After moving back to Rwanda in 2015, Yannick Ntwali founded the SoHo fitness centre late last year.
The fitness centre, located in Niboye a few minutes drive from Simba Supermarket in Kicukiro, focuses on group fitness.
“I decided to come up with a place that would give people a taste of boxing, and other fitness programmes. Then it led to other classes like boot camp, aerobics, and yoga. We are targeting fitness disciplines for people who want to lose weight, build muscle or those who just want to be generally fit,” he said.
Ntwali approached Malik Shaffy who was already in the health business as co-owner of Chap-Chap restaurant in Kigali. The restaurant's specialty, liffaa, also known as chapati wraps, is popular because of its affordability.
“Whatever is on our menu usually costs less than what other restaurants around us offer. Our prices range between Rwf1,500 ($1.8) and Rwf4,000 ($ 4.9), with extras,” Shaffy said.
Chap-Chap by SoHo is located on the rooftop of the fitness centre.
Ntwali, 28, and Malik, 29, have been friends for a long time.
“The reason I came back to Rwanda from the UK was because of Malik; his passion for what the country was doing gave me motivation to come and do something I was skilled in,” said Ntwali.
Malik was studying hospitality in the UK, and wanted to bring the knowledge back to Rwanda.
“We are like brothers; our parents and grandparents knew each other. Working with people who share the same beliefs and values helps to build a business,” Malik said.
At SoHo, Chap-Chap developed a specific menu to focus on health.
“We try to fit into the niche we are in through the aesthetics of the restaurant and the menu. What we offer here is slightly different from our first branch in Nyamirambo,” said Malik.
The 580 square metres interior can hold 80 people at a time.
It’s a whole package, coming to SoHo for a workout and then downstairs for food to energise you.
“We try our best to give nutritious food. The fitness complements everything you do before eating, whether it is regulating weight or being fit,” added Malik
Customer rates range from monthly to yearly subscriptions.
“A regular membership goes for Rwf32,000 ($39) per month, but we can reduce prices for a large group. We plan to offer discounts later in the year,” said Ntwali.
“People ask for machines, but we are a fitness club and it’s not about lifting weights but about knowing how to use your body to achieve your goals,” added Ntwali, who has never lifted weights but looks like someone who has.
“We want people to achieve the most out of motivating surroundings. We also talk about the benefits of fitness such as stress relief and pain relief,” said Ntwali.