Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

Shahina was intimidated by mainstream gyms – so she set up a ladies-only gym in Canton

This week we want to introduce you to a superpowered small business owner … who set up her own gym in Canton. Meet Shahina, and welcome to Haya Fitness!

So my name is Shahina Ahmed and I am originally from London, Westminster where I worked in retail. I was manager of Tie Rack, which sadly closed down not long after I left to move to Cardiff. I am not saying there is a connection … but it is a coincidence.

I had never come to Cardiff before meeting and marrying my proud Welsh husband Mo. We met online and hit it off straight away. After marrying I decided to move to Cardiff, at the time Mo had just started a graduate job and couldn’t move to London.

That was 13 years ago. My first memories of Cardiff were all how green it was and how much more space there was compared to London. The first place I visited was Tesco Western Avenue because that’s how lame Mo is (talk about romance!).

I moved to Mynachdy and have stayed put here. We love being amongst the community of the place. I have also done so much sightseeing I could be a tour guide but having kids you have to find ways to keep them entertained.

My favourite places in Cardiff differ depending on what I am doing, if it’s hanging out with Mo then it has to be City Road. It’s vibrant and energetic. Mo and I are both Muslim, and City Road offers loads of Halal and Muslim friendly places (plus Mo seems to know every restaurant and shop owner so they give us the VIP treatment wherever we go). With the kids I love St Fagans, the Museum and Cardiff Story Museum – they keep the kids entertained but  are so educational – so they are always learning. I also think it’s really important the kids build their Welsh identity, and these places help with this.

About a year ago, I opened Haya Fitness Ladies Only Gym. I was a gym novice but wanted to get fit and healthy again after I had had kids. I wanted to be a strong, confident and healthy mum and I knew fitness would lead to a generally healthier lifestyle. I was pretty intimated by mainstream gyms, I had no idea what to do and having loads of men around made it that much more scary.

I also thought how great it would be if I could just take the kids with me instead of arranging babysitting. This is the niche for Haya Fitness  – it is run by women for women, it’s welcoming and inclusive for all ladies. It’s aimed at offering women both a place to get fit and is an easily accessible gym venue with classes. We have two hours free parking in the car park opposite, there is a buggy parking zone for mums and a wide enough variety of equipment and classes to keep everyone zoned in.

We are open 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday (we close a bit earlier on weekends), I have created 6 new part time jobs for mums and students and have 6 freelance gym instructors and PT’s working out of the gym. We have classes running daily which includes HiiTs training, Legs, Bums and Tums, Dance, Zumba and different types of workshops.

Many people think I am a gym fanatic and that is why I opened up the gym, Im not, I am a busy mum of 3 who wanted to easily get into a gym to lead a healthier lifestyle without feeling self conscious about myself. Now its great, I can go to work, take my baby Esa who is 6 months old, attend classes and feel good that Im allowing other women to exercise.

I searched high and low for a location but everything was either too expensive or not located in a place where women would want to go to – especially in the winter when it becomes dark early. A space came up in Canton off Cowbridge Road East opposite a Tesco Metro, it used to be a snooker hall and it was perfect. A busy high street, safe to attend at anytime of the day, big enough to accommodate my grand plans of a proper gym, studio for classes, a kids zone and I even threw in a Sauna for good measure. In fact the place is so big I have also added a Hair Salon.

Im located on 1a Leckwith Road and it seems the place has so much local history, builders were coming in saying remember it as Bills Snooker Hall  or remember drinking in it when it was the City Sports Bar. I remember on Contractor who came to price up a new ceiling, he was an older gentleman and said he remembered it when it used to be dance hall and he had his first dance with a girl there, so sweet. Canton is such an amazing place too there is a real sense of community there. I shop local and its great to see other businesses thriving. Everyone was so helpful too from City Print who helped do our sign and staff t shirts to Toolbox who seemed to have everything we needed when we were kitting the place out too. I cant forget Brian and Tracey Landlord from the Canton Cross Vaults next door who are the loveliest people in the world.

I dislike the reputation it has, Canton is a thriving place and more people should know about it.

When I am not working I love taking my family out around the city. I have compiled a “busy mums top list of things to do with the kids in Cardiff”:

  • Museum
  • Cardiff Story Museum
  • Cardiff Castle especially when they have events on
  • Taff Trail on the bikes or scooters
  • Cardiff Bay Barrage park for the skate park, the sand park, ice-cream and walk along the barrage itself
  • Cardiff Bay Boat Trip – £10 gets you onto a boat with the family
  • Victoria Park especially in the summer as they have the wet play
  • Thompson park for a nature orientated day out
  • St Fagans – just amazing
  • St David Shopping Centre, build a bear and the lego shop give hours of entertainment
  • All the Libraries and Hubs across Cardiff

Any We Are Cardiff readers can try out the gym using the code WRC2018 and if they quote We Are Cardiff will receive 10% off prices.


