Podcast – Rosie Coxshaw, Words – Nancy Larman
It is appropriate that we meet Carli Wheatley, founder of leading fitness company Protein Haus, by St Paul’s.
Not only is this part of the City full of gyms and exercise centres, but the great ecclesiastical building around us reminds us that the body should be treated, at all times, as a temple. Such is the philosophy on which Wheatley has founded her business. To continue the metaphor, Protein Haus is a broad church; as Wheatley says, “we are primarily a diet shop, and cater for all regimens, whether it’s gluten-free, high protein or a weight-loss plan. The idea should be that someone should feel safe coming to us; we’re offering something a bit different to what’s on the high street.”
I don’t actually like being around people that much, so I found it very taxing! I’m a positive, goal-oriented person, who’s always looking for the next and bigger thing
She’s catering for a big, busy market – as she puts it, “I don’t know anyone who eats breakfast at home any more.” The key to this is to offer healthy, homemade food for those who are time-poor but want to eat well. She’s very conscious, given her background in personal training and fitness instruction, that diets can be difficult: “I was frustrated that I had to take out a big bag of food every day, because London didn’t have the range of options when it came to eating that other big cities did. I spent some time in Los Angeles with my mum, and was amazed at the choice out there, where it’s easy to stay in shape. Everyone is drinking vodka and slimline tonic, or not drinking at all.” She’d been sporty as long as she can recall and always planned to go into the fitness industry, but it was only after that eye-opening trip that she began thinking about it in business, as well as health, terms.
After teaching fitness concepts in gyms across London, it was soon time for Wheatley to set up on her own. “I started making my own meals first. Then I began making them for my clients, and it escalated from there. Within a year, we had a big kiosk in the middle of Canary Wharf. I’d always wanted to do my own thing; in fact, I’m probably unemployable in a conventional job, because I’m happy to work from midnight to five in the morning, and personal training can often take you from 6am to 8pm. I don’t actually like being around people that much, so I found it very taxing! I’m a positive, goal-oriented person, who’s always looking for the next and bigger thing.” She works with a couple of business partners, former restaurateurs who bring the operational nous that she needed, and is all set on making her operation bigger, better and more successful than ever.
I smoke shisha every now and then. But I also lie down on the floor and scream, or try to go to sleep. I’ve certainly had problems in relationships, because I feel that I’m doing everything by myself
How, then, does Carli Wheatley relax? “I smoke shisha every now and then. But I also try to lie down on the floor and scream, or try to go to sleep. I’ve certainly had problems in relationships, because I feel that I’m doing everything by myself. On the other hand, I was never going to do anything else, so I’ve got to crack on and get things done.” These ‘things’ include developing her range of food, which, as she puts it, “is intentionally plain. We sell sauces to complement it, or you can add salt and pepper. But the plainer you can get used to eating, the leaner you’ll look. I wouldn’t describe what we’re doing as ‘recipes’, as the food is quite straightforward, but I’m pleased with the low-calorie cakes. They don’t quite taste the same as the real thing, but they’re near enough.”
Wheatley, is aware that what she’s offering might not be for everyone – “some people stick to it all the time, whereas others dip in and out” – but she believes that her target audience is “anyone who wants to follow some sort of diet but who doesn’t want to cook.” The future is all about building the business and getting as many people as she can on board. As she says, “I have a burning desire to succeed inside me, and it’s not a choice; I can’t just be like a normal people and turn off. I don’t know how.” For the sake of anyone who wants to look great, let’s hope that Carli Wheatley never loses her drive.