Donna Ahern talks to Aidan Roche, founder, owner and CEO of DEFIANT Water and Feel Fit Gyms.
How would you describe your role?
For the gyms, my role is to ensure that all plans are being implemented, from the top to the bottom, whether it be managing finances, getting new premises, or making sure the gym is sparkling clean.
For our pure-water brand, it is totally different.
It is about building a trustworthy and healthy alternative brand, and trying to open new doors to retail while educating the public.
With my health and fitness background, it makes it a small bit easier.
What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
It was a paper round at age 14. It was a two-hour job – I would get up at 5am and then head off to school for the day.
I learned that you have to work hard for what you want.
What do you enjoy most about your current job?
With the gyms, it’s seeing people change and getting confidence.
I am a big believer in self-growth.
With the water, it is the education behind the brand, and the water itself.
When people hear the logic of it, you see them question water and what it is they are actually consuming.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I can see myself with a chain of gyms. I currently operate three Feel Fit venues, and discussions have already started on opening a fourth and a fifth.
With DEFIANT Water, I expect us to be leaders in Ireland and the UK in purified water and purified functional waters.
The change is happening now, and we are the first to do it. In five years’ time, it’s a real possibility.
What is your advice to people starting out in the industry?
When you are building a product or brand, you have to believe in it because there are some highs and some terrible lows.
When the lows come, you need to believe that the product will bounce back.
What was your worst job, and what was so bad about it?
I haven’t worked at any jobs that were awful. I enjoyed them all, as I see most things as a means to an end, or a goal worth achieving.
What do you think that the government could do to help business in the current climate?
They could give entrepreneurs access to some funding. I say this because I haven’t received any as a start-up, and banks and other lenders are very conservative.
What three business people do you most admire, and why?
Phil Knight, creator of Nike. I admire his resilience and his never taking no for an answer.
For him to be turned down so many times and have so much debt – and to break into a flooded market to create the iconic brand that is Nike – makes him and his story truly incredible!
Simon Sinek, a business consultant who majors in ‘the long game’ and having an open mind.
His book, The Infinite Game, is worth a read.
Elon Musk – love him or loathe him, this man is thinking on a different level, and he blows my mind with his far-sighted plans for the future.
What advertising campaign have you most enjoyed in recent months?
Any brand advert you remember has to be good, so the Haribo ones with the funny voices is worth a mention!
If you could bring back one product that is no longer available in Ireland, what would it be?
Sweets and treats from my childhood – Roy of the Rovers bars, [Desperate] Dan bars, and Banshee Bones crisps, to name a few.
What was your favourite grocery brand when you were growing up?
My mum shopped in Dunnes Stores all the time, so Dunnes’ own-brand staples would have made up most of our meals.
Who would come to your ideal dinner party (living or dead)?
I am enjoying learning about business and what different people believe constitutes success in life, so Jordan B. Peterson, Eckhart Tolle and Simon Sinek would be interesting because of their different perspectives.
Then I’d have Roy Keane, to lighten things up, and Ed Sheeran, to entertain us!
What is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?
I have learned the following myself, through experience – “Don’t be afraid of failure. Fail, and fail fast, and get better.”
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My kids take up most of my time, but I play golf, football, and paddle tennis.
How much time do you spend on social media in an average week?
Not much – I don’t have time to spare!
Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?
With which fictional character do you most identify?
Most likely to say ...?
“Just get on with it.”
Least likely to say ...?
“It’s not fair” – there’s no point in moaning!