Hello. Long ago I tried to go to a gym(nasium). I hated it. Everyone knew exactly what they were doing and only acknowledged my amateur status by laughing or telling a member of staff a child had entered without a parent or guardian. I wanted a gym where you could go in, people were friendly and no one had a tattoo on their face. In this safe space no one was allowed to Instagram their workout and no one could be too attractive.
A gym for me. A place where the weak and the meek could come and learn how to lift weights and run safe from the ridicule and persecution that we faced in normal life. Throughout my life I’ve occasionally been called a ‘soft lad’ and reclaimed that phrase in my branding and swore to wear it as a badge of honour from here on in. Thus Soft Lad Gyms was born. It was, to my chagrin, previously called Fanny Gyms until a friend of mine pointed out the link between the word ‘fanny’ and the idea of being a weakling is not necessarily the strongest one.*
Like all great ideas I told it to people as if it was a joke initially. Then if they laughed I could carry on pretending it was a joke and my apparent sincerity would only enhance that joke (I stole this technique from a friend of mine who told me at the age of seventeen that he wanted to be a professional dancer). This proved largely academic as for everyone one person who spat out their drink in mirth there were TWO who said : “wait a minute, that’s actually a great idea. Why are there windows at gyms? You are great and not an idiot, a disappointment to your parents or an inadequate lover.”
This feedback was enough to make me proceed with Soft Lad Gyms seriously. However, immediately I met set backs. I tried securing investment (in exchange for equity) from my friend, an idiot. He outright refused; presumably because he’s scared he may one day achieve something and will then have less to moan about. I also tried texting my Dad with the aim of securing investment but had to wait a week for a reply which read “who’s this?” After failing to convince angel investors that it wasn’t (a) a Ponzi scheme or (b) a shit idea, I realised something. The internet has changed things and there is now a place for ideas too radical and brilliant to secure investment in the traditional manner – crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding is a system wherein normal people support ideas or people with small amounts of cash for apparently no other gain than to offset their own guilt. There are countless websites which offer the service of crowdfunding; I’m sure your familiar with most from people begging at the beginning and end of podcasts. After some research I landed on a site called Indiegogo. I read the GoogleAd (“How New Entrepreneurs Start”) and the What We Do page on their website (“With both live crowdfunding campaigns and innovative products shipping now, there’s no better place to start the hunt for cool and clever innovations that surprise and delight. Indiegogo is where new launches“) I decided this was the perfect place for the new Steve Jobs (me) to launch my brilliant idea.
After spending four hours writing up my entire scheme on Indiegogo** they swiftly rejected my target amount. They also had some pretty scary legalese when describing the refund process and it looks like you keep/have to use the money even if you don’t reach the target (and whilst I was confident in the business I didn’t want to go to prison). As such I deleted my account and hide under a duvet for 45 minutes.
After that brief timeout I returned to Kickstarter. I had dismissed it initially as it’s website says it’s just for creative endeavours and not businesses but I was running out of time and sick of searching. I began in earnest. It’s complicated doing a crowdfund so follow me every step of the way.
Initially you need to choose your Title and Subtitle.
The Title speaks for itself. I also repeated the Title in the Subtitle to reinforce the brand immediately. I then followed it with “a safe gym – built with you in mind.” I know this is already linked to a brand but for the life of me I can’t remember which one. It’s also one of those brilliant empty terms brands use that essentially mean nothing but can influence the soft of mind.
Next up was Project Category and Sub-Category.
For Project Category I had to put Technology and for Sub-Category I had to put Makerspaces. I have no idea what that means. Unless we’re making better people? Yeah? Nevertheless it was the closest fit I could find to what we were doing. I suppose that’s partly what makes it a fantastic idea – it simply defies categorisation.
What followed was Project Logo.
This was knocked up pretty quickly. Luckily as well as being an artist by other definitions, I’m also a tremendous artist in the proper meaning. I plan to be a hands on CEO and creative all-round business wanker as soon as this takes off. As such the above logo took only three minutes. That might sound like it’s untrue but I assure you it is. I used the image of a flower and a dumbbell to represent a SOFT LAD and a GYM respectively and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s breathtaking.
The next section was Project Video (Optional). I think I’ve made it abundantly clear so far that as a business man I will not be cutting corners.
This was one take and largely from the heart as I firmly believe in this idea. I have suffered greatly at the hand of the traditional gym and would like very much for this to succeed/would like to retire early.
Now we come to Environmental Commitments (Optional). As just mentioned I will not be cutting corners. Having said that, I realise it’s fashionable to be environmentally sound lately but we here at Soft Lad Gyms and its subsidiaries will NOT be taking the environment into account. In fact we aim to scorch as much earth as possible on our way to the top.
The compromise reached was to tick Something Else as an environmental commitment before describing the practices as “Soft lads [sic] going to the gym.***”
Up next was the About section. This has copied the format from poorer crowdfunding site ‘Indiegogo’ as I’d already spent a lot of time on it. It should be fairly self-explanatory but if you have any questions please stop me in the street and ask or, failing that, come to my flat in the brief interludes between visits from Christian cults****.
SOFT LAD GYMS
Are you a weakling or fatty? Here’s the gym for you. No judgement, no cameras, no laughing.
Do you, like me, yearn to go to the gym? Do you, like me, start crying on the rare occasions you enter a gym?
We have the place for you. SOFT LAD GYMS aims to reclaim fitness for those who need it most. Weakling, fatties, vulnerables. You are the people who need the gym most. Not people on Instagram or men with face tattoos.
We here at SLG want to create a gym for beginners. Somewhere you can come and learn how to gym – free from ridicule and judgement.
