Published on 08 Nov 2023

All The Right Moves

As the co-founder of homegrown fitness chain Arkkies, Ian Chen constantly juggles different tasks, a skill he picked up as an undergraduate.

In 2012, while still pursuing his Double Degree in Accountancy and Business (Banking & Finance) at NTU’s Nanyang Business School, Ian started Movement First, which supplies fitness equipment to home and commercial gyms, with Jeremy Ko.

In 2016, to better cater to the fitness market, the duo followed with Javy Sports & First Aid. They became a leading supplier of first aid products, physical education equipment, and active play toys to schools and organisations in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

Along the way, Ian and Jeremy met Chew Leong Heng. With a vision to make fitness accessible for Singaporeans and enhance the journey towards active living, the trio launched Arkkies in 2021.


“Just try” is a mantra that drives Ian Chen and his co-founders at Arkkies


"We sourced, customised, and maintained fitness equipment for many schools, uniformed organisations, and companies. It was a natural progression to set up our own gyms to better cater to the broader market,” Ian said.

“Many gyms in Singapore come with hefty membership fees and lock you into long-term contracts. This leaves people disgruntled as some may not be able to fulfil their contracts for various reasons but continue to pay despite not using the gym. Getting fit should be at the convenience of the customer," he added.

Arkkies members are not tied down by such contracts. “You can decide which of our gym concepts fit your fitness goals best and when to join us,” Ian explained.

Arkkies has an impressive ecosystem, with 15 gyms across 5 different fitness concepts. These are Ark Move, which offers 24/7 access to 3 outlets; Ark Liv, an all-female gym with 2 outlets; Ark Bloc, where members train in callisthenics, strongman, and bouldering; and Ark Pod, a private mini gym. The newest is Ark Grit, which offers unlimited entry to its gyms in 5 (and 3 other upcoming) locations.


With its hefty membership fees and long-term contracts, going to the gym can be a pain for many people.
Ian Chen, co-founder of Arkkies, wants to make the experience more enjoyable


How has NBS prepared you for entrepreneurship?

Life at NBS was very fulfilling. I had the opportunity to participate in many extra-curricular activities, and I learnt to juggle many different tasks, which helped to build my foundation. At Arkkies, a regular morning may involve signing leases for new gyms, discussing renovation projects, processing new orders for equipment, working with the operations team to better serve our customer base, planning events with the marketing team, and more.

Multitasking is a skill that I perfected at NBS. NBS encouraged me to explore beyond my primary field of study, I attended several introductory modules in School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) and Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKW). These interdisciplinary experiences have proven to be invaluable in my current role, where I repair circuit boards for our machines. Additionally, they have refined my communication skills, enabling me to communicate more effectively.


Any other lessons that came in handy?

While the entire accounting degree enabled me to better manage finances for our company, accounting courses on taxation exposed me to the myriad of government grants for SMEs.

I learnt to keep an open mind throughout my time here; the flexibility of the General Electives also gave me much board-based exposure. Not only was the content relevant, it was also where I got to meet many brilliant individuals from diverse backgrounds and broaden my network.


Are you ready to franchise your business?

We received a franchise enquiry on the second day of our outlet opening at Downtown East. Ark Liv, an all-female gym concept – yes, all our staff here are ladies – has drawn much interest, especially from the Middle East and India, where a safe space for females to exercise is essential.

We are heartened to receive so many franchise and partnership requests across all our brands. However, we want to focus on perfecting our brand offerings for now. This will allow for much faster expansion and scaling when we eventually venture overseas.