Up for the challenge?

posted: 10:30 pm - 29th October 2017

“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​ ​​admin@swet.co.nz,​​ ​or​ via​ ​their​ ​website​ ​​www.swet.co.nz​​ ​and​ ​they​ ​will​ ​set​ ​you​ ​up​ ​with​ ​a​ ​free​ ​trial!