Strength to strength

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Hi Neil, can tell us how SFN Expo started? Who are you guys and where have you come from? The SFN Expo is Scotland’s biggest Sport, Fitness and Nutrition event. Jamie Rose (owner/director of SFN Expo) and I come from different backgrounds, but have a common link in health and fitness and where we want to see the industry move forward. I actually met Jamie about a month or two after the idea had come about – he was a personal trainer and I was a graduate of sport and exercise science from Aberdeen University and had a history of running club nights and other events.How did the concept of the event come about? Originally it came from my want to run a large-scale business at a young age and make a difference. This is literally the biggest idea I could dream up that suited my initial skill set of exercise and events, even though I’d never even been to an exhibition before and I was 22 at the time. I met with other event organisers at the SECC straight away to pick their brains, learn as much as possible and soon after I was introduced to Jamie and we decided to partner up on the venture. We didn’t have any start up money, no loans, no investment, no government support etc. Everything in 2014 was “sell to pay” - a lot of overdue invoices, and when we made a sale we’d instantly transfer every penny to whoever had been waiting longest! It’s a different story now, but having to learn the hard way has made us pretty bulletproof for when headaches come up now!How has 2015 compared to the launch show last year? This year is much bigger in all aspects – space, utilisation of space, the live events, the calibre of exhibitors, the calibre of speakers, the branding, investment in show experience, guest appearances. Our aim was not to massively step up certain aspects of the show. Instead we aimed to step up every part of the show in a capacity that we could while running the show for a second year without a single member of staff. Who do you see visiting SFN Expo? The age group is mainly between 25-35, with 50/50 male to female ratio and aimed very much at those who go to the gym but not the elite. The show is very much based around the idea that “Wherever you are in your fitness journey, there is going to be aspects of every feature suited to you in every way to inspire you into the best year of your life.” Biggest challenges the business faces? Not becoming like other shows. Now that we’re very much on the map and exhibitors are speaking about us in a really positive light, the types of companies we sometimes get approached by have very different morals, value and target markets from us. It’s about sticking to our guns and continuing to give our early adopters the show they have asked for in their feedback surveys.What one key piece of advice would you give to other start-ups looking to break into the exhibition industry? Pick up the phone and ask to take everyone who has been there and done this for a coffee. Then, take everyone in your show’s industry. I’m obsessed with learning and believe you have to be, if you’re going to go into exhibitions. If you’re going in bootstrapping - get ready to work 18 hour days, seven days a week. Work doesn’t stop on Christmas Day or your birthday, I’m afraid. Like any other business, your success will be a reflection of your passion for it. Finally, who is your favourite strongest man? Eddie Hall. I followed him over the past few years, as World Strongest Man has been a staple in my household for years, and also meeting him at this year’s show was an amazing experience. You could never meet a nicer guy.   This article was first published in the October issue of EN. Any comments? Email Annie Byrne
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