In a sector where wins are few and far between, iFitness, West Africa’s premier gym chain, has taken centre stage with its bold investment strategy, reshaping Nigeria’s fitness culture and setting a new standard for wellness in the region.
Founded in 2015, i-Fitness was born out of the personal journey of Foluso Ogunwale to bridge the accessibility gap in Nigeria’s fitness culture by making bold investments in bespoke private facilities with affordable payment structures.
Upon settling in Lagos around 2013, he noticed the absence of decent gyms in his locality. This observation, combined with the growing global trend of health-conscious urban populations, sparked the birth of i-Fitness.
Ogunwale reported that the first external funding which was secured from a microfinance loan in 2017, had an interest rate of about 3.8 percent monthly. Due to the exorbitant interest rates at that time, Ogunwale believed this source of funding was quite expensive, however, because there were limited options, he went ahead with the loan agreement.
“We were faced with only a few viable options for external financing when i-Fitness was planning to include three more branches to the network. We accepted the loan since we knew it was short-term. By the end of 2017, banks began to understand the potential in the fitness industry,” he stated.
The year 2019 came with another milestone for the fitness chain when it secured its first private equity funding through CardinalStone Capital Advisers.
During the celebration of its 8th anniversary, the company announced plans to grow its fitness chain with more branches in locations across Nigeria, and eventually expand into West Africa. A case in point was the launch of its 21st branch at Ibadan in May 2023, shortly after the reopening of its recently refurbished flagship branch in Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.
“i-Fitness is committed to encouraging overall wellness from a fitness perspective, constantly improving our facilities to meet global standards,” said Thabo Pieterson, i-Fitness Head, Strategy and Operations.
The company said it remains committed to promoting the culture of fitness through its network of branches, making fitness an integral part of the urban lifestyle.
With African countries like Nigeria grappling with alarming health rankings, findings showed i-Fitness remained committed to empowering individuals to take charge of their well-being. The company offers a number of fitness programs designed to accommodate different interests.
“Whether you crave the adrenaline rush of aerobics, seek solace in the serenity of yoga, prefer to build stamina through cardiovascular exercise, or engage in heart-pumping core cardio sessions, i-Fitness sets the pace,” the company said.
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It added, “We are known to nurture a holistic approach to fitness and wellness. Members can attend invigorating group fitness classes and there are over 200 professionally certified personal trainers for comprehensive support and assistance.”
i-Fitness now serves as part of the healthcare delivery system of Nigeria. The company is galvanizing thousands of people to live healthier thereby promoting preventive health awareness.
The company has a series of partnerships with esteemed organizations and has invested in initiatives that promote healthy well-being and wellness. A notable example is commemorating World Heart Day in collaboration with the Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF), which birthed the awe-inspiring “Bike-a-Heart-Shape-Route” campaign.
i-Fitness also earned accolades, one of which is the African Brands Leadership Award, where it received the “Most Outstanding Gym Brand of the Year” in 2022. The company was recognized for its dedication to providing innovative solutions for a healthier lifestyle.
“What began as a single gym in the vibrant heart of Lekki, Lagos, with limited resources and a daring vision, has grown into a formidable fitness chain,” i-Fitness said.
Today, i-Fitness boasts an impressive network of 21 branches strategically located in Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt and Abuja (FCT). Each branch is a fully equipped ultramodern facility that redefines the fitness experience.
Consequently, i-Fitness has become a thriving fitness community with a subscriber base of over 25,000 members.
Ogunwale looks forward to expanding i-Fitness into more locations, with the brand being a focal point for living a healthier and happier life.