Frankie Bennett is the co-founder of a brand new fitness company that is creating serious media buzz in London.
The Hard Yard trains and employs ex-prisoners to teach tough prison-style bodyweight workouts across London
We caught up with Frankie to find out about her social enterprise and what lessons she has learned so far.
Where did the idea for The Hard Yard come from?
I have a legal background. I was doing a bit of work with guys who were coming out of prison and I didn’t see any opportunities for them to excel. There weren’t a lot of opportunities within the fitness industry and that was something a lot of people wanted to do.
I really wanted to build a company that would supply jobs. I wanted to be an inclusive employer without discrimination, but I also wanted to build a company that places people front and centre.
Who is your main customer?
We get some people who are really into fitness. It’s very different to their usual training and they leave the classes absolutely dripping in sweat and beetroot red.
We also get newcomers who are a little bit more like me. Often they’re intimidated by the gym. They don’t know how to use all the machines so they find the simplicity of the workouts works really well for them because it is much easier to copy someone’s body movements.
What do you look for in new hires?
We hire directly from prisons so we are looking for people who’ve got their fitness qualifications and love working out.
We work with prison staff to identify great people. We meet them on the inside and tell them to get in touch with us once they’re out. They have to take that opportunity.
What has been the biggest achievement?
One of our biggest achievements has been the WeWork Creator Award, we’re really happy about that. Getting our trainers on employment contracts was also huge because it gives them stability… On a personal level, getting to the end of a workout and watching people high-5 their trainer and seeing the trainer’s smile, that’s the real achievement for me.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Marketing yourself in London is hard work and as a young company, it takes time. I suppose the main challenge is letting people know that we’re here and overcoming people’s initial fear that the workout will be too hard for them.
What’s your team structure look like?
We have three trainers at the moment. We have two co-founders, Beth and I and then we have a trainer who does some sales and marketing for us in the office. We’re a small team but hopefully a growing team.
What advice would you give someone starting a company?
I think my main advice would be to try a small version of your idea out first. Our first workout we just had two or three people. Start small and build from there.
My second piece of advice would be talk about your idea like it is a real thing from the start. It’s really easy to be self-deprecating. Talk about it like it’s a legit thing and be proud of it.
How do you measure success within your company?
For us, success is always about how many jobs we can provide to people coming out of prison. Obviously, we want to have happy customers and we want to have great workouts but essentially the aim for us is to provide great jobs within a great brand.
How can companies nurture a more diverse team?
Diverse interview panels are really important. People are more likely to hire people who look like them or sound like them and that can be a real deterrent. You can’t recruit a diverse team unless you have a diverse team doing the hiring.
What’s the one thing that you wish people knew about your business?
You don’t have to be a fitness guru to attend the classes. It’s approachable and it’s simple. Come along, don’t worry about what you’re wearing, don’t worry if you haven’t been to gym before. Just come along and try it.
What are your plans for the future?
We desperately want to find a space in London. We’re really keen to set up a pop-up. We are small, we are young, and we are a social enterprise so we struggle with funds. We are always looking for cool urban spaces to train people. We can train people anywhere as long as they can put their hands on the floor.