Box to the beat of music at Spar Boxing

Box to the beat of music at Spar Boxing

Fitness duo Victoria Courtnall and Hayley Gustavson add to their exercise empire

  • Oct. 18, 2019 6:00 a.m.

– Story by Tess Van Straaten Photography by Don Denton

Stepping into SPAR’s downtown Victoria workout studio for the first time, I feel like I’m in a night club. And that’s exactly the point.

“We’re doing a ‘fight club meets night club’ atmosphere,” explains SPAR co-founder Victoria Courtnall. “You box to the beat of the music.”

“We want to make it as fun an experience for our clients as possible while still giving them a challenging, badass workout that gets the heart rate up and incorporates core and lower body exercises for a full body workout,” adds SPAR co-founder Hayley Gustavson. “It’s also therapy for some people because you can take your aggression out on the bag.”

The boxing-inspired group fitness studio opened in May, after Hayley and Victoria pedalled their way to success with two SPINCO studios. The pair, both Oak Bay High School grads, launched SPINCO Victoria almost three years ago and opened a second studio in Langford in January.

“We both wanted to get into the fitness world and we both had our own ideas about how that would look but we thought we’d be stronger together than apart and that’s definitely been true,” 29-year-old Hayley explains.

Both women played team sports growing up and are clearly passionate about fitness.

“I love going to the boutique fitness studios, which I think Victoria was definitely lacking. My husband (Bruce Courtnall) and I both do road cycling so I always was into cycling and spin as well,” the 32-year-old Victorian says.

“I think fitness just brings well-being to everybody’s life and it’s so enriching and enhancing and such a journey for everybody — and it’s different for everybody,” adds Hayley. “I’ve seen it be such a positive thing in my life, it’s hard not to be passionate about it.”

When they first started talking about going into business together, Hayley and Victoria punched out ideas on the boxing concept but say they settled on spin instead because it was the safer bet for their first foray into the fitness business.

“Boxing was somewhat untouched at the time, even in the US, so we thought let’s get into the market in Victoria with something that’s a proven concept and learn from that,” Hayley explains. “It’s great to be part of a franchise that has such great brand recognition across Canada right now and we got to figure out the nitty-gritty details of what it means to own a fitness studio.”

But even as they built the SPINCO business, they always had a bigger plan in mind.

“It was really important for Hayley and me, from the beginning, to have our own brand,” Victoria says. “We looked at developing spin on our own but I think it worked out really well to have the experience of the franchise and then build on that to branch out on our own.”

For Victoria, who was a mortgage broker, and Hayley, who had her own catering business in Kelowna, the biggest business challenge has been learning how to manage so many people.

“It was a part of the business we really didn’t expect to take up so much time,” Hayley explains. “But it’s been so lovely working with all of our trainers and front desk staff and we’ve brought friends onboard. Balancing those relationships has been a learning curve and you want to make sure everyone stays happy.”

“I think we’ve been able to overcome that by building an incredible team, over time, that embodies our vision and executes it on a daily basis,” Victoria adds, who says they learn something new every day. “The biggest thing we’ve learned through all of this is that there is always more to learn because the moment you stop learning, you stop improving and we constantly want to be improving.”

But the entrepreneurs, both young mothers, say by far the greatest challenge is the work-life balance and trying to grow their families while growing their business.

“In this period of starting the businesses, Hayley’s had two kids and I’ve had a baby and I’m pregnant again,” says Victoria, who is due with her second child in October.

“Literally, one of us has always been pregnant since we started this,” laughs Hayley. “So trying to find the balance between having a really amazing opportunity and career in front of us — being able to do exactly what we love — and being able to spend time with our families and nurture those relationships as well is a big balancing act.”

For Hayley, who’s married to business guru Peter Gustavson’s son, Matthew, having expert advice close at hand has definitely been a big help.

“I get really, really great business advice from my father-in-law,” she laughs. “Sometimes I like to think I might know more than I do, and then I realize he’s always right.”

So what’s the best advice he’s given her?

