AJ Bell co-founder Andy Bell invests £1m into boutique fitness franchise Transform Hub
- Andy Bell and Fergus Lyons have backed Transform Hub with £1m
- Transform Hub operates 20 boutique group training studios with 50 staff
- The team aims to employ 300 people across 100 sites by 2025
The co-founder of DIY investing platform AJ Bell has invested £1million into a fitness franchise, as he continues with his strategy to bet on businesses focusing on wellness and health.
Andy Bell, who stepped down as chief executive of the FTSE 250 UK investment group in June last year after 27 years in charge, is backing Transform Hub alongside Fergus Lyons, a former director at AJ Bell.
Transform Hub currently operates 20 boutique group training studios across the North West, Yorkshire, and London, and employs 50 staff. Locations include Knutsford, Bury and Burnley – with an Altrincham studio due to open later this year.
Investment: Andy Bell (left) with Transform Hub founder James Calderbank, co-founder Wendy Barker and former AJ Bell director Fergus Lyons
The business was launched in 2018 by personal trainer and body transformation expert James Calderbank, before changing to a new franchisee model in 2020, as gyms were forced to close during the pandemic.
Alongside co-founders Wendy Barker and Justin Devonshire, Calderbank re-launched a plug-and-play model which they claim allows franchisees to create a profitable Transform Hub within three months.
The £1million investment will go towards acquiring new franchise sites, with the team aiming to employ 300 people across 100 sites by 2025.
The idea behind Transform Hub is ‘to help busy men and women completely transform their lives without fad diets, endless hours of ineffective exercise and wasted gym memberships’, according to its website.
Its studios host group training classes aimed at the over 30s, where members are offered personal support by expert coaches.
Members are also given nutritional plans and are made accountable to coaches with weekly calls about their progress.
If members don’t show up for classes, they will be contacted to get them back into the Hub.
Calderbank, 30, said: ‘Our studios are typically single-sex, and we see high demand for both male and female Hubs, with community and nutritional support ranking high on the reasons why we have been so popular.’
He added: ‘We knew there would be high demand for in-person training after lockdown and our franchise model allows owners to focus on running their own personal studios.’
Members are given nutritional plans and are accountable to coaches about their progress
Explaining his reasons for investing, the former AJ Bell boss said: ‘The impressive growth that Transform Hub has experienced made this an easy investment decision. The potential to scale further through a focus on new franchisees is really exciting.
‘We were also impressed by the team’s resilience to pivot during Covid-19 and launch a group service which promotes positive change, both physically and mentally.
‘This commitment to helping others formed part of our decision to invest, as well as being an attractive overall package.’
The Transform Hub deal sees Bell and Lyons each take a 12.5 per cent share in the business with the current founders retaining 75 per cent ownership.
It comes six months after the pair invested £1.2million into Fuel Hub, a healthy meal delivery start-up founded by retired professional rugby player James Laithwaite and his wife.
Lyons said: ‘The traditional gym model doesn’t work for all and the level of care, support and accountability that Hubs give to members has been a huge contributor to the success story so far.’