The gym saved Leah Clyne once – and following the Coronavirus outbreak, the gym has come to her rescue once again.
Eight years ago, Middleton mum-of-three Leah was in a stressful media sales job.
Lack of sleep and a constant cycle of stress saw her sink into depression and turn for solace to the comfort of a drink; before she knew it, the reassurance of a glass of wine had become a daily habit.
Under treatment by the doctor for depression, she said she didn’t mention her habit because she didn’t consider it a problem.
Then, when the weight piled on, she admits she lost her self-esteem and her self-confidence.
“I was in a mess,” she confessed.
Life threw Leah a further challenge when her son, who is now 29, was diagnosed, with ADHD and autism as an adult. Leah said the family had battled for years to look after him, oblivious of his condition.
With a daughter who was about to leave school and unsure of her future, as well as caring for her youngest who was aged just two, Leah had a lot on her plate.
Then, dealing her one further blow, her partner left the family home, leaving Leah to face these challenges as a single parent.
Leah knew that something needed to change; she dug deep, and took the first step in completely transforming her life.
She said: “One day I woke up, opened my eyes, I’m not sure what happened, but I decided to join a gym.
“I started classes, and after months of hard work I started to feel better.
“I stopped drinking, and a year later I decided to help other people get fit and healthy and show them that there is a way through.”
Leah then moved to set up her own business, V Gymwear, producing a range of outfits for avid gym-goers.
She said: “Being a fitness instructor and personal trainer, plus a busy mum, I realised that quality, affordable gym wear was a must for me and began my journey to find these products, and that’s when I realised I could share this with other women in my industry and clients.”
Eager to learn valuable entrepreneurial skills and develop her business even more, “rather than be the lady with a bin bag of gym wear for sale”, she enrolled with Excelerate Labs, a business support and advice project run by The Women’s Organisastion, in Manchester.
Her advisor, Mike Marsden, guided Leah towards setting up an online shop and helped her achieve her targets, advising her on how best to advertise her business on social media to reach an even wider audience.
Then, the pandemic hit.
Leah said: “It stopped me in my tracks.
“No gyms open. No classes to teach personal training. It was like the world had ended.
“I was actually devastated.”
Faced with such a massive obstacle so early on, she admits that at one stage she even felt like going back to her old ways of using alcohol as a soother.
However, her gym wear website pulled her round and gave her the focus she needed to get her routine back on track and in order.
“I focused on the website, the online sales, the advertising, and this has been proved to work.
“Sales are coming through. My Instagram has grown tremendously, and I actually feel overwhelmed – but in the best possible way,” she said.
Leah has also expanded her services through her laptop by offering free online exercise classes via Facebook live, in aid of a Manchester charity.
“Instead of asking people to pay for the classes, I decided to find a local charity to send their donations to.”
Leah chose Home-Start Manchester, which helps vulnerable families, a charity she feels an affinity with: “I’ve been there,” she said.
She added: “Knowing I could help someone who is in a situation I can relate to meant a lot to me, so it comes from the heart.”
So far, Leah has raised nearly £400 for the charity, and has set herself a target of £1,000.
Her business mentor, Mike, is still around to offer a guiding hand. He said:
“It’s been absolute delight working with Leah, and what a roller coaster it has been. We have seen her Instagram following increase from a few thousand to over 17900 followers; the web enquiries are up, conversion is up, sales are up and number of customers returning is up.
“The products are getting better and better and Leah tirelessly works to improve them. It’s not just nice-looking gym wear for women, its gym wear that actually works in the gym.
“Nobody is working harder than Leah right now. Sometimes Leah can send me 5 texts a day, and it’s always positive: new sales, new targets reached, her products have been improved and it’s just a pleasure to watch.
“We can’t wait to see what she does next!”
Excelerate Labs are part funded by European Regional Development Fund to support businesses in Greater Manchester. Continuing to work with local businesses shifting their model to continue to grow despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, Excelerate Labs offers FREE professional business advice. To find out more contact firstname.lastname@example.org