Young Business Profile: Dale Hansford


“BEING a boss and not having to answer to anyone but yourself is the best thing about being in business.”

This is how 24 year old Dale Hansford responded when I put the question to him at Maine Fitness in Castlemaine, of which he is co-owner.

“It’s also about pride and the satisfaction you’ve created something,” he adds.

A passion for sport influenced Dale to undertake a Bachelor Degree in Exercise Science at the University of Ballarat.  Upon graduation in 2013 he immediately set up business as a personal trainer in Melbourne.  By early 2015 he was lured back to his home town to start up a new business, Maine Fitness, with co-owner and childhood friend, Edward Coulthard.  

Simultaneously, Dale relocated his initial business from Melbourne setting up a complimentary part-time business in Castlemaine, Maine Soft Tissue Treatment. 

“I treat muscular skeletal problems,” Dale clarifies in response to my puzzled look. “Better than a physio and similar to a chiropractor.”

It suddenly becomes clear why he invests so much money each year in continued professional development that he believes is essential to remain at the top of your chosen industry.

I am both impressed and intrigued.  Documented research has suggested that young people who have a business person in their family or close circle of friends are more likely to go into business.

Dale makes no mention of whether his mother owning a retail business has been an influence or not.  With a Degree to his name, Dale says it was generally accepted that most graduates in this particular industry become sole traders and he was more than happy to follow this path.

Despite this knowledge, Dale elected not to participate in any business units during his time at Secondary College or University and has instead learnt the required business skills along the way.

“It’s worked well for me simply copying what other really successful businesses in this industry have done.  Learning more about the legal side of business would have been useful though,” he admits.

One thing he does value from his school days is maths.  “I use fractions in my work all the time. It’s great to be able to work out figures easily and quickly.”

The transition from sole trader to co-owner of a start-up new company with employees required a lot more planning and capital.

Their first challenge was to prepare a proposal to convince their future landlord that they were worthy of taking over the proposed gymnasium in the building that was already being fitted out for this purpose.

“We took educated guesses on what would happen as a start-up,” explains Dale.  “It was still playing the odds but we were as conservative as we could be.”

Planning took the form of informal discussions over a meal in each other’s homes.  Even one year after the business has opened and employing three staff, the two partners still tend to chat informally when the need arises.  “I hate formal meetings,” Dale grimaces.

By working hard and diligently saving, Dale and Edward had already managed to accumulate a modest capital base to meet the start-up requirements.

“As much as I wish we had the money to purchase everything outright, we kept our costs to a minimum by leasing the building and the equipment.”

 With sufficient capital in hand and a supportive landlord who thought their business proposal was well presented, it was all hands to deck to put their plans into action.

Marketing expenses were kept to a minimum with the power of social media harnessed to their benefit.  A Facebook page drummed up interest in the opening and secured them over 20 memberships in advance providing some much needed cash flow.  Now that they are open word of mouth recommendations continue to generate further referrals. 

Having just celebrated its first anniversary Maine Fitness has now grown to 220 members and Dale is very happy with what they’ve achieved.  While they are still both working long hours he looks forward to a time when they can step away from the business more.

“We’re definitely on track.”

READ more about Maine Fitness "Young Start-Ups: It never hurts to ask!"

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KERRY ANDERSON:  A businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry Anderson is passionate about rural and regional Australia.  She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace opportunities.