KOBOX: The Interview
KOBOX: Boutique boxing gym - Fight Club Meets Nightclub
Founder: Shane Collins
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Foong and Mills caught up with Shane Collins, the impressive (and still very young) man behind London's first boutique boxing gym, KOBOX. We talk hard work, passion, training some of the best pro boxers, customised Nike training shoes and Love Island ad breaks! But ultimately, it's all about the people and the customers... We couldn't agree more!
Mills: So - first things first - tell us about KOBOX. What’s the concept and how did it come about?
Shane: KOBOX is the most fun boxing club in the world. We offer 50 minute classes which are split between rounds punching our water filled heavy bags as well as boxing inspired strength and conditioning work. It all takes place in a loud, dark room, hence the tagline Fight Club Meets Nightclub.
Foong: How did you meet the other co-founders, Joe Cohen and Ronnie Shahmoon? What are your roles?
Shane: Joe and I have known each other for 5 years or so, I had this plan for what KOBOX should be, Joe introduced me to Ronnie who was our principal investor and KOBOX was born.
Mills: You're still young for an entrepreneur and prior to this hadn't had any experience owning or running a gym! It's really impressive how quickly KOBOX has taken off. Has it been challenging selling your concept and getting investors?
Shane: I actually owned a small gym back in Dublin, very different from what KOBOX is. I specialised in training athletes, boxers in particular, for competition. I also have a background in delivering big property projects from my previous professional life and I carry all of that in to what we do at KOBOX. I think my passion for the sport and the concept makes it an easy sell. I’m also relentlessly hard working. Passion and hard work are impossible to stop and I think that’s why we’ve established ourselves so quickly.
Foong: There are lots of boutique fitness gyms popping up which also offer boxing classes (for non boxers) - BXR and 1Rebel for example, as well as home boxing videos like the Boxx Method. How is the KOBOX experience different?
Shane: I like that you said different. It’s hard to say things are better or worse, that’s down to opinion most of the time but I think what we do is make a genuinely authentic boxing workout accessible to the public. This isn’t boxercise, we have extraordinary coaches who have worked with the absolute in the field (Floyd Mayweather Senior, Ismael Salas, Freddie Roach), we use professional standard equipment and we recognise that using things like the number system for the punches makes it easier to understand and follow for people who aren’t boxers.
Foong: Most memorable moment on your KOBOX journey so far? Biggest challenge?
Shane: Nike made us a boxing training shoe. That’s pretty huge. There are 8 athletes in the world with a signature Nike shoe, there have been something like 36 athletes ever who have had it. To join names like Jordan, Ronaldo, Lebron, Woods etc and have a signature shoe is an incredible thing to have happen to us. I’m humbled that we had the opportunity to enjoy that moment and have our work recognized like that.
Mills: What's the big dream for KOBOX? The 5 year plan?
Shane: Be the biggest boxing gym in the world. Simple
Mills: As the business grows, how easy/ difficult is it to keep it operating in line with the vision you have for it?
Shane: People. It’s all about people. I think KOBOX is the best place to work if you’re in the industry. If I was a trainer I would want to work there. If I wanted a managerial job then I would bite your hand off for the opportunity to work there. I like to give freedom to the people who work there to have their own thoughts and take responsibility for what they are doing. At the same time when needed you’ll find me behind the desk or making shakes if need be. I thought standards weren’t right in one of our studios at the start of the year so I dropped everything and worked the desk for two weeks. Nothing is more important than the customer base and if they aren’t getting the best service then I’ll get dirty hands and make sure they do.
Foong: KOBOX has a few celebrity coaches (relatives of celebrities too!) and celebrity clients but famously doesn't do any marketing. How did that happen? Is social media the way forward?
Shane: Advertising and PR is changing. TV advertising is an $80bn business and we either fast forward the ads or we start swiping through instagram on our phones when the ads come on. You have to follow peoples attention. It used to be print, then radio, then TV, now it’s all online. We actually try to take advantage of this. Last year we timed our promotional posts to go out in the ad-breaks of Love Island. It’s where everyones attention was, but when the ads came on we wanted to grab your attention. We’ll duo the same this year.
Foong: Your original gym was on Kings Road and now you have a branch in the City. Who is your target demographic?
Shane: There isn’t one target demographic. Mornings and evenings are 25-45 year old workers, but mid morning and early evening attracts a really diverse crowd. the studio is a living, breathing thing and it changes a lot over the course of the 15 hours a day we’re open.
Mills: And finally, what is your one knockout piece of advice for someone about to start their own business?
Shane: Listen to your customer base. Without them you are nothing. You don’t run the business for yourself, you run it for your customer base. If you forget that, you’re dead.