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AJ Bell founder invests £1m in high-tech fitness franchise

l-r - Andy Bell, Transform Hub founders Calderbank and Barker and Fergus Lyons

AJ Bell co-founder Andy Bell has invested £1m into growing fitness franchise Transform Hub.

Bell is backing Transform Hub, which aims to employ 300 staff within two years, alongside Fergus Lyons, a former director at Bell’s FTSE 250 investment platform.

Transform Hub operate a number of boutique group training studios aimed at the over 30s market across the North West, Yorkshire, and London. It was launched in 2018 by personal trainer and body transformation expert James Calderbank.

The company pivoted to a new model in 2020 as gyms were forced to close during the pandemic when, alongside co-founders Wendy Barker and Justin Devonshire, Calderbank re-launched a plug-and-play model which allows franchisees to create a profitable Transform Hub within three months.

Calderbank has invested heavily in digital access for users by integrating SaaS platform Mindbody for class bookings and Loyalsnap for customer retention and marketing services.

He said: “The desire to create a technology-led service was there from the start, which is why we are delighted to secure the investment from Andy and Fergus, who have years of experience leading investment platform AJ Bell.”

With in-person training back to normal following the covid lockdown, Calderbank notes that the high-tech franchise model will “allow owners to focus on running their own personal studios.”

Transform Hub currently employs 50 staff working across 20 locations, including Knutsford, Bury and Burnley, with an Altrincham studio due to open later this year.

Bell said: “The impressive growth that Transform Hub has experienced made this an easy investment decision. The potential to scale further through a focus on new franchisees is really exciting. “We were also impressed by the team’s resilience to pivot during Covid-19 and launch a group service which promotes positive change, both physically and mentally. This commitment to helping others formed part of our decision to invest, as well as being an attractive overall package.”

The Transform Hub deal sees Bell and Lyons each take a 12.5 per cent share in the business with the current founders retaining 75 per cent ownership. It comes six months after Bell and Lyons invested £1.2m into Fuel Hub, a healthy meal delivery start-up founded by retired professional rugby player James Laithwaite and his wife.



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