Elbert Tiwa: Founder & CEO of Empire Fit Club

Elbert Tiwa: Founder & CEO of Empire Fit Club
Magani unites tradition with the new; reimagining the traditional batik shirt for the needs of our contemporary society. We combine Indonesia’s rich cultural heritage with the latest innovation in performance wear material to build the ultimate durable and comfortable shirt for the modern Indonesian man who is constantly on the move.

As we celebrate Indonesia’s heritage, we also celebrate the individuals who are unintimidated by the sweat and hard work required to defy challenges, push boundaries, and move Indonesia forward.

Meet the #MaganiMen who have inspired us that with grit and endurance, there are no limits to what you can achieve. #NOSWEATNOLIMIT


#MaganiMen: Meet Elbert Tiwa, Founder and CEO of Empire Fit Club. Elbert has combined his military experience with his passion in fitness to pioneer a fitness movement in Indonesia. Learn how Elbert is gearing up to dominate the Indonesian fitness industry and grow Empire to be a global fitness brand. 



Elbert Tiwa Empire Fit Club

Elbert wears Red Journey.

Why did you start Empire? What was the motivation? 

I was about to start Empire in San Diego back in 2013 -- opening a gym was always the plan. But when I went to Jakarta I decided to open it here instead because I felt like it was a better opportunity. Since my background was as someone who trained military men, I thought I’d bring a very strong value-add to train civilians. I could make a living pursuing my passion and help develop the growing fitness sector in Indonesia. 

How do you think being in the marines influenced you in the way you ran Empire?

Part of the identity of Empire is me being in the marines. We are trying to broaden our training to not just be military-exclusive exercises but to be more civilian-friendly as well. But our mindset and structure is very militaristic, which includes building good habits and routines. 

What is the biggest challenge you faced when starting Empire? What is the biggest challenge you are facing now?

The biggest challenge when Empire started was educating the market. I feel like if I had started in the US and Singapore, people would have been more aware of what I do. However, here, I struggled with educating people on what kind of training Empire does. Questions like “how does this exercise benefit me and impact my body?” was a constantly recurring one. Another challenge was to justify our pricing, since we charge at a different price point than normal gyms. We needed to teach people that our service is an investment to their health and lifestyle. Thankfully, now more people understand and people who join know what they are getting into. 

Now, the biggest obstacle is finding a good coach. Since we are ready to expand, the bottleneck is finding a coach that can fit Empire’s culture and embody our values.


Elbert Tiwa Empire Fit Club

What is your vision for Empire?

Short to medium-term, we are planning to open 5 gyms throughout Indonesia and to invest in a digital platform. Long-term, we are trying to reach a broader audience and we plan to dominate the Indonesian fitness market. The goal is to be the first Indonesian fitness brand to expand outside of Indonesia; I think it’s very feasible because we can compete with the best gyms internationally in terms of the calibre of our coaches and the quality of gym services. The plan was never to be a big fish in a small pond. For example, we already have clients for our online fitness and nutritions program from Australia, the U.S., India, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. People from all over the world are starting to recognize our brand and what we can provide. The potential is limitless.  

What would you do differently if you could start Empire all over again? 

I would focus more on training people. I was very hands-on in the beginning and was very involved in coaching but not running the business itself. Now I would focus more on the business side and training coaches. I need to multiply the number of people who understand my methods and philosophies so it would be easier to expand in the future. 


Elbert Tiwa Empire Fit Club

How do you balance passion and business?

I think passion without business is just a hobby, business without passion is a bad business. It’s a balance. In our case, just because you know how to train people it does not mean business will automatically follow. You actually have to pay just as much attention to the nitty gritty details of how to run the business, like marketing, administration, finance, etc.

Tell us a fun fact about your industry that outsiders wouldn't know.

A fun fact is that someone who opens a gym most likely used to be a gym trainer or a gym member. That being said, the fitness industry is one of the most rewarding industries to be in. Throughout our career, you are able to change people’s lives for the better; not just physically, but mentally as well since community is such a big part of this industry. 


Elbert Tiwa Empire Fit Club

Due to COVID and the “new normal”, where do you see the evolution of fitness heading towards?

I think it will bounce back, I believe it will take 2 - 3 months once the vaccine gets here. Also, I believe there is more demand for fitness due to COVID. Just watching the trend from different countries, we feel like people are starting to invest more in their health and wellness. We are also seeing it in Empire’s traction, we are already back at a 70% attendance rate.

What about Magani resonated/appealed to you?

It's really comfortable. I don't wear batik often since I am always on the move and I always walk to get to places (I rarely take a taxi/car), so to wear something that I can be on the go in without getting too sweaty and still look formal is perfect. 

Is there anything in particular that you would like to highlight about Empire?

Empire is a very community-driven gym; we truly care about our members and coaches’ development. We have always said Empire is not in the business industry, but we are in the industry of changing people's habits; we focus on improving it through safe and fun community-driven workouts. 

Oh another thing, we are not as hardcore as people think, so come and join.

Elbert Tiwa Empire Fit Club

Elbert Tiwa Empire Fit Club
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