How I Channeled My Passion For Fitness Into A Successful Online Business
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Oliver Anwar, the owner of www.roanwarfitness.com. I am an online personal trainer that provides bespoke training, nutrition and lifestyle coaching to busy professionals, entrepreneurs and founders trying to lose fat, build muscle and improve their confidence.
My flagship product is my VIP Coaching Program which is a 1-2-1 coaching program that helps busy people fit fitness around their lifestyle.
My customers are professionals, founders, and entrepreneurs who want to build a great body and mind so they can perform better at work and become more confident.
I am making around $2,000 USD per month and was featured on the New York Times Best Seller Chris Guillebeau’s Side Hustle Podcast.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Growing up as a kid I was always active and fit and had a huge passion for football (soccer). I played a high level of football for most of my child/teen years – playing for both Bristol City Academy and Bristol Rovers Centre of Excellence growing up (this is the highest level of youth football in the UK). When I got to 16/17, I, unfortunately, didn’t make it as a professional footballer so began starting to train in the gym and I realized early on this was something I was going to invest my life into.
I was sat on a friend's sofa one summer and he was looking on his laptop at domains. He told me that the website www.roanwarfitness.com was available for £0.01. Having experience training myself and friends and family I saw an opportunity to begin a blog to share my fitness story. Over summer as I built this website purely by myself, I realized I could create a business from selling online training and nutrition plans and therefore coaching people online.
When I first got into fitness, I made so many mistakes when it came to my training and nutrition when working out in the gym. I wasn’t training optimally, I was injuring myself and this massively demotivated me. I was naively following sample training plans and guides from professional fitness competitors/models who were unfortunately chemically enhanced (taking steroids and other performance enhancing drugs) and therefore their approach to fitness was going to be completely different from mine as a young natural lifter.
I, therefore, began to start delving into evidence-based research and the science behind nutrition and training. As I did this, my body started to transform rapidly and the progress I made in the first three years was hugely outweighed by just one year of me training in a more optimal way and following the correct protocols for me.
As my physique started developing, lots of my friends and relatives began asking me how I got into shape and then started asking if I could put plans and programs together for them. I realized at this point there was scope for me to build a business; there was a demand from people, I understood how to implement training and nutrition correctly through my own experience and building up of knowledge and I had a few friends who I knew could help me set up a website and give me resources/guidance to get the business off the ground.
For the first year, I trained my close friends and relatives for free and gave them personalised coaching to obtain feedback, transformations and testimonials.
This helped me validate the products and give myself and my business credibility.
I set my business up when I was at university and a student, so I didn’t have much capital at all. I was working part-time and studying but luckily my business did not need much startup capital. Just enough for a website.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I design my products by the level on engagement the client wants with me; the more time I spend teaching and coaching them – the higher the price. For instance, I have a standalone training program which is the entry-level product – where the customer receives a personalised plan and goes off and does it themselves with little interaction with me (they do get 12 weeks email support if they have any ad-hoc questions).
My most premium product is my VIP Complete Coaching – where the client gets a continuous training program alongside a goal specific meal plan, weekly video check-ins to assess progress, 24/7 WhatsApp/Email support and constant coaching and adjustments made throughout to ensure they achieve the best results.
Taking this approach to designing products caters for a range of people at different stages which allows me to get more business and try out different products/designs to see which works best.
All of these plans and packages are personalised and tailored to the individual’s needs, goals, preferences and experience levels. From an operational standpoint, I have built lots of templates which allows me to makes these packs and guides easily and efficiently to save time whilst still giving the customer a great level of service.
As all my products are digital and I use software/programs that are free, nearly all of the money/revenue I make is profit – there are little outgoings with my products and overall business model which is great. However, it takes my time to write and create these packages so I have slowly been improving my process to ensure that the guides/plans get produced quicker and still have lots of information in there for the customer so I don’t get asked a million questions by clients on WhatsApp or email (which also takes a lot of time).
