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Last week, we caught up with coworking member Steph Wheen, CEO and Founder of Gympanzees, who aim to build the first fully inclusive leisure facility for disabled children in the UK.

Tell us more about Gympanzees.

We started the business by holding three pop-up centres and were completely overwhelmed at the response rate. We welcomed over 4,000 children to the pop-ups with some travelling over 2 hours, which really proved our business concept and highlighted the demand in the market.

What does a Gympanzees facility look like?

It’s different in two ways to your usual leisure centre. Our centre offers additional physical features and will be built with full inclusivity in mind for children living with various disabilities. From soft play areas, to the gym, to our sensory rooms for children with  accessibility and safety  at the heart of everything we do.

You sound very passionate about this industry.

I have 20 years’ experience working with disabled children as a physiotherapist and I just want to bring a play-based wellbeing model that makes children feel happy while looking after their health.

What’s next for the business?

We want to tackle the biggest milestone yet – finding the right physical space for the Gympanzees facility. Over 18% of the families that travelled to our pop-ups came from further than an hour away, which means the facility needs to be in reach of the m4/m5 corridor.

What does your day-to-day look like?

Every day is different. My day usually starts at 6am with a run or a walk as my best ideas usually spring to mind then. I also like to focus on any projects in the morning, as I find my concentration is best first thing.

From there, I could be doing a number of things, meeting potential investors, training the team, working on the website, finalising business plans or working with architects to get final concept plans done.

Has your role changed as a result of COVID-19?

Like millions of businesses across the country, we have had to furlough staff, which means I’ve had to take on a more of the day to day service delivery.

Has being based at Origin helped cultivate a company culture?

Being based at Origin Workspace has added a different dimension to our business. The team can now collaborate more freely and be part of a bigger community of passionate professionals.

How did you hear about Origin Workspace?

Personal wellbeing is important to me and when I was setting up the business, I used to attend the monthly Origin Workout + Network events. That’s where I found out about the Origin Startup package. Two years later, I still try to attend the monthly workout and networking events and so do my colleagues.

What made you join Origin Startup?

I was previously at the NatWest Accelerator, but eventually the business outgrew it quickly and I needed something that would help me prepare for the next stage of business growth. The team at Origin Workspace have felt like an extension of my team, they have helped me through some tricky times and have seen the business grow to eleven employees.

How important is Origin’s wellbeing ethos?

My relationship with Origin started through wellbeing, and now it gives me peace of mind that my team also have the opportunity to look after their own personal wellbeing in this environment. We enjoy huddle sessions on the roof terrace, and at least three members of the team make use of the gym in the basement. The collaborative buzz in the space is also reassuring, so if we are faced with a business challenge, we only have to get in touch with fellow co-workers to get advice and support.

What’s your favourite part of the coworking space?

It has to be the roof terrace, but also, this might sound strange, the acoustics are amazing. I often go to the lounge to take calls or hold informal meetings, and you can see people chatting and working everywhere, but the sound doesn’t echo so you don’t get disturbed.

What advice would you give for anyone looking to start a business?

  1. Be flexible, you need to find what the market wants, not what you want to offer the market.
  2. If you have a strong business case, the right talent will stay and support you. Work with apprentices, interns, volunteers. If they believe in your business, they will share their skills and help it grow while carving out their roles. We’ve hired the volunteers and interns that have supported our business, because they understand the end goal and our business values.
  3. Look at digital options. Digital transformation is touching every industry, make sure you expand your business to have a digital offering, especially now more than ever.

To find out more about Gympanzees and their latest initiatives, visit their website here.

If you are a passionate entrepreneur or a business owner looking to grow your company, see what a working day looks like at Origin Workspace.

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