Owner of Heavenly Fitness in Tovil, turns 10 after initially spending £50,000 and using 25 credit cards to transform the fitness studio

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A fitness studio owner in Kent is celebrating 10 years in business, after nearly risking financial collapse when she started out.

Jane Salida, who runs Heavenly Fitness in Tovil, explained that she had to withdraw 25 credit cards in order to achieve her dream.

Jane Salida, owner of a fitness studio in Maidstone, reflects on how she started her business. Photo: Jane Salida

The 55-year-old says that in 2012 Maidstone Leisure Center sacked her from her managerial position.

She said: “I worked there for about 13 years, I was so upset and had no idea this was going to happen – they gave me no warning.

“I loved working there and it was a real shock. I’m still a bit puzzled by the whole thing.

“However, it was definitely the kick I needed to take the leap, to have my own place and do it the way I wanted to do it.

“The dream has always been to open my own studio, but being a single mother of four at the time, I just didn’t think it was possible.”

The studio initially had no plumbing or electricity.  Photo: Jane Salida
The studio initially had no plumbing or electricity. Photo: Jane Salida
Before renovations to the studio.  Photo: Jane Salida
Before renovations to the studio. Photo: Jane Salida

Jane was inspired after attending the first ever aerial yoga teacher training in the UK and was desperate to bring this fun exercise to Kent.

She added: “Before that, I was teaching body balance, aerobics, pilates, etc. By chance, I came across aerial yoga on the internet and I had never seen anything like it before.

“It was called anti-gravity at the time, and I had to travel to Godalming in Surrey to complete the course.”

Aerial yoga uses a wide, low aerial sling, which allows you to move around and perform traditional yoga poses in a more relaxed manner.

With no business experience or training, Jane began researching potential buildings to house her new idea.

The studio after over £50,000 worth of renovations.  Photo: Jane Salida
The studio after over £50,000 worth of renovations. Photo: Jane Salida
Aerial yoga uses a sling or hammock to perform poses with greater ease.  Photo: Jane Salida
Aerial yoga uses a sling or hammock to perform poses with greater ease. Photo: Jane Salida

She said: “I’ve seen a lot of units in and around Maidstone but a lot of them cost around £20,000 or more a year.

“My real estate agent showed me a cheap property, it was a state and had been empty for so long.

“The floor was concrete and there was no plumbing or electricity, I just couldn’t imagine being there.

“After receiving a small amount of money from my dismissal, we decided to go for it.”

In the end, Jane shelled out over £50,000, investing in new plumbing, electrical, floors, walls, ceilings and specialist rigging to allow people to hang upside down.

Members celebrate 10 years of Heavenly Fitness.  Photo: Jane Salida
Members celebrate 10 years of Heavenly Fitness. Photo: Jane Salida

“On paper, I couldn’t afford it.” She explained, “I couldn’t get a bank loan because I had no credit. I had no savings and no real business plan.”

“It was a big commitment, and the credit cards were out of my ears – I’ve never had so many in my life.

“At one point I think we had loaded around 25 cards, some only let me have £1,000 and some let me have £3,000.

“I borrowed as much as I could, from everyone I could think of. It just kept going up.

“At the time, I had also taken out a fairly large mortgage. There were a few times when I thought I might become homeless, but I always believed it would work.”

Heavenly Fitness in Maidstone celebrates 10 years of operation.  Photo: Jane Salida
Heavenly Fitness in Maidstone celebrates 10 years of operation. Photo: Jane Salida

After three months of renovation, the fitness studio opened its doors in May 2012.

She said: “I’ve never sat there and thought ‘I wish I hadn’t done that’ and I’m so grateful to everyone who helps me.

“I love what I do. Many friendships have been made in my studio – we are a real community.”

Jane has now been teaching for 10 years in her studio, even during lockdown she continued to teach online.

She runs a range of activities that people of all ages can take part in, including aerial yoga, pole vault, aerial hoop, trapeze, aerial kids, bungee, yoga, Pilates and more.

Click here to find out more.

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