Tumi Phake is founder and chief executive of Zenzele Fitness Group, a gym management business with 13 health clubs across the country. Image: Supplied.
JOHANNESBURG - Award - winning Johannesburg entrepreneur Tumi Phake says he is busy building a business that is going is going to last the next century, with over 100 health clubs in the next seven to ten years.

Phake, 35, is founder and chief executive of gym management business Zenzele Fitness Group.  He was named as the Sanlam & Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017.

Zenzele Fitness, which has its headquarters in Africa’s richest square mile of Sandton, boasts 13 fully-equipped, modern gyms across the country. The group operates them for, and in partnership, with South Africa’s blue chip companies and universities including Wits.

In an interview with Business Report at one of his gyms at Wits University, Phake narrated how he started the company in 2014 in pursuance of his dream to establish premium, low cost health clubs in township areas.

Tumi Phake is founder and chief executive of Zenzele Fitness Group, a gym management business with 13 health clubs across the country. Image: Supplied.
The company now has 80 full-time employees across its branches, plus 50 contractors who provide specialised group training.

“When I started the company I wanted to focus on the medium to lower end market. My dream was to always build gyms in the townships,” says Phake.

“I started doing market intelligence on the fitness industry in South Africa, Africa, and the world. I started to realise that there is a massive opportunity in South Africa as a lots of people are starting to realise the impact of health and the value it has in their lives.” 

He professes that lifestyle diseases are at an all time high in the country and that stress has been known to be the “biggest killer” of citizenry.

“Forward-thinking companies know that when their employees get sick it costs them a lot of money. When people are not productive that has an effect on the bottom line and an impact on the economy too,” he says.

Phake’s clients, among others, include Discovery Health, Alexander Forbes, Hollard Insurance, Rand Refinery, and the University of the Witwatersrand.

Phake says the Zenzele Fitness Group is a full turnkey fitness solutions business as they design the space, draw up business development strategies, costing and sensitivity analysis, among other things.

They have been running the Wits University gym for almost two years. “It’s a profitable business,” he admits. Their gym equipment is an Italian brand sourced from a local supplier. “It’s one of the top three gym brands in the world, from a quality point of view. It’s the Rolls Royce of gym equipment.

Phake says that he has been honoured with an award means he is doing something impactful to the world. 

“To me what’s important is job creation. I’m happy that Zenzele is doing something to stimulate the economy. SMEs are going to be frontfrunners in addressing youth unemployment in the country because, unfortunately not everyone who has a degree is going to get a job,” he says.

He wants to build the group to last for the next 100 years and growing it to have over 100 health clubs within a decade.

The group also plans to expand to some parts of Africa, including Kenya. “We want to be a Pan-African business. We are going to Kenya in the next few months because there are opportunities, but it’s still early days.”

The end goal for Phake is for Zenzele Fitness to be in every township in the country.

Phake was among 15 African entrepreneurs chosen to attend an entrepreneurship programme at the prestigious Harvard University in the US in April.  “I’m quite excited about the opportunity of networking with other African entrepreneurs. I’m passionate about seeing the growth of black businesses on the continent and seeing the African economy grow.”