September 17, 2021

Fighting diversity in fitness through Covid-19

A Plymouth entrepreneur who set up a completely new fitness experience, underpinned by her commitment to diversity and inclusion, has described how the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a “rollercoaster of emotions” as her business finally emerges from lockdown restrictions.

Nadia Millinship, a single parent of two children, founded Club Kombat in 2018. Originally solely based at Revolution in Derry’s Cross, Plymouth, a venue Nadia chose because of its accessibility for people with disabilities, Club Kombat combines kickboxing and mixed martial arts to create a high intensity, unique fitness workout. Each cardio interval – packed full of ‘Kombat’ moves – is followed by a strength training exercise to tone and build the entire body.

Under Nadia’s model, the venue is utilised with groups at different stations around the space, as instructors move through each group to support and coach each exercise safely and efficiently. Whistles are used over the music to alert everyone about the change, and visual cues allow everyone to be able to look and follow the movements. The sessions, which include regular appearances from DJs, have been a real hit.

“I wanted to set up a business where people from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds would be able to take part in a fitness class with a mix of kickboxing and combat moves to give a full body workout,” said Nadia, who has recently completed her Masters’ degree in Entrepreneurship for Creative Practice, specialising in embedded diversity in fitness, at Plymouth College of Art. “I did not want it to be just another fitness class as it was important to me that I broke down barriers to enable people from all backgrounds and situations to be able to benefit from better health and a more positive mindset as part of a wider inclusive community.”

Nadia made steady progress in her first 18 months, hosting fitness classes every Wednesday evening and building her Facebook community, and was even awarded a Diversity Business Incubator Champion Award in January 2020. However, with Covid-19 restrictions in place and the Revolution venue being temporarily closed, she adapted quickly to take her fitness offering online and host her classes from her back garden.

“Such an exceptional event forced me to pivot and make swift decisions to ensure that my offering remained relevant and to keep my business afloat,” Nadia explained. “This meant a change to how I structure my working week and also consider how my children could also feature positively in my content to demonstrate the role of fitness in improving physical and mental health for all the family. Ironically, however, the move online has got me closer to the digital delivery model that I previously had in mind because it enables anyone to access my classes, including those who have no childcare support. I have also had people on my online classes who have been recovering from Covid-19.”

Through this difficult period, Nadia has been supported by YTKO’s GrowSmart programme, a national online learning platform giving SMEs the knowledge, skills and insight to scale up their businesses, teaching practical ways to reach markets and increase sales and profitability, as well as maintaining and improving productivity, equivalent to an intensive two-week course. “This has forced me to focus more and prioritise the activities that will monetise quickly and also be even more entrepreneurial in my approach,” Nadia said. “But you also need to keep calm and carry on at times like this. By believing in yourself you can get through this – remember why you started it in the first place.”

With lockdown restrictions slowly being lifted, Nadia plans to resume her classes at Revolution as well as continuing her online provision. “I would like to see Club Kombat go from strength to strength within this online platform, as well as building my new Nadia K Coaching brand,” she revealed. “My aim is to continue online and create more opportunities for instructors to join my platform, offering more options for people especially those who are underrepresented. I will also be running events in the nightclubs, starting in Plymouth but with a plan to recruit ambassadors in different areas, bringing members of the community together through fitness. I have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions and have had to remain positive and resilient with the hope that all my efforts will pay off. But I am feeling excited about what lies ahead.”

Nadia is one of over 22,000 businesses and nearly 31,000 disadvantaged entrepreneurs to have been supported by YTKO over a 14-year period. Analysis of 36 funded programmes across the South West, South East, London, East of England and Midlands, published in March 2021, showed YTKO assisted 30,752 entrepreneurs (including 47% who were previously out of work, 44% in receipt of benefits and 27% with entry-level qualifications), and 22,508 growth-ambitious businesses. It also revealed that 51% of those supported by YTKO were female entrepreneurs and 20% Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicity (BAME), compared to national averages of an estimated 23% and 5% respectively. Overall, YTKO’s performance delivered a ‘conservative’ net impact of £282 million GVA, a £362 million triple bottom line impact and a ROI of £10.70 for every £1 invested.

“We are incredibly proud of achieving such high levels of both improved productivity and job creation, increasing the competitiveness of the UK economy during the longest period of economic uncertainty in the UK,” said YTKO Group CEO Bev Hurley CBE. “It also robustly demonstrates that financial and social exclusion can be overcome, and therefore how we are impacting directly on the levelling up agenda and left-behind places. We have addressed issues around gender diversity and the under-representation of both women and BAME, pioneering a more inclusive economy. For well over a decade, we have supported more women starting and growing businesses than men, in contrast to the national picture. I am so proud that, as an SME ourselves, our teams have delivered such a major impact through our social mission – but we are not stopping here.”

Please visit: https://www.ytko.com/