Up for the challenge?
“It’s not just another gym,” smiles Sam Apu’ula, Founder, Co-Owner, Managing Director and Head Trainer of SWET, a Wellington fitness center based in Ngaio.
“SWET is more than just a gym, it is a family,” says Sam.
“Through a lot of trial and error and using our skills and experience, we have managed to develop a unique style of fitness training, that is fun and more importantly, adaptable for all fitness levels.”
As a former receptionist, manager and personal trainer at Les Mills for 10 years, Sam’s understanding of the fitness industry stood him in good stead and gave him the confidence to run his own business.
The young Samoan entrepreneur recently chatted with the Ministry about his venture with his business partner Damian Jacobs.
“Growing up in a big family and being surrounded by a ‘village’ of extended family and close friends, we’ve created a similar ‘village’ community within our gym.”
“We constantly get feedback from newcomers about the welcoming, caring and friendly vibe, from not only our staff, but from our members.”
“The culture we have created is very inviting and quickly makes people feel comfortable.”
Modest about their experience, between the duo, they have over two decades of fitness experience and unique skills from working in the fitness industry and also from playing representative sport.
Both knew that their business journey wouldn’t be a walk in the park. “Through perseverance and consistent hard work, Damian and I have managed to achieve numerous goals and targets that we never dreamed possible.”
“A big part of our business inspiration comes from our families.”
“Being a proud Māori, I am doing it for myself and my whānau,” says Damian.
“My family acknowledges that what I am doing is good and it is a great feeling to be able to give back to my community”.
Since 2012, their business has evolved immensely.
They come from humble beginnings, with their group fitness sessions originally being held in carparks, school grounds and in public playgrounds around Wellington and the Hutt Valley. It’s a different story today.
As their fitness groups grew and their training locations could no longer accommodate their numbers, Sam and Damian decided to take a leap of faith and managed to secure a permanent location at 22 Kaiwharawhara Rd, Wellington.
“To be honest, the biggest sacrifice was becoming self-employed, starting from the bottom again and only having ourselves to rely on and no one else,” admits Damian.
When asked about what Pacific success means to them, Sam was very clear that his family and upbringing play a big part in how he runs his business.
“Good planning, having defined roles within the business, and simply just getting things done is what it’s all about. Having good contacts to call on along the way is also very helpful.”
“We have friends who are Marketing Directors, Accountants and Lawyers, who have kindly offered their advice, ideas and expertise. After three years in business, we are definitely still learning and growing. The learning never really stops,” says Damian.
Both are realistic about their struggles with navigating through the business world and their advice to those that are wanting to do the same is “You can’t go in half-hearted, and you really do need to give it 100%. Surround yourselves with people that know more than you and never stop learning. If you can manage to get past the first 18 months, you’re off to a great start” Sam says.
The young entrepreneurs are grateful and consider themselves blessed to be able to make a living out of their dream jobs and also to be a part of the small fraction of Pacific-owned businesses in New Zealand.
If you are in the Capital and looking for somewhere new to workout with a bit of unique Pacific and Māori fitness flavour, contact SWET at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via their website www.swet.co.nz and they will set you up with a free trial!