Sunday 25 September 2016

Off The Pitch: Budding food magnate has plenty on his plate

For Dublin footballer Philly McMahon, they are traits that are instantly recognisable in his business journey to date

Published 03/07/2015 | 02:30

Philly McMahon
Philly McMahon

They say to be a good entrepreneur you need to invest in yourself and understand the concept of continuous development.

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Leaving school in Ballymun at 17, McMahon followed the path of some of his mates to Coláiste Íde, where he did a PLC course in Sports and Leisure Management.

He began working in various gyms but elevation to the Dublin panel brought about the well-documented challenges that an inter-county player must face off the field. Top of that list was finding the time and flexibility from employers.

A move to the gym in nearby Dublin City University proved transformative. He loved the college environment.

"DCU was brilliant and after spending time with the students I wanted to do a degree. But first I had to repeat my Leaving Cert so it was a big move," he said.

Things had been going well at the time; a good job in DCU, his football career was on a steep upward curve. He had bought a nice car with a loan and suddenly he was studying for his Leaving and struggling to make ends meet.

He needed to make a few bob and a small window of opportunity opened up in his club, Ballymun Kickhams. A room used by senior players to train was vacant in the morning and Philly started to run fitness sessions for women. Numbers grew steadily; contacts increased and sessions with juvenile club teams followed. BK Fitness was born.

McMahon now operates three gyms, in Ballymun Kickhams, and in south-west Dublin GAA clubs Thomas Davis and Good Counsel, with another opening shortly in McKelvey Celtic soccer club.

As with many entrepreneurs, McMahon's personal experience has helped shape his business interests. In the battle to nail down places in a ferociously competitive county environment, McMahon found that nutrition was key.

However, running the gyms meant a battle for time; proper food wasn't always convenient.

"I went to a friend of mine who put me in touch with a chef. I basically gave him a list of foods I wanted, the amounts I needed and was prepared to pay for," he says.

"I knew if I had access to good food all the time I could stay in good shape. A lot of people know what they should be eating but convenience is a real issue."

And after months of planning and examining the market, FitFood came into being. FitFood provides a healthy, nutritional meal delivery service to those with busy lives.

"FitFood is now about 10 months going and it started with a bang as it was a new market," he says.

"Things levelled off a bit but are picking up again and we are looking at ways to expand the business, looking at people who want to eat out but want to consume the food they want."

In between everything else, McMahon has spent time as a conditioning coach with Shamrock Rovers, and now Bray Wanderers.

"I suppose the way I approach sport has helped in business," McMahon says. "I like to challenge myself."

Rising at 6.0am to oversee the first of his classes, which may last until lunchtime, heading to FitFood for the afternoon before ending the evening with the Dublin squad makes for a hectic daily routine.

"I enjoy it but hopefully if things grow I will get the time to sit back and take it all in," he says.

For now though McMahon can't have enough on his plate. Like any good entrepreneur.

For more about FitFood see www.fitfood-ireland.myshopify.com.

For more Players In Focus, see www.gaelicplayers.com

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