Union Jab is a brand that promotes inclusive boxing for all – all people, all abilities, all personalities. We have just passed one year since launching. This is our journey.
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I’ve just had to take time off work due to a bad back. I was running a garden centre in lockdown because I couldn’t take sitting behind a computer all day like I did in marketing. I needed something physical, but being broken from years of training, this was too physical.
I chatted about this to our store delivery driver, saying that all my background, qualifications and experience are actually in nutrition and fitness. He said he actually owns an outdoor café and would like to start running fitness classes there – would I be interested in hosting some boxing, rent free?
Fast forward 2 weeks, and I’ve decided to relaunch a brand I started in University seen as I already had all the promo material and, let’s be fair, it’s pretty cool.
I edited the end scene of an old promo video with the new details: Bodyweight Boxing Classes by Union Jab. It had to be bodyweight because we were coming out of COVID and I didn’t want to risk any spreading, but also because I had absolutely no money for gloves or equipment.
We ran 2 classes a week using a tiny speaker that I paid for with a gift voucher from work.
The website was just a front page linking to my email that I’d repurposed from my website in freelance marketing.
The classes were starting to gain some traction, and many were wanting to up their fitness more than just the boxing, so we added a new high intensity fitness class to the timetable that focussed on boxing fitness circuits – this class was called Fight Camp.
We needed equipment to make the classes more attractive to new members, so I spent every penny I had on a squat rack, weights and kettlebells. Thank you to CJ who sold it to me far below his asking price – he was a PT too and knew what it was like starting out. This is just one of many gestures that has defined the progress of Union Jab.
We were now up to X CLASSES per week and my tiny speaker had finally had enough, but luckily I managed to find a couple of amps for cheap online. The fella even dropped them off for me! Talk about acts of kindness. Now we could start blasting our music louder in this little industrial estate which made the feel of the classes so much more fun. Music has always been a big part of the classes, especially mixing it up so it’s not the same old ‘boots’n’cats’ drumbeat.
Summer was incredible. We were now up to X classes per week, with new classes starting in X,Y,Z,W. The only issue I could sense, however, is that summer would be over soon, and I had to start planning for winter being in an outdoor venue.
Union Jab is now up to X classes per week and we have introduced memberships due to our core group of attendees coming to so many classes that it needed to be made more cost effective. We also still had a lot of people dropping out or not even messaging to say they weren’t coming, so a new booking system was introduced using social media.
It was also on the 1st of September that I quit my job at the garden centre in order to pursue Union Jab full time. Sometimes you just have to jump and build your wings on the way down.
I had no savings and not much of a back-up seen as I’d reinvested almost everything I’d earned back into new equipment and venue hire, not to mention rising petrol costs, insurance, certifications, and other costs that were creeping up.
The weather was certainly not on our side anymore. I fitted a load of outdoor lights to the venue, but they were only battery powered from solar because I couldn’t afford the electric for spot lights and would die if I didn’t alternate which ones were on.
In the build up to Christmas we had more and more no-shows and dropouts. The social media booking system was terrible, so I built a new one on the website. This also massively reduced the number of drop-outs, as following a group consensus it was agreed that no-shows would be charged. This turned out to be a good thing for all because it kept people accountable to turn up when they felt they were losing something, which in turn made them more consistent, which then made their health better and the person happier. It came full circle.
I never set out to be an outdoor fitness provider, though. It had got us active as we came out of COVID, but I knew change would be needed soon.
On the first of January I’d gotten the keys and moved into our new basecamp at Greenside Community Centre. I’d been running a Youth Boxing class here for months, but I loved it so much and an office had just freed up there too.
One of the first jobs was to repaint it, along with moving in my entire home office. It felt so much better to have a dedicated workplace. Now that I had an office I decided to utilise more of my background in nutrition to offer body analysis and health consultancy sessions.
I’d been writing for professional nutrition literature for years, as I still sidelight as a health scientist, but now I thought I could bring more of this experience to our members. It was also around this time that David, our SEO guy, came on board to help out Union Jab with Google and other tech stuff that I’m not smart enough to understand.
Business had now tripled. Some from the new-year boom, but most from being in a venue so much more accessible and equipped to handle our amazing members.
I decided to even strip back some of the timetable to the basics to make things even easier for new members – our less popular Heavy Metal and Spar Work classes were replaced with more Boxing and Fight Camp classes, which proved to be a great decision.
We had x-classes in y-venues, and even Christien came along to shoot a promo video for us. It turns out he was really great to work with.
Our member base had now grown by almost 100 people since the New Year and we were getting more consistent members. It was never predictable, but more people were coming from word of mouth as we’d shown we were here to stay.
Christien was now also coming on board to help with video content as we’d been asked by a few bodies to produce online content (coming soon).
I was contacted by Newcastle University Boxing about doing my level 2 Boxing Coaching in order to help them out at shows. This was a club I helped affiliate back when I was at uni there, so I was over the moon due to my long standing relationship with the university and the club. I ended up doing this course and after 4 years of wishing I passed my Head Coach assessment.
Our members had also become more dedicated to their training and were really enjoying their progress, and a few mentioned wanting something to work towards but they didn’t want to get hurt or have to train twice a day. It was at this time we launched the idea for an Exhibition Only Boxing Show.
The ring was hired, the Dr’s arranged, the venue booked, and now all that was left to do was train.
1 year on from our twice weekly bodyweight classes. We now have most of our 15 weekly classes at Greenside, though still a couple at Blaydon and Wylam, and we are getting to know more local boxing clubs around the area to try and promote the sport.
Planning is under way for our Exhibition Show in July, with Clare now joining the team to help us out, and I’m also writing a course on nutrition for boxing to help coaches and their boxers stay fit for competition and life thereafter. 121 time is now heaving, with more and more office-based nutrition, analysis, and 12-week programming work taking place as more people take control of their health.
We have had countless members with Autism, ADHD, and other conditions that had previously been perceived as a barrier come along for sessions and classes and absolutely thrive.
We have our show coming up, for sure, but there’s so much more to come from Union Jab.
It’s not about perfection or elite performance, it’s just about doing a fun activity that you can share with your community.
I really hope to have more new faces come along, especially those that feel demotivated or left-out of fitness training. We will always have a space for anyone, everyone, and, especially, you.