After a small break, the Everyday Athlete returns and today’s release is about a lady who is incredibly passionate about her business and how she managed to end up with two let alone one business. From sleeping in her car to coaching full time; Reyhana Harper has set an example for others to follow and encourage people to take risks and fulfill their dreams. Let’s delve into her journey:
‘I’m Reyhana Harper, I’m the co-founder of Iconic Fitness and CrossFit Duo.
It all started two years ago, when me and my husband were sitting on our balcony and thinking about what it would be like to open our own gym. We started to go through some names and how it would be. We visualised the whole concept and at that time, we were both coaching CrossFit at the location we currently own.
We were full time coaches at our old gym and things were going well till eventually the owner stopped paying us our salary. We decided enough was enough and decided to start up our own gym instead like we always dreamed of. Starting off with semi private group training in our residence gym, with people coming in small groups of three being worked on based on their goals. We were giving them nutrition programs and programming them to their [specifications]. It started out with just Andy and I but eventually it got so crowded in our resident gym that we were kicked out by the building management because we were bringing in [too many] external members to the resident gym.
We found a location in the Marina close to our old workspace and decided to take it but it was still being constructed and we needed an alternative space to train while it was being finished. So we found a place in JLT and told them we needed to rent out their space for a few months till ours was completely built. We temporarily setup there for 6 months. We finally moved to our own place after 6 months and transferred all our members there. This was approximately 1 year, 11 months ago. Now we have a gym and members but we needed more staff members because we were working non-stop. Andy and I were running the gym ourselves and we needed the extra help. We hired Hannes and he took over the part of program. We eventually hired another CrossFit coach and before we knew it 1.5 years later we hired a 3rd coach. We grew so [substantially] that we didn’t realise how quickly we actually did grow.
Our old gym owner was having a few issues and said he wanted to sell his gym. We thought about it and took the offer at hand. It was so bizarre that the person who hired us to coach at their gym is now working for us! With the transition, we had to ease the existing members of the new gym to incorporate and obviously in the beginning there’s always resistance but we asked them to give us a go. It’s been very exciting with a lot of stress. Not do we have 150 at CrossFit Duo and 180 [at Iconic Fitness]. It was tough to learn everyone’s names at first because we wanted to give them value for money. The two gyms became interchangeable so both sets of members could use either gym facility. The main ethos of our gym is to give it a family feel. It’s so important to make sure everyone is addressed by their names and we make sure we emphasize team work and meeting new people. We don’t have membership cards. We have a couple who met at the gym and are now getting engaged, so the community aspect of it is fantastic!’
This is part where you wonder how she got into a position of owning these gyms in the first place. It’s incredible to see how well she did from working for someone to becoming an owner and having full control of the ethos, vision and direction of the company. Well, let’s roll it back, where it started 8 years ago:
I used to work in media and branding and sell advertising space. I was client liaison between creative and client. Relaying the client’s ideas to the creative team and fulfilling their ideas. It had [job satisfaction] when you see your work on a billboard and think that was me. Although, the deadline orientated nature of the business was quite annoying. My career change came about because of the recession and the advertising agency had to cut costs. Unfortunately, I was part of the cut and they gave me 3 months to try and find another job but I couldn’t find anything at the time. I had to go back to South Africa and started working part time at a gym. It was nice; there was no pressure with any of the usual corporate policies that come with it.
I was looking for Personal training qualifications and really wanted to go back to Dubai. I absolutely loved Dubai when I was there for 8 years. I lived in Sharjah, Silicon Oasis and even my car because I needed to do what was necessary. People told me to go back because I was struggling but I was determined to make it work and here I am with two gyms. I lived on digestives and parathas for months!
Thoughts on Fitness in Dubai Between Now & Then
There weren’t that many gyms back then. Especially CrossFit ones and now we have over 25-30. The closest thing to fitness people had 7 years ago were using their Fitbits. A lot more people are more health conscious and were cancelling or lowering their health insurance premiums but were keeping their gym memberships. I really feel like another aspect that’s changed is people still want their nutrition to be convenient. The Dubai lifestyle is so fast and constantly moving, it’s changed how people shape their days. People just eat, sleep and go to work and blame their diet for their weight gain. Which is true but it’s very difficult for most people to adjust to here. The demand for people’s meals to be cooked and delivered for them has increased, which is the only changed when it comes to convenience. With so many gyms and group activities that people will make an effort to go to there and enjoy the social aspect.
It Doesn’t End Here
At the end of the day, I don’t think Reyhana would change the way she’s reached her goals and dreams. It’s been a roller coaster of a journey and I’m glad to have found someone who’s followed and been able to live their dream (and know the Sharjah to Dubai commute feeling, trust me it hurts). Just follow their social’s and check out their website if you’d like to know more!
Reyhana’s & Iconic Fitness Website & Socials
Reyhana Harper Instagram: @senorita_reyhana
Iconic Fitness: http://iconicfitness.ae