From Military Career to Fitness Trainer

Among the many career paths available to young people when they leave school such as higher education, apprenticeships and jobs, there is also the option to become self-employed and create your own business. As with many routes in life, there are challenges but the rewards of becoming self-employed can include being your own boss, deciding the direction of your business, working the hours you choose to and much more! Some young people may choose to become an entrepreneur straight after school whilst some may have had a career first before choosing this path. Serving in the Royal Navy first, we caught up with fitness entrepreneur, Emma Hebborn who told us about her business start up journey with Wolfhouse Gym.

What was your career path journey before you became self-employed?

‘My name is Emma and I’m a former Lochaber High School student.’

‘I joined the Royal Navy in 2008. I served for 10 years before completing my Level 3 Personal Training qualification and started working for David Lloyd in Edinburgh.’

‘I spent one year in Edinburgh gaining experience in the fitness industry. I really wanted to move back to the Highlands but I wasn’t sure if there would be a big enough market for a full-time personal trainer.’ 

What factors made you want to become self-employed in this area?

‘I loved living in the Highlands because of the outdoor sports hobbies I had. I decided to conduct some market research – I wanted to know how many people had gym memberships / attended exercise classes / were members of a sporting club. The numbers were surprising to me so I decided to launch my website, marketing campaign and social media.’

‘My website allowed people to find out about me, book in online for a free consultation and also pay online for their PT sessions. I was the only person in the area doing it this way and it seemed to be convenient for people. I got plenty of bookings and decided to move permanently to Fort William.’

What have been the rewards of becoming self employed?

‘Being self-employed has allowed me to make the important decisions. It enables me to control my own diary and lead my business in the direction I want it to go. It gives me the control to do as much learning and research as I want. I can prioritise the factors that I feel are the most important to me. Self-employed life has led me to a place where I can grow into a better Personal Trainer, better business woman and also better myself in terms of education.’

What have been the challenges of becoming self-employed? Have you any regrets?

‘The most challenging aspect of being self-employed is scheduling in “rest” or time away from the business because my business is my brain child, I tend to overwork. It is because I am absolutely dedicated to making it a success but also making it the best I can, I struggle to take a break from it.’

‘I have also had to learn a lot of skills that I did not learn during my military career or school. I have had to learn how to balance books and do my own tax return. Learning how to organise my receipts/invoices and income has been tricky at times but I am really pleased I have done this on my own and I feel proud of that.’

What advice would you give a young person thinking about self-employment? What are some key, practical steps?

‘My advice would be to speak with a business adviser – ask lots of questions. Don’t feel silly for asking something that you do not yet understand.  After that, I would really recommend doing extensive market research and depending on the results – adapt your business if you need to. Remain open minded and build a business that the community needs (not necessarily what you think it needs). One of the biggest lessons I have learned in business is to not sell yourself short. Decide the value of your services or your product and make sure not to reduce price as a way of attracting customers. Don’t devalue yourself or your product. Wherever you can, add value as opposed  to discounting. Give the customer something that your competitors haven’t done yet. For example, I added value to my services by making the system easy and convenient for them. Add value by offering the customer some of your time or advice (i.e Initial Consultations that are free of charge).’

‘Take a leap of faith, believe in what you can offer and work hard!’

Many thanks to Emma for sharing her business start up journey. If you would like more information about business start up, please contact Business Gateway, or get in touch with your local DYW West Highland team on: / 01397 705 765 / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram