“The job I’d loved and thrived in had become something else.”
What work were you doing previously?
I worked in banking, as an Emerging Markets (CEEMEA) Fixed Income Derivatives Marketer/Structurer.
What are you doing now?
I run a family of boxing clubs.
We currently have three clubs trading in London (Rathbone Boxing Club, Camden Boxing Club, Bermondsey Boxing Club), and we have a fourth site in the works, also in London.
Why did you change?
I loved my job until I didn’t.
I left banking when I was pregnant, during the financial crisis. The job I’d loved and thrived in had become something else.
Clients I’d been developing for years that were finally ready to execute very sizable deals were all of a sudden turned away.
Credit lines were massively cut; credit charges were massively increased. Sales budgets remained in place, even though it became impossible to actually do any business, especially in a competitive marketplace.
When it became a never-ending slog of committees where no one was actually incentivised to agree to honouring promises we had made to clients, the love was lost. Too many sharp elbows and too much politics.
I lost interest. I’d been “all in” until I realised I was ultimately prostituting myself for a bank that didn’t have my back and was replete with false promises.
So, I left.
How did you choose your new career?
After having my baby, I started working out with a personal trainer to help me cut my baby fat.
He happened to be a boxing coach, and it rocked my world. I fell in love with boxing, a sport I’d never ever even considered before.
We were training in the park, as so many others do. London weather is touch and go though. I realised that there were no authentic boxing clubs in the centre of London that were also unintimidating to the novice.
That aside, it’s really nice to have the complete array of boxing equipment at hand, not to mention the camaraderie of fellow boxers, along with the music and the general vibe.
Boxing had moved up the socioeconomic curve, but the infrastructure hadn’t kept up. That is the gap I set out to fill. I saw an opportunity and seized it. There’s been no looking back since then.
Are you happy with the change?
These days the buck always stops with me. So, if I prioritise top-notch customer service, that’s what we do. If I insist on first-rate coaching acumen, that’s who we hire.
There’s no cowtowing to management or playing political games. This venture is all about delivering on what I believe is the best true boxing experience available.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I do NOT miss the politics and the cronyism.
I REALLY miss the IT guy!
How did you go about making the shift?
I started with doing due diligence.
I booked a flight to New York and visited all the boxing outlets I could, including both proper boxing clubs and boxercise studios, even the spinning studio Soul Cycle.
I wanted to understand the boutique fitness studio model first hand. Likewise, I wanted to experience what authentic “boxing” really was, even if only on a recreational basis.
I then built a financial model and wrote a business plan shortly thereafter. At that point, it was necessary to find a site, in order to populate the model with real figures.
I also had to start raising funds, so I wrote an Investor Deck. I was juggling a lot of balls at once, all of them contingent on each other. It was stressful, to say the least.
And then, the really hard work began! I devoted myself to networking, cold calling, asking favours, you name it. I needed to get in front of investor types.
How did you develop (or transfer) the skills you needed for your new role?
I don’t think I was able to transfer many hard financial skills, however, often it’s the soft skills that make all the difference.
I’d never been given a book of business while working on a trading floor. In every instance, I had to build my own contacts, develop them, find business opportunities, and bring them to fruition. In essence, I was always an entrepreneur within the larger context of a bank’s balance sheet and brand.
When it came to financing my own business, I did what I had always done: networked, asked favours, pitched, and sometimes even pleaded.
What didn’t go well? What wrong turns did you take?
I lost so many supposedly secured sites.
It was heartbreaking and so demoralising. But everything happens for a reason, and I’m very pleased with our current portfolio. Indeed, now landlords call me offering their sites to us!
How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?
Luckily, I’d been in a lucrative career for a number of years.
I had a healthy enough bank account to tide me over. However, it was a big shift in mindset. I was used to receiving a hefty direct payment every month that was no longer going to come.
I pared down my spending in major ways. In some cases, it was easy. I no longer had dry cleaning bills as I no longer needed to purchase fancy suits and shoes “to play the role”. I also didn’t have to spend much on outside meals or beverages. Ultimately, Starbucks twice a day adds up.
I gave up a lot of the “beauty” luxuries such as weekly manicures, pedicures, and the like. I had no one to impress but myself, and frankly with a newborn baby, I was more worried about financing his needs.
In short, I took stock of what was actually important and cut the rest.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
Leaving the security of a good paycheck every month.
And the uncertainty of bringing an idea to fruition. I was “all in”, I’d put everything on the line: financially, reputationally, self-esteem-wise. I remember when we finally secured our site for Rathbone Boxing Club. It was designed and fit out. We had a website.
We were ready to roll. It was a done deal. We were finally doing it!! And then the realisation dawned on us that we NOW had to actually do this.
It was as exciting as it was scary.
What help did you get?
There have been some absolutely incredible ex-colleagues who have been the wind beneath my sails.
So many times, I’ve been impressed with the generosity these people extended to me.
I also did what I’ve always done and networked my way into some supporters. It’s remarkable how once complete strangers have proven to be so pivotal in my journey.
Our team members too. Some days, everything that can go wrong does go wrong, and then I get a 5 star Google Review about how absolutely amazing the team is. That sort of thing can make my day in an instant.
More often than not, I lean on our client base. So many have become investors or volunteer advisors. They believe in my vision and see what we’ve been able to achieve in just a few short years in spite of so many obstacles, the pandemic to say the least. Our patrons are my rock.
I couldn’t be more thankful.
What do you wish you'd done differently?
Raised more money from the get-go.
It’s always more expensive than you think.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Have the confidence to go “all in”, and believe in yourself and the venture.
Don’t buy into the naysayers.
Be ready to work harder than you’ve ever worked before (and I’ve worked some very long hours in my banking career.)
Whatever you think you know as “the grind” will pale in comparison to when it’s on you to succeed, not only for yourself, but also for all the people whose livelihoods and futures will depend on your success.
It’s a tough burden to bear but equally as rewarding.
To find out more about Manya's business, visit https://theboxinghouse.co.uk.
What lessons could you take from Manya's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.