Jay Benedetti and his business - OnPoint Training - go against the grain of the fitness industry, in a good way. Tucked in a corner of Shoreditch, behind a hand-sculpted wall mural, lies another art piece of sorts. Past the carved graffiti and the crunch of gravel in the car park is a narrow door to a 2,500 sq ft world of hard-core body training: a scene that Shoreditch is not often acknowledged for.
Each twist in the tale of this start-up is etched into the studio’s bleached brick walls, starkly noticeable against the backdrop of gritty equipment. Jay explains his love for the venue; “Having only ever come from Fitness First, I walked into this place and the set up was so different, the equipment was different, the whole vibe. It wasn't shiny machines and thousands of members, it was real rugged and I liked it.”
Undoubtedly, the gym’s originality gives it an edge over the clinically lit options on the high street, but as Jay points out “unless you've got the Fitness First or LA Fitness money, you're always going to be hidden down a back street and not really getting any walk-by business”.
So aside from remaining true to the original rawness of the space, how has Jay got his enterprise to stand out from the crowd in an area that’s confessedly ‘saturated within the square mile’?
“A lot of our business is referrals. London is big, but the fitness industry is quite small, everyone in one way or another will know each other.” Despite housing numerous trainers under his roof, he prefers to return the favour and recommend instructors at other gyms if they’re better suited. His is just one more Shoreditch establishment where the ethos ‘sharing is caring’ is actually put into practice.
This way of thinking has paid out for both him and fiancé Sian before. Previously working as trainers under the former owner, how did they come to acquire the business 50/50? “Clients were like 'we believe in you, we believe you're doing a good job' and they basically paid up front for a year’s worth of training.” An incredible story of faith, the duo have made good on their promise as proprietors, with Sian forgivably unable to attend the interview due to a booking to train the Dragon’s Den judges.
But not all their clients are A-listers: “At one point, the gay community was popular for me and that was purely because they seem to spend a bit more time on themselves which fits with the way I train people… I also had this particular lady called Cathy, she's in her mid-fifties and she's been with me since the start”.
A down to earth person, Jay is also quite evidently ripped beneath his tee and an athlete competing at a high level. “Sian's just turned professional, we're both going to Vegas in August for the World Championships. So in regards to the 12 week transformations that we sell, people are quite confident that we can get them there.” His and Sian’s personal shape has helped attract professional folk from Canary Wharf, Soho, West End, and the City into unfamiliar territory.
Despite the lack of Shoreditch regulars, the community has worked its charm on him. “I like the fact that people are individual, I've never been a team player, I've always been someone who tries to stand out from the crowd- even now, with body building and fitness shows. We're starting to get to know people like the guys who own the boutique coffee shops; if you can see past the dodgy clothes and moustaches they're actually really nice people!”
While he’s provided a steady drip feed of trade, Jay has found a way to make the locality work to his advantage; “BLT Deli supply a specific lunch called the On Point Tray, which myself and Sian have had input into. There are certain types of food we believe people should be eating so now you can go in and order that or get it delivered. They're always sold out, so people are buying into the healthier lifestyle.”
The story of his transition from carpenter to man at the top is a heart-warming one, with his boss at the joinery lending him some tough love by forcing his hand; “He was a good guy, so he gave me this opportunity by basically telling me I had to leave!” True to character his boss said he could have his job back if it didn’t work out, but Jay responded with famous last words “hopefully I never see you again.”
With just a £100 to his name back then, Jay has truly come out of the woodwork.
OnPoint Training have been tenants of The Estate Office since January 2013.