Darren Singh was 21 years old when he felt inspired to do more with his life than feel “stuck in an office job”. After reading a sports catalog, he was prompted to study a personal training diploma at MAX Fitness College in 2010. In that same year, Darren was motivated and determined to start his own personal training business. With only $900 life savings in his bank account and a sister who let him turn her garage into a personal training studio, he started shopping for cheap gym equipment on ‘Trade Me’. He then transformed his sisters garage into an operating personal training studio in West Auckland. Darren began training his family and friends out of a garage.
After a few months of running his PT business out of a humble West Auckland garage, Darren decided to take a “leap of faith” and quit his office job to chase his dreams. He devoted all his time towards growing his PT business which became busier and outgrew the garage studio. Darren knew that in order to keep growing his business, he had to relocate his clients and business to ‘Jetts Fitness’ Gym as a self-employed contractor.
Being a self-employed contractor taught him a lot, as Darren expressed “I worked hard. I quit my salary paid office job and then immediately became self-employed. As a personal trainer you only get paid by the clients. I had bills to pay so I worked hard.” Darren had to learn sales skills as he worked 60 hour weeks giving people free complimentary sessions before trying to convert them into paying clients.
In 2012, he took another leap of faith and left his paying clients and family by purchasing a one-way ticket to Perth, Australia where he lived and slept on his friend’s couch for 3 months. Darren found employment in Australia at Jetts Fitness as an assistant to a gym manager named Justin Radford. In Darren’s eyes, his Manager Justin Radford and the Gym Owner, Peter Young were both amazing mentors who taught him about leadership and how to be a successful business man.
Darren’s manager, Justin Radford soon left his employment with Jetts and became a top manager for an Active Life Coach Team in Barrow Island, Western Australia. Justin later offered Darren a job to work with him as an Active Life Coach so Darren seized the opportunity and left Jetts Fitness. However, out of nowhere something unexpected happened to Darren.
Over a period of 2 years, money became the main focus for Darren. He started to work a 3:1 work roster moving to different mining sites all over Western Australia and earning really good income. However, although the financial incentives were rewarding for Darren, he quickly realized that the long hours, harsh climate, the ‘fly-in, fly-out’ lifestyle, the feeling of isolation and being surrounded by depressed people, had a negative impact on him. In Australia, the mining industry experiences one of the highest rates of mental health conditions of employees in the country and so slowly but surely, in 2014, Darren hit rock bottom and was diagnosed with depression. Darren said “It was hard and tough. In the mines a lot of people experience depression, and I was one of those guys. I didn’t see it coming. I was in the mines and I put the money first. I learned that money is not everything. I started to fall back spiritually. I was a church goer and then I no longer went to church anymore.” Darren felt like he had forgotten God and decided that he needed to change and refocus on what mattered most.
He began prioritizing his life and doing the most important things first such as attending church regularly, praying, and studying the holy scriptures. Darren says “This is why I have a bible in my gym, because it rescued me.”
Once Darren recovered, he returned to working at various mine sites at the end of 2014 to finish what he had started. Darren continued his employment as an Active Life Coach until he strongly felt that it was time for him to return home to New Zealand.
After he moved back to New Zealand in 2015, Darren was very fortunate to secure employment at the very same “Jetts Fitness” Gym that he was once a personal trainer in 3 years earlier. However, instead of being a personal trainer this time, Darren was hired to be the Gym manager of the entire club which consisted of over 2000 members and was the largest jetts club in Australasia. Although it was an amazing opportunity, Darren says “I experienced a lot of challenges.”
One of the challenges Darren experienced as a young Gym Manager was opposition from his staff who did not agree with his vision or adhere to the goals that he had for the Gym. Darren also said that other challenges included “staff not showing up to team meetings, staff cussing at me, staff who didn’t respect authority, and I even had a staff who stepped me out for a fight.” Darren knew not to take things personal but with his passion, unwavering belief and strong desire to help people become fit, healthy and happy, he was determined to do what ever it takes to help the gym become a better place for serving its members and community.
Darren’s strong belief and ambition, supported by ‘Jetts Fitness’ Head Office, led them to make tough but necessary changes to improve, develop and grow the business. Staff who no longer fitted with the core values and vision of Jetts were made redundant to seek better opportunities. From there, things only got better as the culture improved, more support and team work, and everyone believed in the same vision. With the help of his assistant managers, Darren worked extremely hard to help build a stronger team and culture that led to greater morale and a more profitable club.
During Darren’s Management at Jetts Fitness Gym, the club grew from 2000 members to 3000 members in just over a year. This success became a record in history because it was the highest amount of members that any Jetts Gym in both New Zealand and Australia has ever had. Darren acknowledged that it was vision, teamwork, trust and leadership that really helped the club grow. “I do not take glory for this. As a team and with my assistant managers we collectively grew that club to what it was.” Darren says.
Darren’s experience as a manager in this club taught him more than what any other person has ever taught him about running a business and leading a team. With now his operations experience, passion and strong desire to help people become fit, healthy and happy, Darren decided to leave Jetts and take an ambitious move into becoming a business owner.
In November 2016, through the due diligence process, and despite the issues and challenges that existed within the gym under the previous ownership, Darren decided to take a calculated risk by purchasing and becoming the new owner of the Creo 24-Hour Fitness Gym in Pukekohe. Prior to buying the Creo Club, Darren’s family and friends advised him against buying the gym because of the amount of risk it involved, but Darren saw something that no one else could see. He saw potential and a gym that could be better than what it was, but beyond that, Darren had a strong passion to help people succeed through being fit, healthy and happy which he believed was his gift from God.
Despite its history, within 2 years, the Creo Pukekohe Club has tripled its membership and has become a popular place within its local community because of its excellent and friendly customer service, weekly exercise classes, a private workout area for women and of course, its hot saunas. Creo proudly sponsors the Pukekohe High School First XV Rugby Team, Brooke Clarkson Motorsports and other organizations which is his way of giving back and sharing what he has been blessed with.
Darren’s journey about how he went from a garage to a 24-hour Fitness Club is a story to learn from because it is a lesson about how challenges can build your character, about discovering what you are passionate about and chasing your dreams. In addition, Darren’s biggest advice to anyone who wants to start a business, or become a leader is to “never give up, never, never never, never!”