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Boots to business

The men and women who commit to defending the nation are asking the community to support them post-service by getting behind veteran businesses.

With Australia’s largest Air Force base here in Ipswich, many service men and women choose to hang up their uniform and transition into the Ipswich community.

That is how it was for Sam Johnson who left the Army in 2018 after serving 14 years, the last eight of those as a Combat Fitness Trainer.

He started Healthy You HQ in 2018 which is a health and fitness company that provides personal training, sport coaching, HIIT classes, endurance coaching, yoga and healthy nutrition and advice.

“I was living in Springfield and working at RAAF Base Amberley in the Army when I decided it was time to make a leap of faith,” Mr Johnson said.

“Springfield wasn’t a saturated market in the fitness industry and it had a lot of opportunity for Allied Health partnerships.

“We’ve built great relationships with other local businesses and we help support each other.”

Instead of the usual approach, Mr Johnson wanted to do something unique.

“When I started the business I noticed a lot of other trainers had rented spaces that would not be used 70 per cent of the time,” he said.

“At the same time I had some funds that I was going to be investing in my business but I was a bit torn because I really wanted to buy a Kombi van.

“In a bolt of lightning moment I decided I could do both, so I combined them.

“I bought a Kombi, gutted it and then we kitted it out with purpose built dumb bell racks, kettle bell racks and a smoothie bar in the back.

“I was really happy with the way it turned out, to have a fun platform as opposed to just four walls and stereo.”

Perhaps it was Mr Johnson’s military training that helped him adapt and evolve during the coronavirus pandemic.

After reducing class sizes, Mr Johnson was forced to close operations during the height of the pandemic.

To help keep his clients physically and mentally healthy, Mr Johnson transitioned his business, offering group workouts, yoga and guided meditation online.

‘I am still offering free classes to all Victorians who are still under restrictions,” he said.

“We get feedback daily about the positive impact we are making on people’s lives.

“It’s a real sense of achievement and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Mr Johnson’s story is being told as part of the Buy Veteran digital campaign.

Prince’s Trust Australia and the Veteran Community Business Chamber launched Buy Veteran, a fifteen-week digital campaign designed to showcase the diversity of veteran-community businesses and inspire veterans and their families to explore self-employment.

Stories from the campaign are featured online and via Instagram.

To date, there are more than 100 veteran and ADF family businesses in Prince’s Trust Australia’s Enterprise network.

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