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Luis DeVera is a luxury fitness company owner. Luis has gyms located globally, including London (Mayfair & Liverpool Street), Dubai, Riyadh, and Bahrain. They offer gym facilities, personal training, and a football academy.
1. Can you share the story of how you decided to found your business? What inspired you to embark on this journey?
I started my leisure career as a lifeguard in Putney Bridge, London, and then as a gym instructor/personal trainer. You only have so many hours in the day to deliver actual sessions, so financially, it made sense to find a way to expand my hours in different directions. After spending several years in the Kensington area, I opened my first PT studio, and soon after, I employed my first employee circa 2006. We outgrew this site quickly and went bigger just before the crash of 2008, which stopped us rapidly. I left the business for a year and put my focus elsewhere. After the trauma of site two, I went in bigger and better. Two years later, I got a three-month contract in Saudi Arabia, which quickly became six. Twelve years later, we have branches across the Middle East and London with the same product we started with.
2. What's been the most significant moment or milestone in your entrepreneurial career that has shaped your approach to business?
Meeting several critical people over the years who have helped develop and shape our products into what we are today, most of whom are still with me, and some are even business partners. Being a "natural" risk taker, you need brilliant individuals to stop and start things and tell you when you're going too fast. I am very lucky and grateful in this regard. With regard to financial success in the Middle East, we were one of the first to enter the market as a luxury fitness brand. This allowed us to open our sites in London eventually - it's extremely rare to do that way we have (usually, it's the other way around), so we're all very proud of that.
3. In the dynamic landscape of business, how do you stay adaptable and open to change?
We have no choice, particularly in our business, where market trends dominate the landscape. Going back to the above, it becomes easier to cut losses and move on from nonsensical trends that do not work if you have the right people around you. Which, unfortunately, are most of them. We also have a certain product which we have to protect at all costs. We're very good at that.
4. Entrepreneurship often involves taking risks. But what role do you believe risk-taking plays in achieving success?
It's all a calculated risk. Until it goes wrong, of course… in which case you pull your socks up and get on with it. This can be very frustrating for those around you, so it is very important to have a backup. I have a very understanding wife and partner.
5. What is your leadership philosophy, and how do you use this to inspire and motivate those around you?
Now that I am 40, I am the one out of place in the fitness world - what I was known for before is yesterday's news. No micromanagement, and always go with the best idea and better way of doing things. No one should care about the politics within any company. My focus is growth, and I let others deal with operations and product development who are better than me.
6. Can you share a specific failure or setback in your career, and how did you use that experience as a learning opportunity to grow and improve?
There are too many to note pre- and post-Covid. We/I have gone into commercial leases with little knowledge or experience. You live and learn.
7. How do you foster a culture of innovation and creativity within 24N Mayfair?
Well, this is the fun part. We're very fortunate to have several continuously growing and improving products. We do not get in the way of someone who can do something better than us. It's a waste of time and energy. As long as we follow through, I'll encourage you.
8. Entrepreneurs often face challenges in balancing work and personal life. How do you manage this balance, and what strategies do you use to prevent burnout?
I don't really. It's very hard to switch off. It's not something I think about much. I am very lucky to have a supportive wife that I drive nuts, and my children get the best version of me.
9. What advice do you have for individuals aspiring to become founders? Are there key principles or lessons you wish you had known when starting your journey?
Don't waste time; nobody cares about the idea - only when you finish it. Do more due diligence and add 25% to any business plan you have.
10. Looking ahead, what is your vision for the future of your company?
We're about to open our biggest site to date in Liverpool Street - Devonshire square, which will be home to 11000 sq feet. We'll offer a commercial gym, London's biggest CrossFit box, classes, and ice baths.
11. And finally, do you have any advice for those looking to initiate new fitness habits and regimes in 2024?
Start now regardless of where you're at and make it non-negotiable, even if it's once a week, no matter what your starting point. Even if it's 5000 steps, if you're doing 3000, there is something for everyone. Those who need help knowing where to start can download apps like LEVELs or Nike. It's never been easier to get started. It's everywhere.