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#SelfStarterStories: From being a social care worker to becoming a body tranformation specialist

This week's #selfstarterstory features Keith McNiven, Founder of Right Path Fitness.

#PickYourselfUK caught up with Keith to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey.

What was your last job?: I worked with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds up in Leeds where I’m from originally. You’d see it all the time, kids struggling, not having a goal or an aim in life and ending up getting into trouble, and I think that’s where I got the idea that I wanted to work in social care.

I was lucky because I got into wrestling when I was young and ended up competing for Great Britain, and I guess I wanted to help others to achieve their dreams and push themselves. People think the jump from social care to personal training is a large one, but it’s not really.

They are both about encouraging others, and helping them set goals for their future that will benefit their mental, physical and emotional health. To do either job you need strong people skills, and to be able to communicate well. My last job taught me to do my current job running Right Path Fitness!

When did you choose to PICK YOURSELF instead of waiting to be chosen by someone else?: It was always in the back of my mind that I would start my own business in the fitness industry, but before I knew it I was 29! I’d worked as a gym instructor in my teens, and after finishing competing with wrestling had carried on with my own fitness- it becomes ingrained in you- so I was always involved in fitness in some way.

I did my personal training qualifications and moved to London because I felt it would be a good base to start Right Path Fitness from. It was the right time, and as much as my life was about helping others to achieve their goals and dreams, I also had to invest the time in making my own a reality.

What was the most challenging part of starting a business?: The most challenging part was becoming established in a competitive industry. In London, and all over the country there are thousands of personal trainers all competing for business.

I’d had a few years to think about what Right Path Fitness would stand for, so I was able to develop a brand that was consistent with my beliefs about fitness, and that had the capability to grow with me.

What is your favourite business book and why?: It’s quite an old book now but one that I read a while ago and still rate is Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People. Everything you do as a personal trainer really comes down to the connections you make, primarily with your clients of course but also your team, suppliers, everyone you come into contact with.

As a personal trainer you have to be able to influence people, and bring them round to your way of thinking. But I’ve never believed in the shouting approach, you’ve got to communicate more cleverly than that. And that’s what this book is about, it’s a must-read for any PT.

Do you do everything yourself? What do you outsource?: I have a team of personal trainers who work alongside me at Right Path Fitness, it wouldn't be possible without them!

What is your favourite marketing tool ?: One of my favourite marketing tools is Facebook Events. We use the tool to promote Right Path Fitness’ range of exciting popup events like Naked Fitness and our new class Dateercise, which is a hybrid dating and exercise class. Through Facebook events we can target people living in specific locations, in a certain age range, to attend the classes.

The Right Path Fitness website June 2018

The Right Path Fitness website June 2018

How do you market your business?: A lot of our business comes from word of mouth referrals, like clients referring us to friends and family. I’m also extremely active within the fitness industry, providing advice and comments for fitness publications and we do a lot with the Right Path Fitness website to ensure SEO is as good as it possibly can be with regularly updated content. All the marketing work we do is about driving traffic to the website.

When you first launched, how did you get your first paying customers?: I started out by networking and developing partnerships with East London studios where I could train clients and built up my client base from there.

How did you get your first traffic to your website?: It was a long process but I realised quite quickly that I would need to regularly update my content, so I developed a blog and more importantly, I added a new post every week or so. I used social media to direct traffic to my website and I also write articles for sites where they would offer a link back to my site.

Nominate one person/friend who believed in you from the start, and what would you like to say to them today?: My mum. As a single mum, she kept everything together for me and my sister but she also really encouraged me to try out different sports. It was thanks to my mum that I got into wrestling in the first place, and that kicked off my lifelong passion for sport and fitness.

What would you say to someone who is toying with the idea to start a business but haven't yet?: Ask yourself if it’s your passion. There are lots of reasons to start a business but the best, and the one that will sustain you through the good days and the bad is passion and belief in what you’re doing. Instead of worrying about the risks and what will go wrong, think about whether you’ll be good at it, are you suited to the industry, do you have the right skills? If you’re passionate about your business idea and are suited to it, then take steps to make it happen.

If you could have dinner with one entrepreneur, who would it be and why?: It would have to be Richard Branson. He didn’t take the traditional route into business, starting his first business aged 16 and skipping university altogether. He’s dyslexic but has never let this hold him back, instead, he campaigns for change in how dyslexia is seen in this country.

For him, dyslexia should be seen as a positive thing. I think that his story is a really good one for young people to hear; that your situation is what it is, but it’s up to you to take the risk to achieve your goals. I like his mentality, that you crack on and get the job done, learning as you go. I’d love to hear more about his adventures setting up his various businesses.

To stay up to date with Keith McNiven's entrepreneurial journey, please find him via his website below:

Keith McNiven has qualified for the #PickYourselfUK Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year award 2018. If you'd like to enter yourself or nominate a small business entrepreneur for this award, please submit your story below.