Keith Atkinson, Professional Windsurfer turned business owner and CEO of Fitsix.
Here's an inside look at what makes him tick and what triggered him to create Fitsix...
Give us a summary of your background?
I started Windsurfing when I was 6 years old and started in competition when I was 12. I always had a vision from the start to be the best I could be. It was a simple recipe, train hard on and off the water, completely focus on becoming a better athlete. When I took a step back from the sport to focus on a career, I did a few jobs here and there, including working in sales, whilst I was training to become a Personal Trainer. From when I was a full time athlete, when I had a PT myself, I knew i'd really enjoy doing that as a job, to help people become fitter and healthier.
Where do you think your Entrepreneurial traits come from?
I think I've always strived to succeed in anything I do, which is the mindset I've carried forward from being a sportsman at the top level, and that lends itself very well to business. You get familiar to the process of goal setting, visualisation, overcoming defeat and how to deal with it and move on. Also being at the top of your game and how to sustain it, amongst many other things. My parents sacrificed a lot and supported me so incredibly much and always believed in me, which was what helped me to get to the level I reached, it allowed me to focus entirely, to campaign in reaching one goal. I realised quite early on that I had a burning desire to create a brand that would recognised internationally, and that's what I am driven to create with Fitsix.
What was your first venture?
I started my own venture from my parents living room when I was about 13, so I was already in business while I was at school. I was making Windsurfing sail numbers and graphics by hand for windsurfers at my local sailing club, it was a nice bit of pocket money at the time. When I was 16, I bought some professional sign writing equipment, which was a turning point and when I could make some more money. I started offering more services to a much wider market, I named the business 'Kreative'. At the time of this transition I was windsurfing nationally and made sail numbers for a lot more competitors around the UK. I used my design ability and started designing logos and websites, Interior decor and shopfronts in addition.
Where did you learn about business?
Not at school, that's for sure. By being out there and doing it, by doing business. Unfortunately, a lot of what they teach you in school is really not helpful when you're in the real world. No one teaches you at school about how to start a business and actually function as an adult. this is big problem with education nowadays so I had to gain inspiration and knowledge from successful people around me. To be successful in any given field, you will need to draw in specific specialised knowledge from anywhere you can to get an understanding for the business you're embarking on. The great thing is that nowadays we have YouTube, and other social media platforms where you can learn pretty much anything, for FREE! Every venture I've embarked on in the past, has lent itself to my knowledge in starting Fitsix, giving me the ability to set it up and do everything on my own. It's funny how things work out sometimes.
How did you get your idea or concept for Fitsix?
I studied Graphic Design at college, which incorporated Fashion and Photography. From being an athlete and a Personal Trainer, I want to inspire people to live healthier lives and influence through a brand. I combined my passion for design, my interest for clothing and fashion, and love for sport and fitness. I knew that this was something I'd love to do. So a lot of what I have done in the past has given me a great experience, mindset and the skills needed to start a venture like this.
What is unique about your business?
As someone who lives and breathes healthy living and being active, I want to inspire people to be fit and healthy and to empower people to change themselves for the better.
My aim is to deliver great customer service and great communication between our company and our customers, whilst providing quality, on-trend products for a wide range of active people at reasonable prices. I want to be clear that we are a brand that provides clothing for people to wear for playing sport, on the beach, on the high street and even hitting the gym for a workout.
I wanted to be absolutely 100% certain of our quality before anything goes on the market and available to purchase. I personally stress tested every garment in the mens range, and female athletes testing the female range. I had a very strict set of criteria for any item to be released in the line-up moving forward. It had to be durable, it had to feel really nice when you're wearing it and comfortable so that it could be worn as your daily clothing. Also out clothes have to be functional and look great at the same time.
Essentially I was testing against clothing I had already purchased for myself, and I wasn't happy until it literally was better in every way than what I already owned in my own wardrobe. I'm very picky, and wouldn't let anything go on the market that I wouldn't wear myself. The testing took a while, I can say!
What are your responsibilities as the business owner?
I have literally been responsible for every aspect of the business from the start to this point, apart from taking the pictures who are taken by my super talented Fiancé Diane. Diane has a great eye for angles and what does and doesn't look right, and what fits for the brand. I have also been lucky enough to be working closely with Jack Tomkins, a very talented Videographer and Photographer.
When you start a business on a tight budget with no outside investment, you have to learn to do pretty much everything on your own wherever you can. When I didn't know something, I had to learn it, rather than paying out hundreds or even thousands to someone to do the work for me.
It's been a lot of work, but on the flip side I absolutely LOVE IT! I get a real buzz from grinding hard, working late until my eyes literally can't stay open any longer, thinking of new ideas and noting them down. I also love networking and connecting with like minded people. I can say I have had some great support from friends in addition so a big thank you to those who helped promote Fitsix in the early stages.
What's next for Fitsix?
Well, there's a lot to do. Having only just launched with a small Men's collection, our primary focus is now launching the Women's collection, and then expanding on both by growing the range and variety of products. I am really proud of what is already available and super excited about what is to come.