From running a boutique gym to heading up an international sportswear brand and dressing some of the world’s biggest boxers, Sophie Whittam is one of the busiest names in Sheffield business. unLTD’s Brogan Maguire sat down for lunch with her to discuss fitness, discipline and running a global empire from the middle of the Steel City.
I was so excited to go for a proper chat with Sophie, as she’s someone I’ve admired for a long time but have never had chance to spend much time with.
Ironically, on the day I met her for lunch, I was still aching from doing two of the hardest classes of my life at her Box Barre gym just a few days earlier.
As I hobbled to my seat with the sorest hamstrings I’ve had in a long time, Sophie appeared looking glowy and glamorous, straight from her warehouse on Sharrow Vale Road.
Fight Label, Sophie’s primary business venture, sees her designing and making outfits for boxing legends like Anthony Joshua and Floyd Mayweather.
It’s a business that has taken her all over the world and seen her have some amazing experiences – as well as plenty of sleepless nights.
But the hard work and long hours are no trouble for Sophie, who has had her own business since she was a teenager and puts her success down to her fighting spirit and determination.
As she tucks into her salad (case in point!), she tells me: “When I’ve locked my mind onto something, I’m not going to stop. I was a figure skater growing up and that has given me the mindset to have the discipline to do whatever I need to do and to work for it. You get out of anything what you put in.”
It’s that thought process that she applies to fitness, too, and is what inspired her to open her own boutique gym right in the heart of Sheffield.
The luxury fitness centre is conveniently located in the up-and-coming Ecclesall Road South area and is one of the most amazing places I have ever been.
With a mixture of barre and boxing classes and a range of options for both strength training and cardio, you leave the gym with a huge rush of endorphins, feeling like you have worked every part of your body.
Not only that, but there’s state-of-the-art equipment, beautiful-smelling changing rooms with every product you can imagine (and GHD’s!) and a fresh juice bar serving up every healthy option you can think of.
“It’s Sheffield’s best kept secret,” Sophie says. “I’ve always loved fitness, for me it’s a lifestyle. When I’ve been in America I’ve been to some amazing boutique gyms where they live and breathe it, but there just wasn’t anything like that around here.
“I know people are busy, so I came up with a concept that’s both quick and effective. At Box Barre you can come and do a class that’s going to leave you feeling amazing – at a time that works for you – before having a lovely shower and going about your day feeling fresh and energised.”
I can definitely vouch for that – fitness has never looked so good!
Why Ecclesall Road South is the place to be
Ecclesall Road in Sheffield has always been a buzzing part of the city, but it’s not just the main strip which is a hive of activity.
The southern area of the street, past Endcliffe Park, has seen a number of new openings in recent years and is fast becoming the place to be.
From brunch spots like Marmadukes and Dysh to cool bars like Wildcard, The Dark Horse and Itchy Pig, the food and drink scene is absolutely thriving.
Whether you need a venue for a lunch meeting, date night or after-work drinks with colleagues, there is something for everyone on this street.
It is also where Sophie Whittam’s boutique gym Box Barre is located – making it the perfect place to start or end the day.
I’ve got to say, I’m not usually one to enjoy a workout on a Sunday morning, but I absolutely do not regret rolling myself out of bed a few weeks ago to take part.
I did two classes – one toning barre-sculpt and one more HIIT-style boxing – and I have never felt so strong, focused and accomplished (albeit sweaty and tired!).
The class environment spurred me on to do things I never knew my body was capable of and the trendy neon interior made me feel like I was an Instagram celebrity.
In just one morning I felt like I had worked harder than I usually would in an entire week of my normal gym routine.
I had plans afterwards but that was no problem, as the showers at the gym are absolutely amazing and feature everything from designer body wash to professional hair treatments. There are even hairdryers and straighteners, so you never have to worry about being in a rush!
Feeling fresh and revitalised – and smelling better than I ever have – I headed upstairs to Sophie’s juice bar to grab a post-workout treat.
Here you can enjoy juices, protein shakes and healthy light bites before going about your day.
And where better to spend the rest of it than perusing this fantastic area of Sheffield, checking out the amazing local businesses and taking a stroll in the park?