I started my business with around $100 USD; this covered the cost of the website theme, email provider and domain hosting.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I created the website from scratch by buying a domain and downloading a decent WordPress theme. I then spent the summer of 2017 learning how WordPress worked (through YouTube videos and tutorials) until it was finished around September 2017. My online presence was very small at the time. I had a fair few friends on Facebook but less than 1000 followers on Instagram. Two and a half years in, I now have 38.5k followers on my IG account.
As stated, I only invested around $100 USD into the business, this was all I needed for the website costs and cost of email.
On the day I launched my website, I did a post on my Facebook page which all my friends and family from the town I lived in shared. About 2 hours after sharing this, I received a notification to my PayPal account with someone who had purchased one of my fitness packages. I remember running downstairs and telling my Mum and I was overcome with joy. I was also very nervous as I wasn't expecting a sale that quickly. Instead of celebrating, I got to work on how I was going to best serve my first customer.
The biggest lesson I learned was that hard work pays off. I spent all of my time over the summer of 2017 building this website. I was very meticulous and detailed in how I laid it out, the sales copy, the theme and the photos I used and because of this, I had a great launch with my first sale within the first 2 hours.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
There are various ways I drive traffic to my site and have a marketing strategy in place using lots of different channels.
Social media has been a great way to drive traffic to my website; I have built up my Instagram page from 1,000 to nearly 40,000 followers in the space of two and a half years and this has helped me get more people to my website.
I grew my Instagram by really improving the quality of my image content as time progressed. It’s all well and good providing valuable captions and sharing your story but if you don’t have high quality images, then people aren’t going to be attracted to your feed/posts. I therefore invested in a good quality camera and watched tutorials on how to take/edit photos well and found my own sort of style so there was a consistency throughout my page.
Documenting, providing informative/valuable content with high quality images that were enticing was essentially my strategy to grow and this what I found to be very effective.
The biggest way I’ve driven traffic to my website is through the app called Sweatcoin; which is the most downloaded fitness app on the app store. The app essentially pays the user a currency for completing outside steps (and exercising) and they can then use their ‘Sweatcoins’ to purchase things on the app. I provide a free program on this app for people every month to get a taste of what my business offers and this, in turn, drives huge traffic to my website and allows me to upsell/cross-sell my more premium products.
In February 2018, this helped me drive 250,000 hits to my website and provide nearly 8,000 people with access to my training programs.
I got on Sweatcoin as one of my friends at my university was interning for them. The reason I think I’ve been really successful on there is that I’ve been giving a program away for free. Many other vendors offer a discount and whilst this is great – it can greatly reduce the conversion rate as people are hesitant to put card details in online (even if it’s only for a few pounds/dollars) as they don’t really know you.
What I did differently is that I offered a service at 100% off, completely free of charge so I could maximise the amount of hits to my website and amount of people who purchased my plan. This gave me great website traffic, helped me gain a large number of email subscribers but most importantly let others try out a slice of what I had to offer and this made upselling so much easier. I was also one of the first (if not only) online trainer to offer a digital product on the platform, such as a training program and this meant I got the first mover advantage when competing with others.
I am also a public speaker and do talks at a range of university, school and start-up events in London on how I scaled my business, fitness and essentially my journey so far. This is a great way to meet people in real life and drive traffic to my website/business. I have also worked a range of part time jobs and studied whilst running my business and this has also been a great way to attract new clients and customers.
Email has also been a great way to market to clients. I built an email list of 32,000 subscribers. This was from the free program that I provided on Sweatcoin. This is why giving out a free high value lead magnet can be excellent as it allows you to get customer information whilst also giving them a slice of what you offer as a taster.
I am currently re-working my strategy for email marketing. The plan going forward is to send out weekly emails that will build up a strong relationship with my audience through story and informative fitness hacks. This combined with some call to actions and how my product can help them get to where they want to be, I think will really work.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
After two and a half years the business is profitable.
