People doing it for themselves – the people behind the project – Graham

1 October 2019 · Categories: Innovators Learn

A couple of weeks ago Community Catalysts launched the People doing it for themselves reporteasyread version together with an appendix of stories detailing the experience of 19 amazing people and groups. The 7-month development project on which the reports are based was funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. It focussed on people who need care or support to live their lives who are also leaders, agents for change or entrepreneurs. The main project finding was that nearly everyone we met had followed a similar pathway to success that looks a bit like this:

Over the next few weeks we plan to focus on this path, pulling out some of the stories of the people we met to show what it looks like for real people.

People like Graham who was once one of the heaviest men in the UK, weighing 52 stone. After battling obesity and mental health difficulties, he decided to have an operation in 2012. He lost 35 stone, became a specialist personal trainer and then worked with friends to start a health and fitness club to help people like him who felt excluded from mainstream support and lacked the physical and emotional confidence to go to the gym.

There was nothing out there like this when I needed help. I’d try to go to gyms but thought everyone was looking at me. I worked with personal trainers, but some just didn’t get it or understand how to work with someone in my situation.

BIG Health and Fitness was founded in March 2016 by Graham. He runs the business with Jude, a long-standing friend and former client, who lost 4.5 stone with diet and exercise. BIG Health and Fitness provide personal training, group exercise classes, as well as training and motivational speaking, courses and workshops to obese people and people with physical and/or learning difficulties. They are based in a fitness club in Luton, Bedfordshire.

Increasing recognition from, and relationships with, local community organisations and public bodies about their service have helped Graham and Jude to make BIG a success.

We’ve built good relationships with local organisations, like the Council, CCG and Disability Resource Centre. We’ve been recognised for our good work. It is starting to open doors.

Setting up the business has been a real achievement for Graham and Jude. Since they started, they have supported over 200 people and have now trained 4 personal trainers to provide similar support.

In 2017 BIG gained the Dunstable and Houghton Regis Business and Community Awards; was MP’s Community Business of the Year and was awarded highly commended Business of the Year in the Luton and Bedfordshire Community Awards. In addition, BIG Health and Fitness have several stories where they have helped people to change their lives by losing weight, getting fitter and increasing their confidence.

We received this card from one of our clients. She’d been too obese to conceive. We helped her lose weight and she got pregnant. That’s why we do it. For stories like that.

BIG Health and Fitness are ambitious. They want to help more and more people, both locally and nationally.

It is about taking baby steps at first. We want to help more and more people. We’re starting to get more interest and we’re optimistic for the future. The business is sustainable, so it is now about growing it locally and nationally.

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