One of the dragons in Dragons’ Den, Deborah Meaden says staying active is essential to being successful…
You’re now seen as a leading figure in the fitness industry – how did that come about?
It’s almost an accidental thing. I’m currently involved in a product called FitMixPro, which is dance music for the fitness industry. It wasn’t originally for fitness, it actually started as a dance music product before we realised we had the ability to manipulate the beats. The perfect beat for exercising is a 32 count. Now we’re the most popular music service for fitness professionals, with over 40,000 users in the past 12 months. That was my first move into the fitness industry and it’s still growing.
Is that the perfect example of how the fitness industry is growing?
There’s a real sense of community around the fitness industry. Going to the gym used to be quite an isolated experience and although you’re still getting people doing their own thing, more and more you’re seeing people come together and doing things with other people. There’s a whole piece around community these days and getting together and doing something to keep fit, whether that’s dance-related or fitness-related. Whatever it is, it is community.
And that has to be positive thing, right?
Definitely. I also think that if you promise someone that you’re going to meet them and go to a class together then you’re far less likely to turn around and say ‘actually, I’m not going to go’. It’s easy on a wet Wednesday evening to think that you can’t be bothered but when you’ve made a promise, you do it.
Are you optimistic about the long-term health of the fitness industry?
I am, definitely. It’s bouyant because it’s an innovative industry and it’s outward looking. You can enter it at so many different levels as well. You can be a trainer and say ‘I’m going to make a bit of money for working a few hours a week’ or you can be absolutely 100% committed and do it full-time. It’s a very flexible industry and you’ve got people who are never afraid to try things. When you get that, you always have a real chance of success. For me, it’s interesting, it’s vibrant and it’s exciting – you have people giving it fresh energy all of the time.
The fitness industry also seems to embrace technology better than most industries too…
It does. The FitMixPro is a classic example of that. I think the main reason for that is that the fitness industry looks around, it doesn’t just look in on itself. That creates an environment where others look at it and say ‘that would work in my industry too’. It’s really positive and vibrant.
How do you juggle your business commitments with staying fit and active?
I love horses. Luckily, I’m one of these people who can’t do anything to do with fitness unless I’m enjoying it. Spinning? Not my thing. My brain has to be active, my body has to be active. I love riding and when I’m in Somerset – and I try to get Friday and Monday here to have a long weekend – I will ride as much as I possibly can. I’ve got six horses so I can sometimes ride twice a day. That’s my go-to core strength fitness.
You were obviously a huge hit on Strictly – have you kept up the dancing?
I do when I can, it’s not all the time but I still love to do it. My husband dances four hours a week, so I will join him whenever I possibly can. I also walk a lot, we’ve got dogs, so that’s a great excuse to get out. Also, when I’m in London, you’ll never see me on an escalator – I walk whenever I can in London. I think that’s something a lot of us can do, you see so much more of a city when you’re on your feet rather than public transport.
How tough was Strictly?
I wouldn’t consider myself a particularly fit person but I’ve got a good core and I think Strictly showed that maybe I was much fitter than I thought. My partner, Robin, was surprised by just how long I could keep going. My legs, bum and core kept me going!
What products are you currently working with?
One of them is a towel, a microfibre towel by a company called Dock & Bay. Again, these types of towels have been around a long time so it wasn’t an obvious investment opportunity but, compared to the rest, these are really cool. They’re well designed, they’re attractive and they’re big but pack down small. They’re perfect for the gym bag and – unlike the others we’ve seen in the past – they’re not maroon.
The other is a shaker bottle by a company called Shakesphere. The guy who presented it is a master athlete and clearly knew his stuff. The shape of it makes it really easy to mix and really easy to clean. When he started I thought, ‘I’m really not investing in that’. By the end I thought, ‘wow’. It just teaches you to keep your eyes and ears open at all times.