Youth entrepreneur keeps business and passion alive amidst COVID-19

August 10, 2020

International Youth Day is celebrated globally on August 12 with the theme, “Youth Engagement for Global Action”. Fijian boxer, Winston Hill created history in his country when he became the first Fijian boxer after 28 years to compete in the Olympic Games in 2016. Hill, 26, has turned his passion into a business, opening his own gym from a two-port car garage in Suva, Fiji last year. And he says the impact of COVID-19, forced him to be more resilient, resourceful and relentless. 

What were some of the challenges you faced in the initial stages of starting your business? 

As an outdoor fitness program, we faced many issues and challenges, particularly with the weather. You can’t predict the weather in Suva, and as much as we were determined to deliver our BoxFit sessions through rain, hail or shine, it wasn’t ideal for the majority of our clientele, and we saw the numbers dwindling into the winter season that lasted throughout the mid-year. With the help of a close friend, Sean Wendt, we set up shop in a garage. Once we were finally settled into a physical space, the next big problem hit us harder than a heavyweight boxer - business license and compliancy, more so, the process of acquiring the same. But I am happy that with wife to be, Janelle’s vast experience in commercial law, she was able to navigate us through these unchartered waters and within a matter of weeks we were able to open our doors and do what we do best - help people reach their fitness goals and have as much fun doing it. 

And how did you fare?  

The BoxFit name grew in popularity within Suva since it was established in 2016 through the fun, energetic experience and amazing results that the program delivered. As a sole continuing trainer and creator of BoxFit, I wanted to do more with this niche program and make a more positive impact to the wider community. In November, 2018 I left my job as a manager and trainer and partnered with my wife to be, Janelle Wong and took the “gym” to the people by providing the BoxFit program outdoors, making it a more convenient way to access BoxFit training in a more fun and open environment. Three months later in March, 2019, we settled in a little two car port garage in Toorak, a suburb in Suva, transforming it into what is now a boutique gym. 

How has COVID-19 impacted your business and what measures, if any, have you taken to address the impacts of the pandemic? 

Covid-19 forced us to be more resilient, resourceful and relentless. With restrictions on movement and closure of business, we were without an income and with bills flooding in faster than a monsoon, we needed to bounce back and fast.

Using what we had and what we knew we created an online virtual training program and delivered it on everyone’s go-to app ZOOM. This allowed us to deliver our BoxFit program and it wasn’t a better time than ever to stay connected and active as a community and what we like call our #BoxFitFam.

Upon reopening our doors, we’ve had to step up our sanitizing game and ensure that our systems were a notch above normal standards. 

What has been your biggest regret when starting your business (if any)? 

On this entrepreneurial journey, I have no regrets. Janelle and I have come through some of the toughest times that the world has seen as well – COVID19. We’ve made mistakes on the way and we most probably will make more but the lessons that are taken from those experiences will help us create a blueprint for success. 

Who is your biggest motivation why? 

My partner, Janelle is my biggest motivation. Her drive and commitment to see our business thrive is paralleled only by mine. She sacrificed a well-paying job at a prestigious law firm to venture with me on this entrepreneurial journey and I have so much love and respect for her. 

What would be your advice to youths who wish to start their own businesses? 

Advice #1 – Do your research. Understand the demand of your product or service and then understand your market and target audience.

Advice #2 – Learn how to network and then learn how to engage your network.

Advice #3 – Be resourceful, resilient and relentless.  

*Through the Fiji Partnership, and with the support of Australia and New Zealand, IFC works in Fiji to support and grow micro, small and medium sized businesses by enhancing Fiji’s trade and competitiveness to attract domestic and foreign investment.