The founders of this super-successful, family-friendly fitness and football academy have overcome the toughest of obstacles. How did they do it? Grit, drive, determination, great risk…and dreaming BIG.
Welcome, Fawaz. Can you tell our readers who you are and what you do?
I’m Fawaz Albinmohamed. I’m the managing director of Winners Football Center, and co-founder along with my partner, Ebrahim Alsada.
What is Winners? What do you guys do?
Winners is a football and fitness center that gathers the whole family in one place. Football is the core, and around this revolve fitness programs, social activities, corporate events, birthdays, and more. Winners rent out football fields, offer females and males group workout classes on a monthly bases, a football academy for boys and girls, personal training, a healthy coffee shop and a lounge to watch games and socialize.
Why do you think football plays a big role in most Bahrainis’ lives?
Well, football is the number-one game around the world. To add to that my partner and I used to be football players on national teams in Bahrain, so it has been our passion since childhood like a lot of other Bahrainis.
Wow. Okay, we’ve heard that your center helps individuals; does it help mainly entrepreneurs?
We believe in giving back and partnering. We look for talented people, and we work on their talent and their ambition until they reach a stage where they can open their own businesses—and, Alhamdulillah, we worked with individuals on a corporate and personal levels, we have success stories.
Can you tell us about some of the biggest challenges you faced when you first started?
The main challenge was sourcing land with the specifications we wanted. The concept, the building, and the fields were all built from scratch. This was a very big challenge for us especially since this land had no electricity, no water.
IT TOOK ME A LONG TIME TO REALIZE THAT I WAS A FULL-TIME ENTREPRENEUR. IT WAS A BIG CHALLENGE, A BIG DIFFERENCE. I WOKE UP AND THOUGHT, “I HAVE TO GO TO WORK.”
Can you tell us more about how Tamkeen and BDB helped you?
We were the first football field to take out a loan with BDB, and since it was a new project, they didn’t understand how they could fund us, because they don’t fund construction. We went through some hassles with Tamkeen, as well.
Tell us about your decision to leave the corporate world and start Winners as a career.
It was a very tough decision but I signed my resignation on my birthday, the 2nd of August. It was like a gift to myself.
If you don’t mind me asking, did something happen that triggered this that day?
No, no, I was planning to leave anyway, because it was very hard to handle the project while I had a full-time job and a family. I was leaving work at 5 or 6 p.m., and then I would come to Winners.
Tell me about waking up on Day One of not being in the corporate world. How did that feel?
Actually, it took me a long time to realize that I was a full-time entrepreneur. It was a big challenge, a big difference. I woke up and thought, “I have to go to work.”
Even now, I’m still going through this. I think I can advise a lot of entrepreneurs who are trying to shift from corporate life to entrepreneurship and really need some guidance.
There are thousands of people who are sitting at a desk in a cubicle right now and thinking about starting something on their own. Maybe they’re just not very confident about signing their resignation letter and leaving tomorrow. What do you have to say to them?
I have to say that they really need to study their options, entrepreneurship is not for everyone. You’re an entrepreneur if you have the spirit in you, the ambition. If you really want to do it, you have to work hard to live in your dream.
After resigning, I wanted everyone else around me to be entrepreneurs, you know?
Because you’re happy, and you want others to be happy.
We have a saying at Winners: “Winners, where everyone is a winner.” If you join us, you’ll be a winner. We’ll work with you, we’ll help you. It’s a challenging world here, you know? You need to partner with the right people, and you cannot do it alone, even if it’s your core business.
There is a common challenge for many entrepreneurs in the sense that Bahrainis expect more pay and less work. They leave their jobs quickly; they’re not as happy. Have you had any experiences like that?
We work with Bahrainis in a different way, because we know the culture of our people. Our coaches have to be positive and smiling; they have to fit into the Winners culture. We invite them to be partners with us, not employees. They are decision-makers.
I HAVE TO SAY THAT THEY REALLY NEED TO STUDY THEIR OPTIONS, ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS NOT FOR EVERYONE,
They own this place.
When we bring on a coach, we tell them, “We will not give you a salary; you will get a share, and a share that you are happy with.” We have some coaches here who are making more money than their day-job salary.
There are a lot subsidies being cut and taxes being introduced, and this is obviously affecting everyone, including businesses. How are you planning for that?
For electricity, we allotted a bigger budget than in previous months. It’s very hard to change the pay of your employees, because you need them to be happy. It’s hard to increase fees on your customers. We actually try to go with lowering our prices whenever we can, so it will be difficult, but I’m sure we can plan it out. It would help a lot if these decisions were not applied on entrepreneurs or given grace periods to adjust to them.
What is something nobody knows about this place, something you haven’t told anyone?
Winners was begun in a very difficult time, especially for me personally. With the support of my family and partner Ebrahim, we made it through. We don’t talk about it much. We try to be as positive as much as we can, and we look to the future more than the past.
Speaking of the future, what is planned for the future of Winners?
Inshallah, we’re planning to open Winners in a new concept in a different area in Bahrain. It will be more focused on teenagers. There are also big plans to franchise and branch outside of Bahrain, especially in few big cities like Abu Dhabi, Damam, Jeddah and Riyadh.
Thank you for this opportunity.
This is also available in Arabic if you'd like.