By: Keletso Mkhwanazi:
The majority of individuals living in small townships and rural areas do not have access to fitness centres, requiring them to drive far distances to utilise these facilities and, ultimately, live a healthier lifestyle. Dr Hajira Mashego, who is the CEO and founder of Fitness Junction, identified a need in the fitness market after finishing her Ph.D. She opened a gym in West View, Pretoria West, enabling local residents to start their wellness journey. She told Vutivi News that her late father, who was one of South Africa’s first black physiotherapists, and her mother, a retired occupational therapist, both inspired her to start her own fitness shop.
“In 2017, I resigned from my job as a physiotherapist at the National Department of Health and used my pension fund savings to start my own business. Since then I’ve never looked back,” she said. “We currently employ 14 employees at our West View facility and intend to expand by franchising to other townships across South Africa.” At reasonable costs, the gym provides services such as a cardio equipment area, aerobics and spinning studios, a circuit, a weight-building area, a boxing area, a personal or functional training zone and a juice bar.
It has physiotherapists, biokineticists and dieticians. The gym also offers free childcare for clients while they work out. Mashego said she studied further after opening the gym. “I still needed guidance with the operational and financial aspects of running my business after spending a year at the Gordon Institute of Business Science,” she said. “It was then that I learned about the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme, and I was accepted shortly after applying. Throughout my time on the programme, my mentor provided practical guidance and was always willing to listen. This assistance is critical in the early stages of any start-up.”.
Mashego received the SAB Foundation Tholoana Award as well as the Collaboration Award for actively taking chances, unlocking new prospects, and exploring unexplored territory. She received a R10,000 cash price to invest in her business. “I was thrilled with my achievement. The funding enabled me to realise my future plans to scale the business nationally to many more townships and rural towns, creating jobs in the communities we serve,” she said. “I plan to accomplish this by establishing a franchise network, which will allow us to scale the business.” She told Vutivi News that Fitness Junction’s strategy was to expand into 232 townships across the country, with branches in major townships and franchising options in smaller and more distant places. Up to 16 people could be employed in each facility.
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