Justin Bellas started Raw Power Meals in response to the COVID-19 shutdown of his franchise gym business, World Gym Burpengary. The gym was closed from the 23rd of March to 1st of June, 2020, and in September, 2020, was just getting back to its level of business prior to the shutdown.
World Gym Burpengary opened in mid-2018. It has the biggest World Gym member base in Australia with 4,200 members. The gym club offers everything from strength training to cardio with 150 classes per week ranging from Les Mills classes up to yoga, Pilates, boxing classes, World Gym Athletics, and also caters for rehabilitation programs. World Gym Burpengary employs 20 casual and full-time staff in total, including 10 personal trainers, a sports therapist, and an exercise physiologist.
Justin describes it as: “A full service and 5-star fitness facility with a focus on great customer service.”
Overnight, there was a government mandate that all gyms be closed, and a complete freeze put on all payments for all members from March 23 to June 1. When the gym was closed, Justin had to stand down all but 6 staff. He managed to get JobKeeper allowance for six staff and as the restrictions eased Justin was able to put more staff onto the JobKeeper program. However, the JobKeeper allowance was only to last to the end of September 2020.
Justin said that within two weeks of the gym closing, he launched Raw Power Meals “and within a month we were pretty much getting up to capacity for the kitchen.”
Justin has a strong interest in health and wellbeing – in particular, healthy lifestyles and healthy meals. Prior to the gym closure he had already been working on a business model for nutritionally based, home-delivered meals, and designing the meal packaging and menus (for weight loss, muscle gain, and vegans, for example).
When the gym shut down Justin had the time to focus his attention on making the healthy meal-business idea a reality. Justin said that within two weeks of the gym closing, he launched Raw Power Meals “and within a month we were pretty much getting up to capacity for the kitchen.” The business model is a meal subscription that offers a discounted price per meal. Menus are on a 7-day ordering cycle, with a current choice of 24 menu items. “We have a nutritionist who helps the chefs in developing the meals,” Justin explained.
Justin found he could offer World Gym staff not eligible for JobKeeper the opportunity to be employed by Raw Power Meals, helping with food preparation, packing, and delivering. As restrictions eased and the gym reopened, Justin was able to re-employ all of the stood down staff and hire extra staff to help with increasing demand. He puts that down to maintaining good communication with the staff while they were not working.
While the gym was closed, World Gym Australia provided a free online training platform to cater for members. Justin also built up a strong relationship with the boxing community during this time, assisting the boxers with nutrition and fight preparation. His relationship with the boxing community grew from supporting the local boxing club to now supporting another five or six boxing clubs, including elite boxers: “We now have 6 professional boxers using the meals,” three of whom fought in the August 2020 Jeff Horn fight in Townsville. “They were all on Raw Power Meals,” Justin said.
Raw Power Meals created a Facebook page and Instagram page and became big on social media. The business is focusing on efficient business operations before they start the next research and development cycle. In September, it was servicing subscribers, averaging 3,500 meals per month. However, they need to expand, as the kitchen is small and the two chefs are stretched with what they are currently producing.
In December, Justin plans to move Raw Power Meals to a bigger commercial kitchen in the Moreton Bay Region. He aims to employ seven to ten chefs and have more room for production, packaging and storage.
Raw Power Meals is ready to go with marketing once they move. Justin already has the website ready to go, and the professional packaging and concept designs complete with nutritional information, value, calories, and macros clearly labelled.
Under the new business model, Justin aims for the business to produce 50,000 meals per month with 7 chefs in a bigger kitchen over a 12-month period. His driving motivation is “to one day provide hundreds of jobs.” Aside from the current staff, Raw Power Meals will need to employ more staff for administration, reception, sales, cooking, packing, and delivery.
The next phase of Raw Power Meals will focus on expansion. This is both exciting and daunting for Justin. He explains that it requires “a big outlay of money.” The business will need to produce volume to make money. “It is scary. It’s not all easy and there’s quite a lot of risk involved in taking this next step,” Justin said. “The real hard work begins now.”