Healthy bodies, healthy business

By Liesl Jobson

As a young boy growing up in a semi-rural area, Gideon Ngake observed the world with a keen eye. Two powerful personalities were already shaping his destiny.

At school was his teacher, a heavy man who lumbered breathlessly, sweating and cursing toward the classroom. Clearly uncomfortable in his own big body, the teacher was not a happy man.

On returning home Gideon watched his older cousin, Jan, sweating and heaving in a different manner. The glint in Jan’s eye was one of pride and determination.

His cousin had set up his own gym in their garage, making weights from paint tins filled with concrete and wooden handles made from broomsticks. Jan’s grunts and sighs were from effort and delight as he pushed himself to new levels of weight lifting. His well-toned body and the health he exuded captured the young Gideon’s imagination. “In Std 7 I invited boys in my class to train with me. We made a fitness club at home,” says Ngake.

“At first I just wanted to look nice, but as the idea intensified, I realised the other benefits of going to the gym,” he adds.  “I started the business because I saw the need for people to be confident, healthy, and to prevent weight related illnesses like hypertension and diabetes. Exercise is a very important tool towards achieving heath goals, especially in this age we are living in,” he explains, mindful of those who suffer like the teacher from his youth.

Despite a lack of access to well-equipped facilities, Gideon remained true to his personal fitness goals. Later, as a student studying clinical assessment and care in the University of Venda’s Department of Health Science, his vision clarified. He wanted his own gym, to serve those who needed to improve their health in his own town. After a lot of hard work and dedication, Body for Life Gym and Fitness Centre opened in Lebowakgomo, Limpopo.

This inspired and committed approach caught the eye of the SAB Tholoana Enterprise Programme’s selection team. Meeting the programme criteria, he was chosen in July as one of the fifteen high-potential applicants who were selected to participate in this two-year business support and mentorship programme. A total of 474 applications were received.

Catherine Wijnberg of Fetola, the implementing partners for the SAB Foundation Tholoana programme, explains why Body for Life was selected: “This business shows ample potential to grow in terms of turnover, market share and net profit. Based in a busy township with dedicated and knowledgeable management, they seem poised to succeed. Over and above this, is the fact that Gideon and his team are passionate about promoting healthy living, especially for township youths and those at risk from bad influences and poor lifestyle habits,” concluded Wijnberg.

Since being accepted into the programme, Gideon has expanded the vision for his business. One new venture was approaching the psychologists at the local rehabilitation centre for substance abuse. “We hope to encourage body awareness and health consciousness as part of their ongoing recovery programme,” said Ngake. “I aim to muscle up my business plan too,” he continues, looking you straight in the eye with a smile. If his determination is anything like his powerful physique, the future for Body for Life Gym and Fitness Centre looks healthy indeed.

Body for Life Gym is based in Lebowakgomo Zone A, Shop 12. Gideon can be reached at [email protected] or on 083 560 9715.