Belgravia Group’s home-grown Ninja

By Sarah Stowe | 03 Mar 2020 View comments

Fitness has been a liberating force in John Pirlo’s life and he wants to share the gains.

“In my 20s I got into a gym in Newcastle, someone took me under their wing and I ended up doing a fitness course. I built a few clubs for that company. Then I wanted to fulfil my dream of opening up multi-sites for myself.”

John Pirlo is dedicated to fitness. When the well established Belgravia Group launched the Genesis gym model in a joint venture back in 2007, Pirlo was involved in the planning, which included a three-month presale that generated 2200 members before opening.

The gym concept was launched out of the spotlight, in the NSW town of Maitland, and over the next six years a further nine clubs were added.

“The main reason was that we wanted to inspire more people to get active,” says Pirlo.

The business developed a support team as the footprint of its gyms increased.

“It’s difficult to run your own business with clubs of up to 40 staff,” he says. “When operating a standalone business, not a franchise, there is no one to lean on. We have a great group across all clubs.

“We do multiple training programs; hopefully the trainers will go and have their own franchise clubs in the future.”

The Ninja Parc concept

Ninja Parc by the Belgravia Group | Inside Franchise Business

Ninja Parc by the Belgravia Group | Inside Franchise Business

Now Pirlo’s passion for boosting Aussies’ fitness activity has found a new outlet: Ninja Parc, a Tough Mudder-inspired playcentre for all ages. There are no rules on how much an adult or child participant has to do; an obstacle course can be used as a racing zone, or completed in parts.

Seven years in the planning, the business has already attracted a national race series and it works with autism and mental health groups. The focus on upper body work means wheelchair participants can utilise the facility.

“Some will use it as fun breakout in their routine – runners, parkour, climbers. Another 15 to 20 per cent will be active in doing other things. So it’s about enticing those participants.

“We’re very conscious to make it sustainable long-term so we’ve applied what we have learned from the fitness industry.”

A Ninja Parc is entertainment and fitness in one venue, says Pirlo. “Five return visits on average per centre.”

Pirlo has a vision of Ninja Parc as a 100-outlet-strong national brand.

Now the focus for the next 12 months is to find the right franchisees. In this, the business has a distinct advantage, he says.

“We’re not a new franchise group, we’re part of Belgravia Group with a back office structure and 20-plus years experience.”