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Ex-Welsh rugby stat tries new gym venture
29 Sep 2009
Russell Smith, with David Bolton of Venture Wales and club member, boxing champion Bradley Pryce
Ex-Welsh rugby star hopes to turnover career and cash with gym venture
An ex-rugby international whose promising career was ended through injury has triumphed over adversity by starting his own business, with help from Venture Wales - and is on target to turnover £120,000 in his first year.
Russell Smith, 28, from Newport, played open side-flanker for Wales Under-16s, Under-19s and Ebbw Vale RFC, before dislocating both his knees in separate incidents.
Lasting damage ended Russell’s hopes of playing rugby at the highest level.
Not one to dwell on ‘what could have been’, Russell set himself a new challenge to open a successful business.
And with the help of Wales’ leading business support agency Venture Wales, he has made his dream a reality by opening Exert in Abercarn, just yards from the gym where boxing legend, Joe Calzaghe was trained by dad Enzo.
Despite the difficult economic climate, Russell has attracted and retained almost 200 members by offering top quality facilities and special discounted rates to help people during the recession.
Exert has five professional employees with plans to employ more this year. Staff configure fitness programmes for both sexes and all ages and abilities on the latest cardiovascular and weight training equipment, made bespoke by a specialist company in Manchester.
Exert’s members include ex-WBA Calzaghe-trained champion Gavin Rees and Bradley Pryce, both school friends of Russell, who is also a professional cage fighter.
Russell said: “I used to play rugby with Welsh internationals Ryan Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Dwayne Peel and Alex Popham, so you can imagine I was devastated when injury ended my rugby career.
“But I knew I had to pick myself up and move on with my life. It’s been a lot of hard work setting-up Exert but it’s all been worth it and my family and friends have been incredibly supportive. I’m also really grateful for all the help I’ve received from Venture Wales,” he added.
David Bolton of Venture Wales, the country’s leading business support organisation for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) throughout Wales, helped Russell to devise a business plan, and make key contacts, as well as provide general management, accounting, and marketing training and advice.
Phil Cooper, Venture Wales’ chief executive, said: “Russell has shown real character and determination to get to where he is today he’s turned disappointment into a success story.”
He added: “Entrepreneurs need to be tough, resilient, focused and persistent. Russell has all these qualities and with his confident predictions on turnover and job creation, I’m sure Exert will go from strength-to-strength.”
For more information about Venture Wales please contact tel: 0845 0453 150; or visit the website at: www.venturewales.com; For more information about Exert, please visit the website at: www.exert-ltd.com