Haya Fitness website

Haya Fitness Facebook

Haya Fitness Twitter

(That’s Shahina on the left)

Big thanks Shahina! Til next time …


Entrepreneurialism, Creativity and the Nature-Nurture Debate

This is a piece put together by Lucy Thomas, Course Leader in BA Music Business at University of South Wales. She published it before Christmas on her LinkedIn and has very kindly allowed us to republish.


Finding myself with some rare time over Christmas I have taken the opportunity to write up a post inspired by some unknown family photos my mum recently shared with me. For the last few years I have been musing concepts of entrepreneurialism, creativity and the nature-nurture debate. It is not my favourite word and I’m not sure exactly what it means, but roughly it’s about new ventures and ideas. The attached photos were a wonderful discovery and have gone some way in confirming my thoughts.

Is entrepreneurialism something that can be taught or is it more of an innate, sixth sense that individuals are born with? Do some people just have the X Factor for new business generation? Obviously, most skills can be learned to some extent, but it is apparent that there are “natural entrepreneurs” who thrive in new landscapes. The traits of individuals wired this way are evident from a young age and at the very heart of it, I see the motivation as creativity and social connectivity. Interaction, expression, the bringing together of things is the driver and pleasure here. It is often the norm for profit to be the secondary result of an excellent service or product. An affirmation of value and not always the main focus as non-entrepreneurs may think.

What has led me to this point has been my own experiences coupled with observations of my oldest son and his friends over the last few years. From the age of about six he genuinely loved nothing better than setting a stall up in the front garden so he could sell, barter, exchange and most of all interact. We then moved to the coast and things got really exciting when the sun shone, people were thirsty and there were tourists. We literally had camper vans pulling up outside and kept running out of stock.

Some young children would rather eat coal than talk to a stranger, or tout a new idea, but our boy just loves to hustle. Fast forward to his dads Street Food projects there is a smoothie stall being incubated along with growing frustration that he’s only 10 and can’t go it alone just yet. We have neither encouraged or discouraged, he’s just been running with his own plans and I have learned that this is the way it is with kids. They have their own ideas no matter what yours are.

Just recently we found these photos of my Great Grandfather’s shop in Pentre selling all kinds of things including bikes and records. I love the way it’s called “W Wiltshire – Athletic, Cycle, Gramophone, Wireless and Electrical Depot”. Anyone who knew the record shop I had for 21 years in Cardiff called Catapult will probably laugh at the many similarities between my business and his, despite the hundred years or so age gap. After completing law school the path I choose at 24 was not that of a solicitor, but an unknown one in self-employment and dance music. Catapult was a launchpad for a label, events, DJ school, lecturing, fashion line and community venue. There is no set career path once you go it alone and this is the best bit.


There can be misconceptions in the ways these “going aloners” or entrepreneurs are perceived and it is particularly difficult for creatives to connect with concepts of business and profit, almost as it if devalues the authenticity of their work. An ugly monster of commercial manipulation, materialism or some such other hideous proposition. The reality is that all new ventures are exciting start-ups to be explored whatever the context and this includes creative projects, music and art. The art of business in itself is an imaginative process; an adventure where you dig deep to collaborate, diversify, adapt and ultimately survive.

Increasingly I see the entrepreneurialism term popping up in the educational sphere and indeed it was a Foundation Degree in Music Industry Entrepreneurship that drew me to the University of South Wales in 2012 and precipitated a career change in lecturing. I found it amazing that people could actually gain qualifications in this sector and was curious to decipher the curriculum processes. What I have found are innovative, transferable skills and environments where you can test things out, including yourself. There are definitely natural entrepreneurs engaging with the process, as well as more reluctant innovators, who sometimes find out to their surprise that they like this stuff.

I am aware that this is a very personal account, really just scratching the surface on a subject I’m keen to research further. Very interested in feedback and shared experiences.


Footnote Jan 2017…. Since writing this post a number of people have been in touch (thank you) with information about W.Wiltshire, including this advert from the Rhondda Leader Newspaper 1917. This has enabled me to date more accurately and I’m blown away that Catapult and Wiltshire’s shops co-existed over a hundred years apart! I love the tone of the advert; the way in encourages saving money by riding bikes in a bid to push the brand. Entrepreneurialism and Wales are in my blood more than I know.

Thanks Lucy! Looky here for more info on the excellent University South Wales BA Music Business course