sat at home for 4 months trying to come up with concepts and names and looking for sites. Fortunately, inspiration failed me and I never even got as far as signing a lease. Had things have gone differently I might be running bars now instead of BLOK, which would be far less interesting.
WHAT COMMON INDUSTRY ADVICE DO YOU DISAGREE WITH?
Make sure you have a USP and keep your offering simple. Our customers are intelligent people who want more than just sweat. They want spaces that inspire them, classes that challenge them, and instructors who work with them to build skills and progression. Does it make it harder to build? Sure, but it makes it far more appealing and far harder for your competitors to replicate. Having a single point of difference is great until someone copies it.
WHICH BOOK DO YOU RECOMMEND THAT EVERYONE READS?
The last book I recommended to a friend was called Doing Good Better. It’s by William Macaskill who invented the concept of Effective Altruism – a mathematical approach to having the greatest positive impact on the world with the resources available to you. It is fascinating.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE THINKING OF STARTING THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
Make sure you truly believe in what you are doing because for it to succeed, it needs to take over your life for the foreseeable future.
I would say BLOK takes up 90% of my waking life and the other 10% is my family. There is no room for anything else and I expect it to be like that for the next decade. That’s what it means to be a Founder of a successful growing business. Fortunately, I love it!