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It takes a just a village… to launch a One Element franchise

Georgie Sayle Launched One Element East Hants, starting with Selborne in late March 2021, this is her story…

It was a conversation we’d had a few times at the school gate; would One Element work outside of London? 

The Social Fitness company that is hugely successful at attracting numbers through park presence and visibility in London borough’s of 100k people, couldn’t possibly kick-off in a village with a population of just 525! [Census data estimate 2019]

Or could it..?

“Why don’t you try it?” | “The numbers don’t work, geographically the population is too spread out”

I’ve been a virtual member of One Element since December. When lockdown hit in January, kids back at home and the work/homeschool juggle resumed, the online classes saved my sanity. When you start your day with a goal it frames your mindset. You have a purpose, a goal to aim for. That 45 minutes of sheer Hiit hell become my raison d’etre. In my head I thought it would be easy to duck off camera if I needed a break, pretend the wifi had dropped off but instead, a sense of accountability kicked in. We were all in that class together, to slack would have let the side down, never mind myself. 

A month later, having been a guest member of the mighty Wandsworth Westside squad for the strava challenge it hit home what an incredible community OE was. Any group who gets someone walking their kids up and down country lanes in the pitch black to get that extra mile in for a team they’ve never met is pretty inspiring.  

It got me thinking. I don’t think this is a numbers game. 

“Tom, please can we try one session in Selborne, without planning ahead, we’ll pop one session in the diary and see who turns up”

What keeps these members at One Element? What brings them back, come rain or shine to train together in the parks? Yes there are fitness goals to hit, possibly weight to be lost, strength to be gained. But, over and above anything, they keep coming back because there is a community spirit, a sense of belonging, a feeling that many have found their ‘tribe’. 

We get that feeling from sports teams. The desire to perform at your best for the team, to support each other, look out for each other, inspire and pick each other up when you’re battle-weary. You also get that feeling from village communities. 

Up went the flyer into Selborne Village’s facebook page (400 members). Did anyone respond? Absolutely. The strength of this community lies not in its numbers but in its ability to support. Individuals are supported, families, social events, business ventures supported. Everyone wants to get behind a ‘local’ and support. The timing was perfect, the urge to exercise outdoors strong and this village will never turn down an opportunity to hang out with mates whether it’s drinking in the pub or, running around in a field. 

20 people turned up at 9.15am on that Monday morning. Not everyone knew each other. But they were there, wanting to get fit but overwhelmingly wanting to embrace an opportunity to support. The sign-ups came thick and fast. I’m not ashamed to admit that, even now I do a little jig every time an email comes through saying someone has signed up. 

Why do I think it flew? We have a built-in community already. Word spread quickly. “Yes I’ve joined” became a badge of honour. People who historically may not have spoken to each other were now connected through a common purpose, a sense of belonging, a feeling or pride in being part of something new and belonging to it from the start.

As the village numbers grew, focus turned towards Alton, the nearest market town 5 miles up the road. Personally I know very few people there. There are recognisable faces through my kids’ sports clubs but not a ready made network I could tap into. This was to become a launch based purely around marketing. We could run the normal generic sales ads but Selborne worked because the community network was there already. I needed to tap into the Alton community networks. After joining as many Facebook groups as I could – mums/business/ news groups – posts were shared from my personal page into all the groups. Free trials pinged in. 

I took the decision not to work towards a 6 week launch but to sprint in the following week. Why wait? The momentum was there, the weather was about to turn and the feeling of positivity resonating from the Selborne group was enough to project me into space. Did I do a business plan? Loosely. Should I have done a proper one? Probably. But I’m a writer, I love storytelling and I knew I could tell the OE story. Hopefully people would like what they heard as well as the session itself. 

Alton is 2 weeks in now and already there is a solid squad of Founding Members who I have every faith will champion the brand. The Selborne and Alton squads are cross-pollinating across parks and our tribe is expanding. The power of the local networks is kicking in and word of mouth is continuing to spread.

8 weeks down the line from an initial conversation about whether One Element could work outside of London I can hand on heart say this has been one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had. I am in awe of everyone turning up session after session and putting their all in. I am blown away by the positive feedback not just about the session itself, but what being part of One Element is giving people. Everyone has their own goals, their own purpose, their own reason for joining and it’s an absolute honour to provide that platform, that environment for people to pursue those goals and purposes.

Can One Element find its community outside of London? A resounding yes. 

Sometimes the most ordinary things could be made extraordinary, simply by doing them with the right people. (Nicholas Sparks)

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