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Turning Dusty Spaces Into Green Gyms

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Tim Hogins’ concept of the outdoor gym is to make health and wellness accessible to all.

Tim Hogins was 11 and selling sweets on the streets when he would look longingly at the queues of people waiting to board the bus to the plush Sun City resort in South Africa.

It was a forbidden world of play and luxury and he was quietly determined to one day build one of his own everyone could access.

The former delivery boy and security guard who grew up in dusty Randfontein in South Africa is today the CEO of Green Outdoor Gyms (GOG), an outdoor health, wellness and lifestyle company growing in size.

A GOG lifestyle park in Lanseria, Johannesburg

When we meet him, the 39-year-old entrepreneur, who once sold koeksisters (sticky spicy treats), offers a table laden with sweets, savouries and fruit. Hogins helps himself to a slice of banana bread as he begins to tell his story.
“Growing up poor is actually a good thing. It gave birth to ambition, it gave birth to my desire to be successful,” he says.

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“The outdoor gym concept was born because I saw kids doing push-ups and pull-ups in the park.”
Hogins’ parents died when he was in his 20s. “That is where the Tim Hogins story started,” he says.
He invested capital with a friend to launch his pet outdoor gym project. GOG’s first park was in the township of Soweto.

“GOG is for the everyday person who cannot afford commercial and expensive gyms. It also doesn’t hinder the high-earning people from using it. South Africa is a family-oriented country, and soon we will have people at the gyms from all walks of life,” he says.

To date, GOG has installed 388 outdoor gyms in South Africa. The company has built two lifestyle parks in Gauteng with a third to follow at the end of the year.

“The health and fitness industry is the largest in the world and it grows year-on-year. I saw an opportunity from a health and fitness perspective. People want to live longer, they want to live healthier so they spend money on health and fitness,” says Hogins.

Growing up, he was no stranger to entrepreneurship.

“My dad was trying to survive. We had a café. But as you know a café does not make much money. On the side, he tried to do some construction, and my mom, because of the circumstances, decided to sell too. All my life my parents were selling something. My mom sold koeksisters and cakes; she became a caterer. There were always people at my house buying something, be it sweets, be it toffee apples…We sold whatever,” he recollects.

In his quest to build outdoor wellness areas, many a time it meant turning dusty pieces of land into landscaped spaces.

“In many instances, we literally transformed a dumping site into an outdoor gym. One instance you see a dumping site and the next you see kids on swings and gym equipment all around,” he says.

Engaging the community, GOG also uplifts the areas it operates in.

With hopes to list on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange next year, Hogins will give his staff an opportunity to invest in his vision.

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IN PICTURES | Truck Entrepreneur Drives Style Movement

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Collaborations are key for the development of Africa’s sports economy


On a busy road in Soweto, in the southwest of Johannesburg, taxis go about their daily drill, stopping to pick up passengers outside the apartment-tenements of Chiawelo. Here, a truck of a different kind is stationed next to an old container and a car wash.

It’s owned by Siyabulela Ndzonga, a small entrepreneur dabbling in fashion, who has turned it into a concept store, on wheels.

Ndzonga,who brands himself Siya Fonds (S/F) – after a nickname his mother gave him as a baby, has been associated with the South African Fashion Week and with reputed designers such as Ole Ledimo, the founder of House of Olé, and stylist and fashion guru Felipe Mazibuko.

I didn’t even study fashion but it’s interesting how I’m actually making an impact and contributing a lot in the fashion industry, says Ndzonga. 

It was around 2011, when he sold second-hand clothes on the trendy streets of Braamfontein in Johannesburg, where only the cool kids would hang out.

“I was big on thrifting; selling second-hand clothes. I would thrift, resell,thrift, resell.”

His hard work earned him a stall at one of the flea markets in Johannesburg. At this point, Ndzonga was still employed at a retail store. After work and on weekends, he would be hustling on Johannesburg’s streets, all for the love of fashion and because people loved his work.

Ndzonga saw a business opportunity, quit his retail job and registered his brand in 2013. Later that year, Toe Porn socks contacted him and requested he consult for them.

“Brand consulting means that I come in and take their clothes and use them to translate the current fashion trends, translate them to how I think [people]should be dressing in terms of fashion. I actually became a designer because I set trends before they would trend. I would set the tone, narrative and navigate where fashion should go in the whole world, not just in South Africa,” he says.

His fame slowly grew and he started making clothes for others, traveling by taxi to CMT (cut, make and trim) factories in Germiston, 42kms from his hometown. 

“In 2015, that’s when I really saw that I am growing as a brand and that’s when I started consulting for international brands like Palladium Shoes, Fila and Ben Sherman.”

The business grew but he had to travel to others parts of country and that exercise was taxing.

He stopped making clothes and paused his business.

“The whole of 2016, I focused on consulting and saved money to set up a truck. I needed a store so people could come in and purchase Siya Fonds from the truck. This whole thing of delivering is not me, I can’t do it,” says Ndzonga.

“I initially wanted a container, but the truck was a better, fresher alternative. I’m not the first to do it, but I’m the first in Soweto. I set it up and people love it because it’s bringing popular culture to Soweto. I had to trust myself that’s it’s going to work and it did.”

The truck had been lying unused when Ndzonga purchased it, and he overhauled it with a lick of paint and an infusion of color and character.

I got another truck to pick it up and bring it to the current location in 2016.

In March 2017, the truck was launched as a concept store and he called it Block 88, as it encompasses other brands as well.

“Business was not so great after the launch. It only picked up after a few months of selling a few international brands that I consult for. We had seven brands in the store.”

He sells t-shirts, caps, jackets and jumpsuits. A two-piece suit sells for R1,400 ($97).

The next step for Ndzonga is to have stores in all the neighborhoods in Soweto and major South African cities.

Since the inception of his truck, he has also injected some vibrancy into the community.

He organizes art development programs and conversations around social issues on Fridays outside the truck, gathering youth and children.

“Conversation Fridays is like TED-talks. It’s bringing conversations to the township instead of having them in the city or suburbs and speak about what creatives are facing in the creative space and industry,” he says.

Now, he works as a consultant with a consumer agency and collaborates on a number of brands, also doing research for them. As the hustle and bustle quietens down at sunset in Soweto, Ndzonga’s trendy truck shuts shop. Tomorrow will be another day as a beacon of hope and vibrancy on a Soweto street.


Siyabulela Ndzonga of Siya Fonds. Picture: 
Motlabana Monnakgotla

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