“To always think about working on the business and not getting tied up working in the business,” Hayley says. “Peter constantly wants us to grow and the only way to do that is to be working on the business and not in the business.”

For both women, marrying into famous families has been positive when it comes to name recognition, but it can also have its drawbacks.

“The Courtnall name brings a reputation of being athletic, so that’s certainly helped us, but people always just assume it’s our husbands’ business,” Victoria says. “They’re very supportive husbands but they’re not involved in the business.”

Giving back to the community is also important for Victoria and Hayley, who grew up here. Both businesses have a weekly charity class, with all the proceeds going to different causes. SPINCO’s is a ‘Spin it Forward’ ride and SPAR has ‘Punch for a Purpose.’

“It’s also a discounted class so people get a chance to try it for half price and they get to feel good about it because they’re helping a charity,” Victoria explains.

As this dynamic duo muscles their way to even greater success, they plan to take SPAR across the country. But they know it won’t be easy.

“A good friend of mine always says: ‘Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s the only way you learn and grow,’” Victoria says.

Check out Spar Boxing here and Spinco here.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

Health and wellnessLifestyleSports

Just Posted

The Port McNeill Fire Hall. (Port McNeill Fire Rescue photo)
Port McNeill Fire Rescue gets big financial boost from government

Port McNeill mayor Gaby Wickstrom was thrilled by the funding announcement

The river behind the ball field. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Pulled by the flow: river stirs up childhood memories

Gazette editor makes trek through Port Hardy wilderness to swim in the river

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Alert Bay council has decided to cancel Canada Day celebrations. (Alertbay.ca photo)
Alert Bay council cancels Canada Day celebrations

The decision was made in wake of the mass graves being found at former residential schools

A person stands in a tower on the perimeter of the Number 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021. Human rights groups and Western nations led by the United States, Britain and Germany accused China of massive crimes against the Uyghur minority and demanded unimpeded access for U.N. experts at a virtual meeting on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 denounced by China as “politically motivated” and based on “lies.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Schiefelbein
VIDEO: Trudeau demands truth from China about Uyghurs

PM says Canada has admitted broken Indigenous relationship, unlike China on Uyghurs

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, middle right, participates in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in honour of the launch of Kelowna’s plasma donor centre at Orchard Plaza Mall on June 22. From left to right: Canadian Blood Services’ business development manager Janna Pantella, Canadian Blood Services’ operational excellence manager Tyler Burke, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Canadian Blood Services’ centre manager Janine Johns. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
B.C.’s first dedicated plasma donor centre opens in Kelowna

The Kelowna location is the third dedicated plasma donor to open in Canada

Children walk with their parents to Sherwood Park Elementary in North Vancouver for the first day back to school on Sept. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Study reassures parents, teachers that COVID-19 infrequently shared at school

Federally funded study in Vancouver finds risk in the classroom and in the community identical

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday April 13, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Single-game sports betting about to become legal in Canada

Senate passes bill to take sports gambling away from overseas agencies

Point Roberts is part of the mainland United States but not physically connected to it, to reach the community by land one must pass through Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Closed Canadian border leaves Point Roberts’ only grocery store on verge of closure

‘We’re Americans but we’re not attached to America. It’s easy to forget we’re here,’ says owner Ali Hayton

The Somass Sawmill sits idle in early May 2021. While the kilns have been in use occasionally, and the lot has been used to store woodchips this spring, the mill has been curtailed since July 27, 2017. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni to expropriate Somass Sawmill from Western Forest Products

Sawmill has been ‘indefinitely’ curtailed since 2017

Robin Sanford and her fiance Simon Park were married in an impromptu ceremony at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on June 16. (Submitted photo)
Mom dies day after witnessing daughter’s hospital wedding in Abbotsford

Nurses help arrange impromptu ceremony in 3 hours for bride and groom

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. home owner grant won’t be altered, despite expert advice

Tax break for residences worth up to $1.6 million too popular

B.C. conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter said a black bear is believed to have killed local livestock. (THE NEWS/files)
Black bear believed to have killed miniature donkey in Maple Ridge

Trap set for predator that has been killing livestock

Most Read