Tuesday, 29 November 2022
Since establishing in Letterkenny eight years ago, Rushe Fitness has gone from strength to strength in terms of their business success and their members' fitness goals.
The business began when Emmet made the decision after the local gym he had been freelancing from, closed suddenly. Through the Donegal Local Enterprise Office (LEO), he acquired a unit and availed of many supports from the LEO, including mentoring and ‘Start your own business’ courses. That original gym has recently been renovated into state of the art fitness studios and is now run by Emmet and his wife Maria.
“We’ve done a lot of work with the LEO. You can get a lot of help with keeping focused and planning ahead. Not a lot of people, especially people starting their own business, realise what the LEO can do for you and the type of support they have available”.
From the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey, Emmet and Maria have always had a very clear vision of what they wanted their business model to be and the service it would offer. “We’re not modelled on anything locally. The first thing people say when they walk in our door is ‘it doesn’t look like a gym’.”
Stepping away from the typical gym culture of focusing on body transformations and influencers, Emmet and Maria have aimed to create a safe space for their members to work on their physical and mental health.
“People have preconceived ideas of what a gym is. To most people, three words come to mind: Intimidating, dirty and scary. People see gyms as not for the general public. We want to change the way people view health and fitness so that it’s attainable for everyone.”
“For busy professionals and busy parents, the hour or two at the gym are often the only time they get to themselves in the week. Mental health is as important to us as physical health. As busy parents ourselves, we’re aware of the realities facing people”.
Throughout the pandemic, with the studio doors closed, Rushe Fitness Studio prioritised their online work-outs to keep the connection with their members and attracted a wide following from the diaspora. “We had people training with us from their balcony in Boston and a woman from Melbourne. Our members and people from all over the world were able to train with us from our kitchen, creating a vital online community that we all needed at that time”.
Rushe Fitness Studio is focused on being as inclusive and welcoming to everyone as possible without the pressure of having to beat records or personal bests. “There is no age limit on movement. We have members here from their twenties right through to their seventies and it’s brilliant to see the different age groups training side by side. We have people with injuries, of all ability levels and of all shapes and sizes in our budding community here. Everyone is valued and looked after.”
One of the key elements in the evolution of Rushe Fitness Studio has been visiting and continuously learning about how other facilities across the world are developing in cities across the world, including London and New York. “We visited facilities and we talked to the people there about what they were doing, how they were doing it, their model, even their décor. It was great to have people with the same vision to bounce ideas off who could say ‘well this worked for us’”.
Both Emmet and Maria are becoming nationally known names through their features in local and national media including the Irish Times, Highland Radio and the Matt Cooper show, for discussing issues impacting their members including covid, health and mental wellbeing, as well as continuously promoting Donegal.
The spirit of collaboration and support in the Donegal business community has been a positive influence on Rushe Fitness Studio, particularly during the Covid Pandemic. “Letterkenny Chamber, the Donegal Women in Business Network and the L.E.O. as well as national networks we are part of, were invaluable supports. They are all about encouraging each other. Everybody wants to see everybody else succeeding and they rallied together and helped support and guide businesses that were struggling”.
Community involvement and supporting other Donegal businesses has always been important for Emmet and Maria and they demonstrated this by collaborating with over 18 companies across the county in their annual Summer Shape Up programme. “The whole point was getting them out and about to take photos of exercises in beautiful locations around Donegal. They could turn up at certain businesses and buy lunch, or coffee, or whatever the companies had agreed to offer by showing their Rushe loyalty card. We made good connections with great business across the entire county and intend to develop this further in 2023.
Rushe Fitness Studio grows stronger every year with huge plans for the future, but their core focus is always their members.
“We’re always here to help anybody who needs anything, be it in fitness or in the community”. Strong advocates of the local business community, Emmet and Maria will continue to shout from the rooftops about the fantastic products and services available here in the county.
“Surround yourself with encouraging people, use the support available and there is no limit to what you can do. We’re proud to be from Donegal, to live and work here and to continue to provide a service that the people of Donegal deserve.”