Who we are
Hello. We’re SOFT LAD GYMS (SLG for short)! You may have heard of us. We were previously known as Fanny Gyms before it was pointed out this was sexist.
Throughout my life I’ve been called a ‘soft lad.’ I’ve decided to reclaim the word and use it as the cornerstone for my business empire.
Soft Lad Gyms aim to reclaim the world of fitness for those who need it most. Self-obsessed gym fanatics have made the world of fitness a no-go for people like me. Enough is enough.
We don’t want gyms with windows. We don’t want people taking photos for Instagram. We don’t want people laughing or pointing when we select the lightest gym/drop it on our foot.
What we need
I’ll be perfectly transparent here – I don’t know squat about business. This is very much an exercise in testing the water. You may have noticed that many focused business people also go to the gym so once I’m able to I’m sure my business acumen will improve.
- I have run some numbers and believe we need between £500,000 and £8 million pounds.
- The perks are non-existent as we don’t actually have anything to provide at time of writing. Please disregard this as I can’t launch without perks. There are now perks. See the section marked ‘Rewards’.
- I can’t envisage not securing the full £8 million and as such will not entertain such an idea
Donate and together we can make fitness available for those who need it.
This will also double as a press release when the time comes.
Next came Funding Goal.
I set this at an ambitious but achievable £8 million. This was undoubtably why the cowards at Indiegogo rejected this once in a lifetime opportunity. The problem was I don’t know how much this shit costs – I need to make sure I can afford to do it (badly) if for some horrendous reason I succeed. When applying for the Apprentice I failed to account for my plan succeeding and it will haunt me to my early grave.
Some people have said this is stupid. I’d like to use this opportunity to say that they am themselves stupid and are craven weasels who will never amount to anything.
Following swiftly was Rewards.
This did admittedly get a bit silly but I was not allowed to launch the campaign until I put some rewards and was also getting quite bored of my new life as a mogul. I was going to put a horrendous description for the signed photo of CEO Tom Ratcliffe (i.e. me) which I won’t mention here but involved the words splayed and bottom. In the end I described the piece as “a lovingly recreated picture of beloved CEO and founder Tom Ratcliffe MBE.”***** The price (a bargain) in the screenshot of £100000 was also rejected, as the upper limit is £8000. The picture is available for £8000. They were also, unfortunately, limited to a mere 1000 copies, not available to be shipped and would be available as early as May 2023.
Next came the wonderful “A free go on the moving floor thing.” For those of you who haven’t watched the pledge video or aren’t insane, I’m referring to a bit of floor at the gym which is on a conveyer belt (at time of making the Kickstarter I didn’t know that it was called a Running Conveyer. I apologise). As it moves people run and it gives the impression of running a great distance whilst actually only using a small amount of space. The description was as follows “one free go, for a discretionary time period, on that bit of floor they have in normal gyms that allow you to simulate running a great distance whilst actually not moving in terms of physical space.” This unfortunately had to be pushed back until December 2023 as I can’t guarantee the full functionality of these imagined facilities until then. Also, as this would doubtless cause wear and tear to my new machines, places were limited to 50. No shipping.
Before we get to the messy world of the finances I had to add my Profile for the About Us page.
I used my real name (Tom Ratcliffe) and an unflattering photo of me from a terrible day out at Stone Henge. For my biography I put “Tom is a fitness fanatic. Or at least he would be if he could feel comfortable in a gym. Join him, as he changes the world of fitness forever. He also enjoys going to the cinema and walks on the beach. “ I don’t enjoy those things incidentally but Kickstarter assured me that this biography would look great on my profile. I’ve found fitness/business people also like to put bland things like that to try and humanise themselves in spite of the overwhelming evidence that they are scum.
After setting the length at 10 days (it shouldn’t take longer than 30 seconds to realise how great an idea this is), I verified who I was, uploaded my bank account information, shit myself quickly and quietly as it all became real, and waited.
36 HOURS LATER…
Right, everyone can fuck off.
Well the world of tech has changed. Apparently it’s no longer populated by people who are scared of gyms/can tell a great idea from a bad one. If this was in the 80s, before computers became important, those geeks would’ve been backing my project themselves.
As I’ve always suspected people are stupid and wrong. They clearly can’t see a great idea when they’re presented with one and don’t care how much time you’ve spent doing something. How these people have the front to group this idea with “fitness centres [and] training facilities” is beyond me. That’s like calling the iPod ‘essentially another Walkman’.
So fuck Kickstarter and fuck you for reading this. This isn’t the end. This is just the beginning. I won’t rest until I can feel comfortable in a gym and I’m certainly not going back to the therapist, Dad.
*Please don’t Google Fanny Gyms or any composite of those words. None of the content featured on the various domain names is made or endorsed by me.
**Incidentally Indiegogo is shit. It took me nearly an hour to format my logo for them and then it was pixelated.
***I’m not entirely sure what [sic] means. As such I’ve taken it to mean ‘this isn’t a real/defining word or phrase.’ Soft Lads are in the title of the business empire but by no means are we restricting our market.
****Some Christians knocked at the door just before Christmas and started reading the Bible to me. I politely listened. When they’d finished the asked me if they could come back some time. When I lied that I finished work at 9.30pm every day they said they would come back on a Saturday. Since then they have visited fortnightly to read more of the Bible to me and I now cancel deliveries for Saturdays, don’t answer the door to anyone and leave the curtains drawn until 7.00pm.
*****I figured, by the time May 2023 rolls around, I will almost certainly be the Jamie Oliver of weaklings and as such honours will be imminent.******
******I’ve just read about Jamie Oliver’s restaurants. Please be assured the above comparison was purely based on Oliver’s attention-seeking humanities work. I will not be bankrupting any businesses.