Former Black Stick Dwayne Rowsell, 27, discusses going into business, global chain ambitions and investing more than $1 million in setting up his fitness business.

What does your business do?

Studio Box is non-intimidating boxing-inspired group fitness. It is boxing-as-fitness in a dimly lit room, with a nightclub like sound system, lighting effects and custom playlists, an immersive concept, that anyone of all fitness levels can enjoy.

We can have up to 42 people per class and we use these special water punching bags which reduce the impact of the wrists and joints. We've had our studio open in Newmarket for three weeks and in that time more than 700 people come through. Our theory is we are not just wanting to teach people how to punch and get fit - we want Studio Box to become part of their lifestyle. We plan to open more studios in New Zealand and Australia.


What was the motivation for starting it?

Professional hockey was my background and so I'd always trained throughout my life and I've always been a big fan of fitness, and I'd seen friends drop in and out of gym memberships, not being held accountable and ultimately donating money to big-box gyms.

After my hockey career I boxed for a few years and got into personal training and saw what benefits that had on clients and so it was during that I found my passion and started thinking about how I could share this with as many people as possible in an offering that had never been seen before in New Zealand.

I got two business partners and we went over to New York to see a couple of concepts I had my eye on over there.

How big is your team?

There's 10 of us so far, myself and two others are full time, marketing and operations roles, and then we have two part-timers and four other trainers.

What's the potential for New Zealand's boutique fitness industry?

It's definitely developing. F45 has come in with a little bit of a bang, I think Barry's Bootcamp are going to come over here which is super exciting - their workout will be a great addition to the market here. I can't wait to see the fitness boutique gym here develop and see where it goes.


The whole idea is if you've paid a bit of a premium price because of the experience on offer the you are more likely to turn up and try hard because you're invested in it. People would be shocked at the amount of money they are paying the gym every time they go on holiday, are sick or every time they skip a session.

Inside Studio Box, a group fitness studio founded by former Black Stick Dwayne Rowsell. Photo / File
Inside Studio Box, a group fitness studio founded by former Black Stick Dwayne Rowsell. Photo / File

We've had calls from customers asking for a Studio Box in their area and this has proven the concept for us. We going to weigh up all options for expansion in New Zealand and Australia, but if we can be somewhere people travel to often, such as to Melbourne and Sydney, then it will be a real bonus. Wherever people want Studio Box we'll look in to it. We have not set plans as to where our second, third and fourth studios will go.

Is this the first time you've run your own business?

Yes, it's my first time in business. I've got two business partners, I'm the general manager running it and holding classes, and they are there to help me. I can't wait to see how fast we can grow Studio Box - we want studios all around the world.

Studio Box classes use water-filled punching bags, why so and where did you source those from?

We first saw them in New York and that's where we got them from. When you punch a water bag all of your power and energy is absorbed by the water and doesn't go up your arms like impact from a traditional boxing bag made of sand, it allows you to train more frequently and much harder with less wear and tear on your joints.

Studio Box specialises in boxing group fitness classes. Photo / Supplied
Studio Box specialises in boxing group fitness classes. Photo / Supplied

What's it like making the move from professional hockey to being in business?

My hockey career really taught me resilience and hard work and how important it is daily and that if I wanted to be selected for the Olympics it was going to take years of training. Unfortunately I fell short of the Olympics in Rio in 2016 but what I learnt along the way is definitely going to make my days in business a bit easier in some ways in the sense of resilience and that no one else is going to do the work for you. No one else is going to put in the work to make it successful.

What is Studio Box focused on this year?

Getting our concept out to as many New Zealanders as possible, and showing them that fitness can be done in a fun way. It costs $32 for a single class and then you can buy five, 10, 25 or 50 class packs which brings the price down to $26 per class.

What advice do you give to others wanting to start their own business?

If you're passionate about something and you have some persistence and you keep pushing forward with it, generally it will pay off and those doors will open for you.