November 22, 2013

Normal Northern Ireland - Hench Fitness and Rory Girvan

Rory Girvan, founder of HENCH Fitness (@InsideHENCH)
Rory Girvan (@InsideHench) is the athlete and entrepreneur behind HENCH (website here). A creative and innovative fitness gym started in 2012 and located only meters from Belfast city hall, at 37 College Street. Born in North Belfast Rory practices what he preaches. He studied Biomedical Sciences in Liverpool and Sport and Exercise Sciences in Edinburgh. He is a competitive weight-lifter, winning a Silver Medal at the WDFPF World Powerlifting Championships (see here) (more here and here). He is the owner of a growing business employing 10 fitness professionals.

HENCH, 37 College Street
I have been hugely impressed by Rory. He mixes warmth and openness with a fierce ambition, for the sport and business. The tech entrepreneur Felix Dennis said that an idea is worth nothing without execution. Rory has given expression to this. Rory saw the state of the fitness industry and had a vision. He has taken an old dilapidated factory space and executed that vision with a fine professional polish.

Walk into the vast premises at HENCH and you be met with a beautiful mix of vintage and modernity, and a striking sense of being part of the new, post-industrial, networked, international economy. That's the Northern Ireland I know. A team saturated and soaked in ambition. A people straining every sinew to succeed. Read my blog post on the transition from industrial to networked economy here.
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin It! Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” 
- Jon Minnis
        From this... To this...


I spoke with Rory on the eve of the launch of HENCH on November 19 2013 here. You can watch the full conversation here and in the video below. Here's a taster: 

 - I asked Rory about the HENCH branding which is striking and incredibly impressive.Rory explained that there are numerous fitness providers in Northern Ireland. Some good. Some bad. And branding is there to differentiate HENCH from those other purveyors.

 - I also asked Rory about the Northern Ireland attitude to wealth creators and business men. Rory said he found that the business spirit and drive to start an enterprise was generally discouraged. Read my blog series on 'The Cult of University' here. He found people to be risk averse. Rory also said that he has been given a lot of bad advice. I've had similar experiences. To those people I always say to myself, in the words of Robert Downey Jr:
"Listen, smile, agree, then do whatever the fuck you were going to do anyway."
Read my blog on how it will be young people who will bring change to Northern Ireland here.

 - I asked Rory about the support and help on offer to business people. He said there are a lot of schemes. But stressed that it comes down to the individual.

Rory also explained that the culture in schools stands against the spirit of enterprise. At school, his ideas were poo-pooed. School said that you had to go into the professions to succeed. Rory stressed that entrepreneurialism should be encouraged. Read my blog post on the need for more entrepreneurship among young people, especially women in Northern Ireland here. My blog post on Gillian Tett's piece in the FT where she said that if we are to effect change in our education system, we must demand for it here.

 - I asked Rory how the protests and ongoing political instability affects his business, Rory said:
"It's so much of a worry that I just ignore it. The reality is that if this escalates, it's game over for all the dreams for all the different employees, and the my vision and that of my business partner Aaron. I choose to ignore because I wouldn't be able to function; I wouldn't be able to make the decisions that I need to. More generally, day to day the instability has affected business. Several of my friends own businesses in the city centre and some of them have almost had their lights put out by it and it still continues to do so."
Rory continued:
"I feel we're part of a new something. Part of something more progressive and something that sits behind that for me is creating experiences in HENCH that take you away from all that bullshit. Quality of life could be a wee bit better over here and we need to forget about some of those things. It feels good to be part of something progressive. There are other places out there like that. I think there has to be more."
American and Belfast resident Emily DeDakis (@accidentalemily) spoke to the same effect here, that Belfast needs a "gorgeously designed-non bar" like the type you see in the major cosmopolitan centers around the globe.


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