Former Western Bulldogs sharpshooter Tory Dickson is ready to kick goals in the business world after investing in Boutique Fitness Studios, which have acquired exclusive rights to introduce CycleBar, StretchLab and Rumble to Australia and New Zealand.
Dickson sat down with AFLPA Content Manager Ben Guthrie to chat about his ownership in the business, his transition from football and his nine-year AFL career that included a famous premiership.
Ben Guthrie: Tory, can you give me some insight into Boutique Fitness Studios and how you became involved?
Tory Dickson: One of my best mates introduced me to Matt Gordin, the CEO of Boutique Fitness Studios. We had a conversation where I told him I’m always looking for investments and opportunities, so he sent me a brief.
Before getting drafted, I was a Personal Trainer. I did a lot of PT work and played VFL while working for my Dad. So the fitness path is where I was always interested in going down, in some form or another.
I had a detailed look at what Matt presented. At the time Boutique Fitness Studios had only just secured the master franchise for CycleBar which is a premium indoor-cycling workout from the States.
Not long after Matt worked out an agreement for StretchLab, which is another fitness concept from the States.
StretchLab got my attention because there was nothing else like it around. I remember when I was doing personal training, all my clients loved being stretched before and after a session. As an athlete, I knew the importance of looking after your body, and I recognised there was a huge gap in the market.
People are focused on their health these days — mental and physical — so I thought Boutique Fitness was a good investment. StretchLab really grabbed my interest, I thought it had a chance to really take off. It’s a fitness modality that accommodates a broad range of people, from athletes chasing recovery to older people just wanting to work on their flexibility and mobility.
I really liked the concept and what Matt was building, so I invested in Boutique Fitness Studios. They were the two exclusive franchise agreements initially acquired, CycleBar and StretchLab.
The most recent brand we’ve brought on board is Rumble Boxing, which has been in the market for a year now with 32 territories sold to date.
Since the acquisition, Rumble studios are flying out the door. To date we’ve signed 32 Rumble studios, 19 CycleBar studios and 11 StretchLabs.
BG: They’re opening up on the Gold Coast as well, are you trying to take it Australia-wide?
TD: The franchise agreement is exclusive to all of Australia and New Zealand. A lot of the Rumble studios are signed in Sydney, but we have a couple of CycleBar and StretchLab studios already running in Perth, a CycleBar running in Brisbane and one opening in Sydney early next year as well as a StretchLab opening in Sydney before the end of summer.
I’ve also been part of opening up a Rumble studio in Melbourne. My brother-in-law, James Pattinson (former Australian and Victorian cricketer), Jake Stringer (Essendon forward) and Tom Papley (Sydney forward) have also come on board with Boutique Fitness Studios.
BG: You said you were a PT before you got drafted. As you were approaching your transition out of the AFL, did you feel as though that was a path you wanted to go down?
TD: Initially I thought that. I loved the training side of things and thought my people skills would benefit me in that industry. I think I’m fairly easy to talk to and can deal with most personalities, so I really enjoyed the social aspect of being a PT.
The longer my AFL career went on, the more I thought I probably wouldn’t go back to personal training, but I saw myself being involved in fitness in some way. It’s what I’m passionate about. Being able to combine my PT qualifications with business experience and having control of my own studio down the track really interests me.
BG: You’ve got that business experience as well, did you get any experience throughout your footy career that built towards that or did it come naturally having worked with your Dad in the businesses that he runs?
TD: I completed a Building Surveying degree when I was young, so when I got picked up as a 24-year-old I had those qualifications under my belt. I also learnt a lot working alongside my Dad who’s in the steel construction industry. He builds jails for a living, which is pretty niche! He gave me a lot of guidance and showed me the business ropes. I learnt a lot about his operations and it’s held me in pretty good stead for today. Business opportunities, business development, negotiations, that side of things is a lot easier to understand.
In the early days, there were a couple of investment opportunities I was offered where I had meetings with some interesting people. You learn going through those chats and meetings whether or not you think an opportunity is the right valuation. I almost invested money in a few different ventures but didn’t think they were the right fit for me.
Boutique Fitness Studios was the fourth or the fifth one I looked into and when you know, you know. When you’re passionate about something and think it’s a wicked opportunity, you go after it.
BG: What do you hope comes of this in terms of opportunities for AFL players? You mentioned before that you’re keen to get some ambassadors on board. Is this an opportunity for players to train in a high-intensity environment in the off-season, and in-season with StretchLabs as well?
TD: It doesn’t matter whether players are in-season or off-season, I highly recommend StretchLab for proper one-on-one assisted stretch sessions. You just can’t achieve the same stretch by yourself as compared to someone doing the stretch for you.
At CycleBar you are guaranteed a good workout. It’s high-intensity but low-impact which reduces risk of injury, but torches calories and really gets your heart rate up there. All AFL clubs do bike sessions these days and our studios all have more than 40 bikes so you could get a whole club into one session. The bikes are also connected to A/V which displays your performance on TVs in the room and makes things really competitive.
Aside from the health and fitness benefits of actually using these studios, there’s also plenty of opportunity for players from a business perspective. From entrepreneurial opportunities owning and operating a studio to retirees wanting to invest their money in a business. Right now there are plenty of opportunities to open a studio with good territories still available across the country given it’s all just started out. It’s new and fun, so you’re not missing the boat there.
BG: Reflecting on your AFL career, and your journey being drafted as a 24-year-old, do you think that late start helped you perform straight away?
TD: I tend to agree with that. It’s a while ago now when I was first drafted but as an 18-year-old I remember I felt like I should’ve been drafted. The disappointment of not being picked probably made me work harder to get myself into good nick. AFL life is short, so if I’d been drafted as an 18-year-old, I might not have had the same career. I may not have developed quickly enough or been given the same chance to prove myself.
I’d hope that I would have been under an AFL list, but I look at it as, I was developed, I had life experiences, and I was 24 coming onto the list. I probably had a year or two to make an impact, and I did.
BG: What was it like playing for the Bulldogs? It was an extraordinary list profile for a premiership and you obviously had some talented young players coming through, so you must’ve enjoyed that team environment.
TD: We weren’t too successful in the early days, and we had to work hard for our wins when I first started. It was a bit easier to get a few games here and there with a side that wasn’t really established. Sometimes in the really good teams it’s impossible to get a game, you could be banging the door down and still not get a game. It was nice to get early games and know that you can play from your first year.
2015 was probably the one when things started to change. We made the finals and got knocked out against Adelaide, but something really special was building. We had a tight-knit group, everyone was very close. That grew in 2016. We had a hill to climb in the 2016 finals with West Coast in Perth for week one, but it flowed on after that win. I think that’s what happened this year with Melbourne, they look so tightly knitted. They’ve got a few superstars there, but everyone plays their part.
BG: Based on stats, you were the third-most accurate kick at goal since 1965. What’s the secret to success in front of goal?
TD: I just blank everything out. Too many players think about it too much. I don’t care if I miss, it is what it is. I had one time in my career where there was noise upstairs, it was probably against Hawthorn in a semi-final where I missed the first three shots. It was like a little man in my head going, ‘You’ve got to kick this next one’. That’s probably why players miss, it forces them away from their routine. To me, it all just comes down to the ball drop, kicking through the ball. If you can get those things in order, majority of times it’s going to go through.
BG; Thanks for the chat, Tory, and all the best with Boutique Fitness Studios.
TD: Thanks, Ben.