I first heard of ‘Panda’ when I saw his fitness promo photos by Anny Roberts and thereafter, I kept stumbling upon his fitness videos on instagram and flyers on Twitter. Of course, the photo of him getting married in court on the same day as two of his best bros made the rounds on the internet as well. I’m curious about what it’s like being a fitness coach in Nigeria. Adeyemi gives some insight in this interview into what the hardest thing is about it and why you need more than passion to run a business.
1. Tell us what you do for a living.
I’m an elite fitness professional, and for the last two years, I’ve helped people eat and move better, so they can feel and look better.
2. How did you end up becoming an entrepreneur?
My journey into entrepreneurship has sorta followed a rolling with the punches approach. As a youngling, I thought I wanted to be a doctor, then an economist, and then a computer scientist (I actually took software engineering classes at NIIT for a year or two). I ended up studying Marketing at the Redeemer’s University, where I graduated First Class.
Becoming a fitness professional came to me in its own way. I’d always been interested in moving, exercising and staying strong, although I was quite overweight. But in 2013, a friend of mine decided to coach me and I lost 35kg in seven months, renewing my passion for fitness and sparking up my new line of work along the way.
3. At what point did you make the decision to start your business? What convinced you? How did you generate initial capital (if applicable)?
After Uni, I worked for a couple of years as a writer, and then in the oil and gas industry. But in 2015, I was forced to take a step back and decide if I really wanted to remain in the labor market, or begin building something for myself. Thankfully, I was able to scale my starting and begin small, so I didn’t need to generate starting capital.I was able to scale my starting and begin small, so I didn't need to generate starting capital. Click To Tweet
4. How was the response from your SO/parents/family?
My SO (who was my girlfriend at the time and is now my wife), was fully supportive of me. In fact, the suggestions she made back then are things that have helped me find my way to the path I’m on now. My parents on the other hand were pretty worried. And who could blame them? I was turning away from the promise of stability to chart my own course in this volatile but beautiful place we call our country. But they let what needed to happen run its course, and I’m still running things now.
5. How did you build a customer base? How long did it take you to have a satisfactory enough number of customers (if you already do)?
it’s an ongoing process, really. I don’t think I have or can ever have a satisfactory amount of customers, because I’m really not out here for “customers”, even though I am offering a product. My focus is on (in)directly helping as many people as possible liberate their bodies, and the more people I can reach, the hungrier I get to reach out to more people.My focus is on (in)directly helping as many people as possible liberate their bodies. Click To Tweet
6. What challenges did you face at the beginning? And how did you cope? What challenges do you still face currently?
I think the biggest challenge a fitness pro faces in this biz is being out there, in people’s faces, where your work can be perceived as valuable. People want to know why you think you’re able to tell them what’s good for their bodies, and why they should pay attention. They want to know that if they listen to you, they’ll get results. And the only way to cope with that, is to show up, and put out content that highlights your expertise. From helpful content, to the results of that content. You have to show working and results to get that 10/10 score.The biggest challenge in this biz is being out there, where your work can be perceived as valuable. Click To Tweet
7. What do you love the most about what you do? How have things changed since you first started? (workload, income, life balance, quality of life etc)
The most rewarding thing about my job is seeing results! Watching people take nutrition advice from me and coming back to say thank you, training a client and seeing him/her move better in small bits until it becomes a glaringly successful improvement. Hearing my clients say things like “I’ve never been able to do that but… Here I am.”
It never gets tiring for me.
Things have changed, but mainly in terms of scale. My capacity as a trainer has improved over time. I’ve gone from training one person in private sessions to 10 people in group sessions. And of course, the income invariably reflects that capacity upgrade. Which is why you have to keep growing every day of the week, all the time.I've gone from training one person in private sessions to 10 people in group sessions Click To Tweet
8. Businesses are becoming quite popular in recent times. It feels like a lot of people want to become entrepreneurs. How do you deal with competition in your field? Is that something you struggle with?
