This month, we’re talking to Belinda Koo, the founder of XYZ cycling studio
in Central – the current hottest destination in Hong Kong for creative, fun, and inspiring spin workouts.
We talk to Belinda about what sets XYZ apart from the rest of the fitness pack in Hong Kong, the challenges she faced in starting a business here, and find out a few of her favourite workout tips too.
Please give us a brief overview of XYZ, your number of staff and where your office is based?
XYZ is an indoor cycling studio designed to release, regroup and recharge your energy. We currently have 15 full-time staff and 5 part-time staff, and are located in the New World Tower 2 building in Central.
Tell us a bit about your personal background and how you came to be in Hong Kong?
I am born and raised in Hong Kong, and was educated both here and in Canada.
What inspired you to start your business here? How did you get the idea for XYZ?
It was a mix of reasons: a desire to make cardio exercise more fun for Hong Kong people, to encourage everyone to move their bodies to relieve stress in this fast-paced city, and to create a place that is a mixture of fitness, entertainment, performance and a safe sanctuary for people to release, regroup and recharge their body and mind. I have always been someone who likes to drive change – XYZ represents my mission to help others change for the better by embracing cardio exercise as a way of life.
What sets XYZ apart from other fitness places in Hong Kong?
The XYZ proposition is a radical spin on the “spinning” phenomenon that has taken off in North America – a darkened cave-like theatre with 44 bikes, world-class instructors with performing arts backgrounds, and mesmeric music tracks combined with intense visual effects. Through the infusion of entertainment with a high intensity cardio workout, our aim is to create a unique experience that propels the body and mind to operate at a higher level.
How did you go about identifying a suitable property for XYZ and what made you choose Central for your office?
We needed a good mix of commercial, retail and hotel businesses nearby, as well as being close to residential areas.
What are the key factors to a stimulating workspace?
For us at XYZ, we have staff from seven different countries, which makes it exciting for us to share ideas. We always encourage sharing instead of discussion, which makes the process more enlightening.
What are the advantages of setting up a business in Hong Kong?
It’s a city of opportunities. People are goal-oriented and busy; we always need something, somewhere or someone to help us balance our life.
What new business trends do you see emerging in the Hong Kong market?
The growth of more small shops, restaurants and companies with identity and creativity.
What are some of the general challenges that Hong Kong small-to-medium enterprises face?
The high rents and the general mind-set of people here. Many people are not comfortable in taking risks and going outside their comfort zone.
...And what are some specific challenges that you have faced at XYZ?
The mind-set of Hong Kong people – they want to have health and fitness without working for it!
You’re also a Managing Director at UBS; what skills from corporate life have you found most useful in life as a business-owner?
Leadership qualities such as inspiring and bringing out the best in your team, and making them always feel part of a greater cause. Nurturing client relationships is an integral part of my role as a private banker and many of those principles can also be applied.
What is the best advice you received on starting your business?
Hire people who share the same vision and are hungry for success.
How do you stay organised and on track?
By keeping my agenda lean and trying to use simple methods in execution. I also exercise everyday to de-stress and stay focused.
What's your personal workout schedule? What type of workout would you recommend to busy working people in Hong Kong?
I try to do some form of cardio exercise everyday, combined with core training and stretching. I would recommend a mix of these three to people, even if it’s just for 50 minutes a day.
What do you do and where do you go to get inspired?
I find inspiration everywhere – through exercise, in the shower, and by listening to music, reading and attending seminars to achieve life learning and meet like-minded people.
What new fitness trends do you see emerging in Hong Kong/globally? How do you stay current?
There is a growing emergence of smaller/niche studios that offer an interesting twist to traditional exercise disciplines, not dissimilar to how fusion cuisine has grown in the culinary world. We stay current with the Internet and by travelling to different countries for "exercise experience shopping"!
What do you think is the key behind XYZ's success in Hong Kong?
To start with, it's a much-needed 'breath of fresh air' for the fitness industry here. But perhaps more significantly, it appeals to a wider audience by positioning cardio exercise in a way that is fun, entertaining and rewarding.
What's next for XYZ? Do you have any plans to expand?
As part of our vision to change the culture of wellbeing through creativity and entertainment, we are exploring ideas to branch out in related areas such as food and fashion. We are also in the process of planning to open a second studio.
What is your favourite Hong Kong secret spot?
Of course, XYZ bike #17 – very precise, right?!
A version of this article written by Rachel Read was originally posted on Turf, Hong Kong's new office lifestyle blog.
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