Growing up I was massively into horses, and we kept some at Kilternan, but I didn't get the points for veterinary, or into the Army Equitation School, so I did a computer science course but dropped out after three months.
I spent five enjoyable years at American Express, but it was when I moved to Australia for a year in 2000, where I caught the fitness bug, that I first knew what I wanted to do. Seeing the joggers on Bondi Beach made me think perhaps I could do that and when I joined a fun gym I found exercise did not have to be a chore.
Building the dream
When I moved back I started on reception at the David Lloyd gym in Dublin. This is where I met Barry (Walsh - current chairman of Iconic), the duty manager who, spotting my enthusiasm, moved me into sales and marketing - this was full-blown Celtic Tiger with €1,000 memberships flying out the door.
Five years later, Barry asked me to work with him at his 1escape gym he was opening in Smithfield, Dublin. I was reluctant; walking around and seeing the empty units it had a rundown feel but Barry convinced me and I went on to convince others in a marketing suite where I sold 400 memberships off the plans.
When we opened I was nervous that the idea I had been selling would not match reality but Barry had been spot on - there was a big niche for deluxe but approachable. When the recession came we upped our services with the message that the €79 membership was worth it as, considering people could no longer afford to go out, this was the new social life.
At the time our Polish members were ahead on this but the idea caught on. I had been on commission so instead took a 20pc share in the company. When we had to expand to the 4th floor we looked around for opportunities.
In 2011 we took over Fitness Dock on Camden Street, Dublin, which had gone into receivership. We renamed it Icon and threw ourselves into the challenging process of convincing everyone we were a positive force. It was equally tricky when we took over LA Fitness in 2015, which we renamed the Dartry Health Club. We needed to be very sensitive and communicate clearly that nobody was losing their job and we were in for the long haul.
This was a hectic time for me also because in 2012 I decided to study at night for a degree in Business & Marketing and then an MBA. Working and studying is intense but satisfying and probably easier as I could put what I was learning into practice.
When I had my daughter in 2016 I sold my 20pc stake back to Barry and bought the house where my family lives today.
It was a tough decision letting go of the reins. I was afraid my voice would not be as strong but I had the same passion for the business - nothing changed.
My job is sales, marketing and retention and to facilitate the three club managers. I usually work 9-5, but the work I am doing varies every day.
I do the crèche run and head into Dartry first and then go to Icon or 1escape - whichever club needs me. I have a walk around, say hello to the customers, and sit down with the club manager.
When the gyms shut I was in the Coombe having my son Darcy so it's been a roller-coaster. I was having nightmares for the first couple of months about the business closing. We are scared membership could dip as much as 50pc initially and as we have huge monthly overheads in lockdown - over €100,000 - it's worrying. But we are moving into the optimistic stage now.
Our marketing angle is how sanitised and safe it will be for customers and staff. We have 65 employees, and many contractors, who are eager to get back to work - you can offer all the bells and whistles but your staff are the most important offering you have.
Our pool will reopen on July 20 and the gyms on August 10 which gives us time to prepare. It is going to be different - masks, extra hygiene and limits on numbers - but it's all doable and we will make it enjoyable.
When I return from maternity leave I am going to have my work cut out for me with retention but I believe the gym is an important refuge. Our three gyms are about making people feel good and it's a space away from home for people to keep their fitness and, more importantly, their sanity - and that's going to be important.