The business currently has a social media following on Instagram of 38.5k and an email subscriber list of 32k+.
The operations today are to continue growing the brand through huge marketing efforts; both online and offline.
Most importantly, the business goal is to service more clients and increase the quality of service to existing clients so they can lead healthier and happier lives around their busy jobs.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I’ve learned that it’s definitely important to build up a knowledge and understanding of how you’re going to approach the business and plan on how you are going to execute. I set up my business spontaneously with no real business plan and just winged it for the first year. I would advise other people to make more preparations than I did and put a system in place to see how things work in regards to content, fitness packages and other operational aspects of the business as this will save you a big learning curve!
One good decision I made was building up a partnership with Sweatcoin. Having my program on their app really helped give me a platform to build my email list, my name and also my reach.
A habit that is really important is to build structure into your day as an entrepreneur. Going from university to working a full-time job to then working full-time for myself, I realised I needed to plan out my days well. I have a full Outlook calendar on how the hours of my day will be split up; from each task I’m going to complete, my lunch break, when I’m going to the gym, when I read and when I relax. This is vital if you want to get things done and be organised.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
My favourite tools for my business:
One of the biggest strategies that I used was to document on my Instagram page. I think what lots of people do on social media is try to create of an image of what they want people to perceive them to look like and this can be very flawed. The strategy that I employed was to show people my journey from the beginning; so from the day I launched my business I shared all of my workouts, my food, my lifestyle, my holidays and my day-to-day so people could get an idea of who I am, my personality and what I stood for. They could also see that I was on a journey and that my Instagram was going to be the highlight reel in which I documented this process and that they could follow along.
I also combined this approach with providing value and informative information. For many people who followed me, they wanted to learn about training and nutrition and the approaches that I used and therefore I shared in my captions and on my Instagram stories, lots of different fitness topics and how they can go about implementing these techniques into their day-to-day for the best results. Instead of consuming (like lots of people do on social media) I decided to create and ‘give’ instead of ‘take’. When people see that you’re not in it to ‘take’ all the time and that you are actually there to provide valuable information and share your story with people, the follows, likes and engagement really begin to increase.
Setting up a podcast has also been a great tool to push my brand. Podcasts are becoming ever more popular and they are a great way for my audience to connect with me and ask me topics that I can address on the podcast.
The podcast has also been a great way for me to connect with other entrepreneurs, self-help coaches and fitness professionals to get an insight into how they operate. This helps me become a better entrepreneur and service my clients better.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Man’s Search For Meaning byViktor Frankl is one of my favourites. In this book, Viktor chronicles his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, and describes his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then immersively imagining that outcome.
The book makes you feel absolutely grateful for the position that you’re in and helps you see optimism in every bad situation. Whenever I think about moaning or complaining, I go back to reading the book and realising how lucky I really am.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
My advice to entrepreneurs would be to be adaptable, work relentlessly hard and not lose enthusiasm from setbacks. There are lots of times when you're running your own business where you may not be getting a return; you're putting in a lot of hours and it can feel like you're not getting anywhere. The key is to really persist, collaborate with people and keep a positive outlook throughout because once people start to recognise you and see the potential in your business/brand/product, opportunities begin to open up and it becomes clear why you started the business in the first place.
I’d also advise to be integral to yourself and your values at all times. The times where things have gone the best for me have been when I’ve been my best self; living by my own values and doing what I believed in and I think that lots of people can lose their uniqueness in the hustle and bustle of business.
I’ve learnt that people are what is important. Working, collaborating with and positively impacting people is the key to building a successful business in my opinion. I’ve learnt that trying to provide as much value to them as possible; be it through my social media content, my plans and programs or through meeting them at a talk, is really what sets a good fitness person apart from a bad one.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Website - www.roanwarfitness.com
- Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/roanwar/
- Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/roanwarfitness/
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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