A personal training venture in Mid Wales has been given a lift by a Welsh community lender.
Former Welsh powerlifter Gerard Matthews is launching a new personal training studio in Newtown, thanks to backing from Robert Owen Community Banking Fund (ROCBF).
The investment is the first ROCBF had made using the Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG).
Gerard, who was once in the top three of Wales’ strongest man competition, is launching Inner Strength, a personal training space.
The 35-year-old has long held the dream of getting the venture off the ground but, with a limited borrowing record, he found High Street banks’ doors were closed.
But ROCBF, also headquartered in the Powys town, was prepared to look in more depth at his financial background and back him with a four-figure loan.
The UK-wide EFG scheme aims to give entrepreneurs access to funding when they might not fulfil the criteria of traditional lenders.
Mark White, chief executive officer at ROCBF, said:
“EFG accreditation enables us to widen the scope of our lending to new businesses which may not have the trading record that many lenders insist on.
“Without a track record many small businesses struggle to borrow from mainstream lenders.
“This was the case with Gerard, but having looked at his overall situation and his business plan, we are happy to support him and help him launch the venture.”
Gerard has big plans for the studio at The Courtyard behind Cracked Wheat Organics off Long Bridge Street in Newtown.
His own powerlifting career peaked when he came third in the 2008 Wales Strongest Man competition, narrowly missing out on a place in the GB event.
But a painful ankle and hip injury – suffered while playing rugby – hampered his sporting ambitions. Instead, Gerard has concentrated on helping others finesse their weights skills, at a church club in his spare time.
But now, with ROCBF’s help, his own business has launched.
Initially he hopes to attract participants for hourly training sessions where he will bring both his experience in competitive powerlifting and coaching to the fore.
For Gerard, the studio is not purely about making money, but about offering a mentoring service for people who want to improve their physique and fitness.
He said there has already been strong interest on social media.
“I was very fortunate in my own competitive career which continued until 2016,” he said.
“Now I want to pass on some of the skills and training abilities to help people be the best that they can be, not just in sport but also throughout the rest of their lives.”
He is very grateful for the help he has had in getting his enterprise up and running.
“I initially went in to ask about a business account, “Gerard explained. “But with help from Nicola Bowden, ROCBF’s Business Loans Officer, I’m now launching my own business.
“I would not have been able to take out the lease on such an excellent business premises and improve my range of exercise equipment without the financial backing.”
The studio will offer introductory free taster sessions before charging customers £15 an hour.
Longer term, Gerard said there is also space at the premises for complementary holistic businesses.