Women in Business
The Marylebone of today is a busy, vibrant place, deeply embedded within the centre of London. It is the home of acclaimed shopping district Marylebone Village, and a business address for many independent brands, businesses, and entrepreneurs.
We caught up with two female entrepreneurs who chose to build and nurture multi-million-pound businesses in the area.
Former City worker Manya Klempner left the world of finance and went into business with her personal trainer to set up Moose X-Training and MXT Fitness in Marylebone after recognising the need for a more convenient fitness alternative to a traditional gym membership. Meanwhile, Caroline Gardner is a well-known stationery and accessories designer whose startup offers refreshing designs created using traditional techniques with a contemporary twist.
Your journey so far:
Manya Klempner was looking for a complete career change when she decided to set up her business on the model of Fitness where you want it when you want it or the ‘Ocado of fitness’. “As an emerging markets derivatives banker, I worked long hours and travelled internationally a lot. This meant I rarely made it to the gym, and honestly, even when work didn’t get in the way there were other excuses. I was determined to make fitness more realistic for busy women (and men), so I teamed up with my personal trainer, Nick, and we cofounded Moose X-Training and MXT Fitness in Marylebone in 2012 with a simple promise: convenience.”
Unlike Manya, it was an unusual sequence of events for Caroline Gardner that led her to start her line of business. “I started the business in 1993. Nobody had done anything like it before. There was a gap in the market for contemporary designs. We opened our store in Marylebone in 2014 to put our brand physically on the map. Marylebone is really evolving in a good way. It’s a destination with an interesting mix of people, and because of such growth opportunity, our turnover has risen to £5.5mn.”
Manya decided to tap into some resources from the government as well as seeking investment for the business, “or Moose X-Training and MXT, both Nick and I invested some money, and we did some external fundraising too. A government programme called SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) significantly helped us with a range of de-risking incentives such as tax relief and even loss relief, to investors.”
Gardner has managed to build her business from scratch right from the beginning, “we have had support from our bank when needed, but the business has been totally self-funded from the start. Our business is primarily wholesale. We supply shops, small and large, all over the country as well as overseas. Marylebone is the public face of what we do but our head office is in Fulham, where we have the most fantastic team of talented people (mostly fabulous women incidentally!) who make it all possible.”
Embracing the digital challenge:
We foresaw the advent of online booking for fitness and immediately rolled out our online booking platform, said Many, adding: We initially underestimated how powerful a tool social media would become in the fitness space, but now we keep the content updated and interesting.
Another challenge that the brands have been facing is from the rise of online shopping. “Like most businesses, we see the internet as a double-edged sword”, said Caroline. “We have our own online store, which is both our shop window and growing part of our retail offer. I really believe that there will always be a place for bricks and mortar retail, people like to touch and feel not just click. Life is all about balance and retail is the same,” she added.
Manya is now planning to expand the business in London with the launch of her Flagship venue: The Boxing House. “The Boxing Experience will offer spectator events, sports physio, education, boxing retail, healthy food and beverage, even a private VIP gym. Moose X-Training was envisioned as small lifestyle business. But my experience with MXT gave me inspiration for something bigger, better, and more lucrative.”
Meanwhile, Caroline recognises the value of offering bespoke products: “We love a plan! At the moment we are seeing growth in most of what we do, but our big success is coming from our accessories (bags, pouches, jewelry rolls etc) and we hope to expand upon this over the coming months. Having our own retail channel allows us to be more experimental with what we develop, we can produce things in small quantities and really establish a rapport directly with our consumers, giving them exactly what they want. Making products more personal or bespoke is obviously a big thing at the moment, and we think it’s only going to get bigger.”