Zenzele Fitness: Founder Talks Industry Opportunities

Updated on 29 January 2019

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Zenzele Fitness Founder Tumi Phake Says Opportunities are Ripe in the Industry in 2019

To help usher in an exciting New Year, a number of startup founders, accelerator heads and ecosystem stakeholders will be sharing with us their plans for the new year and their biggest wish for the local entrepreneurship ecosystem in 2019.

Four and a half years after leaving the corporate sector Tumi Phake jumped into entrepreneurship and the fitness sector to launch Zenzele Fitness. Today Phake, the founder of Zenzele Fitness, can boast with 13 thriving fitness clubs and the vision to have over 100 clubs within the next 10 to 15 years.

“We started out by approaching large corporate groups, but I soon realised that there were many other institutions with large ‘captive audiences’, such as universities and government institutions. This led to us opening clubs at the University of the Witwatersrand and Rand Refinery.”

Since then Zenzele Fitness counts Alexander Forbes, SAB, Absa and Discovery as clients. In 2017 Phake was named the Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year in the annual Entrepreneur of the Year competition.

In 2018 Phake was one of the business people featured in a new book, titled ‘How we made it in Africa’, which tells the stories of 25 entrepreneurs who’ve built thriving businesses.

Phake shares what’s next for his dynamic fitness and wellness company and why it’s high time for black businesses to have access to more opportunities. 

How do you see the startup sector (and in particular fitness) developing this year?

Listening to the president’s speech at the launch of the 2019 Election Manifesto and the ANC 107th anniversary celebration hosted recently:

The government plans to raise R1.2 trillion in new investments over five years and working with all social partners to intensify efforts to restore investor, business and consumer confidence and ensure policy consistency and certainty. I think this is going to have a significant positive impact for startup businesses and it will encourage up-and-coming entrepreneurs to participate in various industries.

The President has also noted to open up markets for new, emerging companies by ending monopolies and behavior that stifles competition and to bring a more concerted focus on SMMEs, cooperatives and township and village enterprises.

South Africa has one of the highest world’s fitness club revenues of around R12 billion per year with Virgin Active having the majority dominance in the sector. More entrepreneurs are starting to see great opportunities to enter the fitness sector.

We have just finalised an additional round of funding, for business expansion and we have already started investing in new business opportunities

What are your plans for Zenzele in this regard?

We plan to have a significant participation in this multi-billion industry and are confident to set a footprint within South Africa and abroad within the next few years.

What are some of the developments (within the local ecosystem) you are hoping for in the coming year?

Opening of new markets and ending monopolies. I think it’s high time for black businesses to have more opportunities to enter these markets, which have been previously dominated by a few players.

Zenzele has a number of impressive highlights in 2018 – what can we look forward to from you in 2019?

We are planning to expand and add an additional six more clubs to close on 18 clubs by the end of the year. We are also going to be launching outside of South Africa and we’re excited about this opportunity.

We have just finalised an additional round of funding for business expansion and we have already started investing in new business opportunities.

And finally, what is your wish for SA entrepreneurs for 2019?

I wish more opportunities for SA entrepreneurs. The SMMEs sector plays a significant role in job creating and stimulating the South African economy. It is not an easy journey, but it definitely worth it in the end.

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