Joe Wicks' rags-to-riches story was propelled by his enthusiasm for fitness and a savvy mentor
But so few people turned up to his Rumble In The Park classes that he was unable to repay his parents the £2,000 they loaned him to take the instructor’s training course and buy the necessary equipment.
Today his fortunes could not be more different. Wicks, 30, can still see Richmond Tube from the window of the offices he rents across the road – but he now sits at the helm of a fat-loss empire that employs 50 people and made £12million last year.
He has produced three diet books that have sold more than 1.8million copies in the past 13 months, with his first title now the best-selling diet book since records began in 1998.
I kept posting, got a bit louder and cheekier and people started to relate to that.
What’s more, he hosted his first TV show last year on Channel 4 and his social media presence is second to none, with 1.6million followers on Instagram and 250,000 on Twitter.
“I took my mum to the office for the first time the other day,” he said.
“When she saw the building, she was so proud she cried. My mum, dad and nana can’t believe I’ve got this proper global company. Neither can I. Sometimes I go in and think ‘I’m the bloody boss!’”
His extraordinary success is based on a unique exercise and nutrition plan branded The Body Coach.
Convinced that traditional diets that called for people to live a life of self-denial were exercises in futility, he ditched the low-calorie approach in favour of a more liberal healthy-eating regime supplemented by a range of exercises that could be done at home.
It’s clearly a winning combination. Online sales of his 90 Day SSS (Shift, Shape and Sustain) plan have topped 110,000 and as each package costs £147 that represents more than £16million of turnover.
Wicks' fitness plan eschews traditional diets in favour of a more liberal healthy-living approach
So how did a failed park instructor pull off such a coup? Part of the answer lies in his exploitation of Instagram.
“When they started video in 2014, I began uploading motivational stuff about fitness and nutrition,” he says.
“It was just me in my kitchen, talking to myself basically. I didn’t know what I was doing but I kept posting, got a bit louder and cheekier and people started to relate to that. The community started to build.”
Meanwhile, his approach became more strategic under the tutelage of business mentor Bev James, author of the bestselling start-up guide Do It! Or Ditch It.
Wicks credits meeting mentor Bev James as a turning point in his career
“Without doubt meeting Bev has been the most pivotal and influential factor in my career,” Wicks is quoted as saying on Bev’s website.
“She turned me from a young guy with enthusiasm and ideas into a businessman with a strategy and a clear vision for my future.
“Bev said to me on day one, ‘Joe you’ll be a star and you will have your own cook book and TV show’. No one had ever had that confidence in me before.”
The feeling is obviously mutual.
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“I knew within a few meetings that Joe was destined for great things,” says James.
“He is so passionate about helping people succeed with healthy weight loss, it truly is infectious as his social media accounts prove. I have always seen Joe as the Jamie Oliver of the fitness world.”
Wicks’s winning personality and spectacular abs certainly make him a natural as a presenter.
He posts new HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workouts on his YouTube channel The Body Coach TV every week and has produced dozens of short cooking demonstrations for 15-minute dishes such as banana protein pancakes and peanut butter chicken noodles.
When his first cookbook, Lean In 15, came out in December 2015 it sold 77,000 in its first week – breaking a record previously held by Delia Smith – and is said to have been responsible for a 25 per cent increase in sales of tenderstem broccoli, one of its oft-featured ingredients.
Its follow-ups are also bestsellers and Wicks’s six-book deal with his publisher means that we can expect at least three more titles.
His first DVD, Joe Wicks – The Body Coach Workout, will presumably be followed by others too.
The price of this success is a hamster-wheel existence governed by the never-ending appetite for new content.
The hectic lifestyle of being a social media star played a part in Wicks' breakup
It is not unknown for Wicks to put out five tweets and post seven video clips before breakfast.
He once admitted that his hectic schedule played a part in the break-up of his 11-year relationship with his girlfriend Caroline last May but he has since been linked with glamour model Rosie Jones.
Perhaps understandably, this son of a roofer and a social worker from Epsom, who studied sports science at St Mary’s University in Twickenham, is struggling to come to terms with his remarkable success.
“I still pinch myself that I’ve gone from bootcamps and cooking in my kitchen with a few people watching online to becoming a bestseller!” he said in a statement.