Dynamic Business Logo
Home Button
Bookmark Button

Brother and sister duo conquer cutthroat Sydney

Entering either the hospitality or fitness industries is in itself a risk. Throw in the cutthroat eastern suburbs of Sydney, and you’ve got a powder keg of risk.

Yet that’s precisely what brother and sister team Jake and Sophie Henley decided to do when they opened Henley’s Wholefoods Café in Bondi Junction earlier this year. “I guess to do something like this you have to be comfortable taking risks – and if you’re not, don’t get into business,” Jake tells Dynamic Business.

So far, their three-in-one concept (gym/ supplements store/ wholefoods café) is proving to be a gamble that is paying off.

Selling his seven Brisbane Snap Fitness gym franchises in November to fund their southern ventures, the pair are proceeding with an aggressive expansion plan. With his first Sydney Snap gym having opened in Kensington in 2012, Jake has since expanded to six locations throughout the city, as well as three nutrition stores, and one café. Jake looks after the growth and future development of the business, while Sophie is in charge of the Henley’s Wholefoods brand.

“We believe that the healthy eating is the next big boom in the fitness market, and we’ve had 24-hour gyms and supplement stores around for quite a while now and the healthy eating cafes, but not necessarily all together, so there’s just the convenience of it,” Jake says.

“Setting up here in Bondi, the mecca of the healthy eating and fitness trends, was a bit of a trial for us, and now it’s been so successful, this will be the model for us moving forward – to have all three under one roof. So we’re keeping that fitness spend in house – the gym, the supplements, and the healthy eating, so it becomes like a one-stop shop.”

Originally joining her brother to help with administration when Jake had three clubs in Brisbane, Sophie’s role grew into a business manager, to now heading up Henley’s Wholefoods. “I didn’t necessarily expect to be in business with Jake, but I’m glad I am and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I could never go and work for somebody else after doing this,” Sophie says.

Business is in the Henley’s blood, having grown up in a family business, and Jake says he always wanted to work for himself. “I never liked taking directions from other people, so getting into business was always something I wanted to do so I could work for myself, and be accountable to myself.”

While Jake has had good experiences with non-family business partners in the past, working with his sister has its advantages. “I think you always know that no matter how big the fight is, you can always come back from it no matter what you say. With business partners, it’s not like you have to have birthdays or Christmas together! The other thing is, trust and loyalty is a big thing when it comes to business, and with family you just have that confidence.”

Although the saying ‘no regrets’ is ever popular, Jake and Sophie agree that there is one thing they would go back and change if they could. “Everyone has that saying about not living life with regret, and I definitely believe in that, but I do wish we’d starting our in-house construction company earlier, which we did about six months ago,” Jake says.

Sophie adds that every gym fit-out was always different, and everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. “That’s been the biggest mistake and learning curve, and our most costly mistake was using external builders, but you learn from each one,” she says. Now with their own company, a permanent builder on staff to co-ordinate their expansion, Jake says he would never use external builders again.

In the next twelve months the formidable duo intend to open a further three gym/ supplement store/ café locations, and it’s a plan that comes at a price.

“It’s hard, and I live in this building, so it’s a 7-day-a-week business and it’s flat-out. Jake is definitely getting better at [work-life balance], but he’s a workaholic,” Sophie comments.

Jake agrees that in the last six months he has been able to give himself more time off, and to finish work as a ‘reasonable hour’. “Whereas for the last four years I really haven’t done that at all. It’s just always been full on. But you’ve got to do it though. You’ve got to know every part of your business, and what’s it’s going through. It takes a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it.”

What do you think?

    Be the first to comment

Add a new comment

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie is the editor-at-large of Dynamic Business. Stephanie brings with her a passion for journalism, business, and new ideas. On her days off, you might find her reading a book on the beach.

View all posts