Turning dusty spaces Into green gyms

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.

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.

“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.