I don’t really believe in the idea of competition in the fitness industry. The thing is, there are so few of us, and so many people that need our help. I’m always willing to help provide a stool to raise another person in my field because I know there’s space at the top for every single one of us. People need fitness professionals like they need doctors, so we should help each other and not have to compete against each other.I don't really believe in the idea of competition in the fitness industry. Click To Tweet
9. What’s the biggest lesson starting a business taught you?
That I can’t do it all by myself. I came in this game thinking a one man business literally meant “one man” lol. That ship sailed pretty quickly. Collaborating and asking for help is something I’m constantly trying to do better.Collaborating and asking for help is something I'm constantly trying to do better. Click To Tweet
10. There’s always a bit of a money vs passion debate; What do you think should be the motivation for starting a creative business, and why?
I don’t believe that it’s up to anyone to say whether a love of money is more important than the passion for the work you do. I also don’t think it’s possible to grow a healthy business without having a good dose of both passion and earning hunger in your blood. The work you do may be greater than money, but passion doesn’t stop Eko DISCO from cutting your light.passion doesn't stop Eko DISCO from cutting your light. - @CapoeiraPanda Click To Tweet
11. What would you say has been the worst time/experience so far in your journey as an entrepreneur?
Man… I can’t say I’ve faced a challenge just yet, that would merit being categorized in this so I’ll pass on this.
12. If you had to choose three qualities anyone starting a business needs to develop/have what would they be?
Only three qualities?
B. Hard Work Ethic
13. How do you work through times when things are at a low? How do you get back up? How do you deal with criticism and bad feedback?
When things are low, I focus on the blessings I have in abundance; the love of my wife and my daughter, the shelter that I’ve been blessed with, and the knowledge that if I just keep working and putting my work out there, the tide will rise again. I think criticism and negative feedback come with life in general; If you’re going to do anything well you’re bound to make mistakes, and someone has to call you out on it. I accept feedback and try to do better based on what I’ve learned.
When things are low, I focus on the blessings I have in abundance. Click To Tweet
14. What sacrifices have you had to make to grow your business?
The biggest sacrifice I’ve had to make so far would have to be the time and funds that have been necessary to develop my craft as a fitness professional. The learning and practical experience needed to help people in the right way is costly! But we keep pushing forward.
15. What has been your most proud business achievement so far & what future goals (that you can share) do you have for your business?
The one thing I’m most proud of, so far, is the image that has been built, surrounding my business as a Fitness Pro. There’s a certain level of uniqueness and excellence that is associated with my brand, and it’s taken commitment to develop and propagate. And I want to raise that bar even higher, so help me God.
16. What do you wish you knew about starting a business; what would you do differently?
Right now? The only thing I would change would be my speed of deployment. I would put my work out, fail fast and learn even faster. Other than that, I think everything I’ve done so far has led me to where I am so I wouldn’t change a thing.
17. Who is your ideal client for MetaFit?
The ideal client for MetaFit is a man or woman between the ages of 23 – 50 (yes, that’s a wide range), who truly wants to be free from the prison their body has imposed on them, be it fat, weakness, stiffness and pains, and more. We can help you move better, we can help you feel better, and we can help you look amazing.
18. Do you think there’s enough support for small business owners in Nigeria? What do you think would be helpful?
LOL of course, not. And there are many things that could help. But before all else, WE NEED ELECTRICITY!!! Everything else can come after. Honestly.
19. What are three things that are part of your morning ritual?
A. Getting my wife up and ready for work.
B. Moving/Working out to start up my engines for the day.
C. Speaking words of affirmation into my life.
20. What three people in your field or not inspire you the most?
A. Gary Vaynerchuk
B. Ido Portal
21. What trait(s) do you love most about yourself as a business owner i.e any personal qualities you feel have helped you excel? What advice would you give to anyone currently struggling to stay afloat/ just starting their business/contemplating starting a business in Nigeria?
The one thing that I think has been instrumental in keeping me afloat, is the willingness to learn and do better as I press forward. I’m hungry to learn more. About my work, about the business I’m trying to build, about being a husband and a father, about the things that make me a functional member of society… I just want to be better. And for anyone out there, planning to start out, I’d say you should have that… be willing to learn. It’s the only way to grow and improve as a trainer, in business, and as a human being.
Adeyemi “Panda” Fatona is an elite fitness professional who is passionate about helping people eat and move better, so they can feel and look better.
Connect With Panda
Read our last interview with Nigerian Photographer, Demisola.