We caught up with the multi-talented co-owner, director, Crossfit instructor and physiotherapist Erin Bonnet to see what it takes to get a small business started on the Isle of Man and what support from the Isle of Man Government had done for them.
Relaxed and confident, Erin, originally from the Isle of Man moved back to the Island in 2012 after studying and working in the United Kingdom.
“When we were away in England my husband was attending a Crossfit gym and when we decided that’s what we wanted to do we thought the Isle of Man would be the perfect place. It’s a fit and healthy place, people were getting more and more into fitness… We’d seen the gap in the market and we thought we’d come and do it before anybody else did.”
Erin wasn’t sure whether she was going to return to the Island but found opportunities in the UK very limited even for someone with her level of qualification.
“After I finished my two degrees, qualified as a sports therapist and a physiotherapist… I couldn’t find a job anywhere… There were two-three hundred people going for a band 5 physio job, so they were only hiring people with loads of experience… I got a job in a ladies’ gym, and I was running somebody else’s gym for £6.25 an hour with two degrees. I was umming and erring as to whether to open a physio or a gym and so I did both!”
Finding a suitable location proved not be a problem. They went to a commercial letting agent, who showed them 5 different properties. They settled on a brand new unit in Braddan on an easy access route in and out of Douglas – perfect for their clients.
“It was a brand new unit, we were first in and it was just fresh. It’s a good location where we are in Braddan… we’re just out of town and with good parking”
It is quite clear that Erin has a real passion for her work. Early mornings and late nights are a key part of her role, but she has perfected a routine that keeps her balanced and her work is highly rewarding.
“I work seven days a week, but I choose to work seven days a week. Some days are longer than others, I often get here first thing in the morning, coach a couple of classes in the morning and then I can just train at my leisure. I normally train twice a day… two to three hours in the morning and then again in the evening… that’s what I look forward to… seeing other people succeed and other people reach their goals is just perfect. “
The main challenge of setting up the business was finding the funding to do it but Erin found the process easy and the government money came through very quickly.
Within a short time of opening one of the key concerns Erin had was the sheer number of hours her and her husband were putting in. To attract and retain staff they worked with the Job Centre to create a recognised apprenticeship scheme.
“We created, alongside the Isle of Man Government, an apprenticeship scheme called Strength and Fitness Coaching. In return we got help financially for our apprentice’s wages and for their courses as well, including travel costs off the Island.”
In all, Erin and Dan have created three jobs at Crossfit Isle of Man in addition to their own.
Erin and her husband now live in Kirk Michael in the North West of the Island. Normally she drives in which takes just fifteen to twenty minutes. Because she gets into work very early, she’s normally the only car on the road aside from those heading off the boat. Comparing this journey to others she has had in the UK:
“I have had some quite long commutes in the past. When I was at Huddersfield University I had to commute to Selby, which was nearly in York, so I used to get up at half four –five-ish. I used to have to wait for the train. Sometimes the train would be late and that would mean your connecting train… you would miss that… I’d have to walk almost two miles up to the hospital…That was only a 6 week placement and I couldn’t wait for that to end.”
Crossfit Isle of Man started with a 2000 square foot unit, but Erin and Dan soon found they had to cap member numbers. When the opportunity arose in 2015 to expand into the unit next door they took it, doubling their capacity to the 4000 square foot facility in which they currently operate.
When asked about what challenges she faced when starting up on the Isle of Man, in true Crossfit style Erin replied that she really did not find any and thinks that’s probably down to her positive outlook on life.
Click here to find out more about funding opportunities available to start-up businesses
Click here to find out more about Crossfit Isle of Man.