Co-founders Alexa and Ajaye talk to Nic Crosara about the business that’s giving back to the community and creating change
The Project PT is an Oxford-based personal training studio co-founded and led by WLW power couple Alexa and Ajaye. Inclusivity and giving back to the community are part of the organisation’s core values. I sit down to talk to the founders about their dynamic, their missions and where they hope to take the business from here.
DIVA: I’m excited to talk to you about The Project PT. But first, I want to know more about the couple behind the brand. Can you tell me how you both met?
Alexa: We actually met on Plenty of Fish back in the day. 12 years ago, maybe? And we spoke online probably for about a couple of months, or even longer, and we were both kind of dating other people in the meantime.
Ajaye: Woah, you’re getting really deep!
Alexa: [Laughs] And then we decided to meet, and Ajaye realised that I was amazing. That’s how it happened, wasn’t it?
Ajaye: It’s true.
I love that. And how long have you both been married?
Ajaye: Nearly eleven years.
And with the pandemic that’s actually equal to 50 years so congratulations!
Ajaye: It doesn’t feel like that at all. We met and moved in, and this is a really typical lesbian relationship. Are you ready? We moved in within six months. And then got married a year later. We got engaged and married within a month. And then got our kid three years afterwards.
Amazing! And Alexa, we have to talk about how you used to play football for England!
Alexa: It feels like a lifetime ago to be honest. I played the Under 16, Under 18s. I only played a couple of games with the seniors, and then got injured and decided that I didn’t want to play anymore. It’s so lovely watching some of the people I used to play alongside with.
Incredible. And what inspired you both to start The Project PT?
Alexa: We’d been talking about for a long time. I think it was Covid that gave us the push to actually do it.
Ajaye: We started the business a year before Covid happened. And we were just running events. We were both personal trainers and working in the fitness industry. Then the money that we raised from those events would go towards us working in primary schools and working with young children there.
And then the pandemic hit and everything stopped. But we didn’t want it to stop. So the night that Boris jumped on the TV, everything shut down on Wednesday, I was like “right, every Monday to Friday at 9am we’re going to teach kids”. It was a virtual reality type of thing for them to experience and we put it up onto Facebook. At the time on Facebook, we had a hundred followers or likes and within a couple of hours, we’d had a hundred people actually share the event itself. And then when it arrived on Monday morning, we had over 200 people sign in from all across Europe into our class. It was just amazing.
When Covid started to come to an end that first summer, we had an opportunity to move into our first little studio, which we rented off of Sweaty Betty. Within the first six months, we were shut down three times in lockdowns.
We’ve now got our second venue and 10 projects on the go at one time, and loads of different members and events. So it was just what was right at the time with the fact that society is changing so much all of the time. We had to be adaptable to make sure that the business could thrive.
Congratulations on all of your success. There are a lot of conversations at the moment about inclusivity in sport. What are your thoughts and how we can make sport and fitness more inclusive?
Ajaye: Visibility and accessibility. We’re actually running a project right now, which is a research project. It’s part of the legacy of the Commonwealth Games. It’s trying to understand why young girls entering into secondary school stop engaging in any type of physical activity.
We’re only part way through this project. But the research that we’re seeing right now is actually that young people don’t like team sports, they want a sport where it can be very individual. There’s so much anxiety and judgement, around sports and around physical activity that they want to be able to do something where they’re on their own.
Alexa: It’s about being able to say ‘I am what I am’ and feeling safe and enabled to do that. A lot more sports are starting to, however slowly, feel that they can do that.
What would you say is your core mission going forwards?
Ajaye: The goal is to have five sites in five years. So we’re at the starting points of that. But also, it’s very much progressing the social impact work that we’re doing. So we have a separate company that is an education company that we own as well. And that education company writes the qualifications for the courses that the young people do when they come to us. And so what we want to do is progress that further so that we’re able to actually offer
English and maths education at the same time within the same centre. So opening an
alternative provision school will be the next kind of step for us as well. And that will sit alongside opening a couple of satellite sites in low-socioeconomic spaces in Oxford and Bristol.
Before our time comes to an end, is there anything else that you’d like to address that we haven’t touched on yet?
Ajaye: I think one of our key things as a business and as human beings in the first place, is that the business that we’re running, where we provide gender neutral changing areas, where we celebrate the months that needs celebrating, where we provide a space for everyone to be able to come, it shouldn’t be a special business.
And the programmes that we run with the profits that we make, should just be what every business is doing. We don’t call ourselves a social enterprise. We believe that we’re just a business. All businesses should be doing that.
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