How many studios can say they have members who come every day, often more than once a day? Kate Cracknell talks to the team behind Shine Cycle and Shine X to discover the secrets of success at this community-focused studio.
Her Royal Highness Princess Azemah Ni’matul Bolkiah &
Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Muda Bahar – Shine founders
Empowering a community
Why did you create Shine?
Boutique fitness is a global phenomenon, offering specialised, intimate spaces for working out and socialising. We used to live in London and took classes that were fun, inspiring and kept us fit.
We believe people are now more motivated than ever to improve their wellness and become physically active, and we felt Brunei was ready for this boutique experience.
We commissioned Barbara Chancey to guide us through the journey. Her team took our ideas and created two beautiful, functional spaces unlike anything in Brunei.
What was your vision?
Shine is about empowering people to live life to their full potential. Our vision was to create high-end boutique fitness studios with top-quality instructors and facilities. We wanted to build a brand that not only centres on a great workout but that also offers spaces that inspire people to adopt a positive, fun and energetic lifestyle.
How would you describe the studios?
From the moment you walk through our doors, you’ll forget about the outside world and feel the positive energy and passion that fuel both Shine Cycle and Shine X. Every aspect of our studios is designed with meticulous detail to brighten your life. From our friendly front desk staff to our internationally trained instructors, we offer a high level of fitness so you can experience a higher level of success.
We offer fun and inspiring classes – something you can enjoy daily and look forward to the next workout – as we want to encourage and motivate people to make fitness a lifestyle. Led by our amazing instructors, our classes aim to make you feel as though you performed at your peak, with a little bit of euphoria that you can carry with you for the rest of your day.
We drew our inspiration from our own experiences of joining classes at other boutique fitness studios during our travels – from how uplifted and energised it made us feel. In those classes, we were pushed to our limits in a unique blend of fun, intensity and camaraderie.
We felt Shine would be the best way to translate our love for fitness, delivering happiness through exercise and empowering people to be their best selves.
What are you most proud of?
What is particularly special is the community we have created. Incredible friendships have been forged that go beyond our studio walls. People bond through an unspoken support. We are proud and grateful to be part of an incredible community where people of all fitness levels can come together to radiate positive vibes and become stronger together.
“Incredible friendships have been forged that go beyond our studio walls. People bond through an unspoken support.”
How important is exercise to you?
Very important! We both play polo competitively and we also play other sports such as tennis and golf. For us to stay on top of our game, we need to stay fit, flexible and work on specific movements to develop our strength and prevent injury. Exercise is an integral part of our lives, benefiting us in our sports and in our health.
What are your future plans for Shine?
We believe in doing one thing extremely well and we specialise in coaching creativity, class programming and special events to keep momentum strong. We also host guest instructors from the US, UK and Asia.
We are exploring new ideas which are top secret for now, but many surprises are on the way. Stay tuned!
Aiman Abdullah – Studio manager
When and why was Shine created?
When Shine Cycle opened its doors in February 2018, there was nothing else like it in Brunei. Even now, it’s the only true cycling boutique in the country.
Shine was founded by Her Royal Highness Princess Azemah Ni’matul Bolkiah and Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Muda Bahar – Azemah and Bahar. The concept was theirs and they remain 100 per cent involved in the business every day, so only they can really elaborate on their vision for Shine. I do, however, know they enjoy this style of boutique training when they travel overseas and they wanted the Brunei population to be able to enjoy it too, raising the bar in our local fitness industry and supporting the health and wellbeing of the nation.
From the outset, Shine Cycle had two studios: Ride, which has 33 bikes; and Studio B, where we run small group strength classes of up to eight people, based around TRX but also incorporating assault bikes, rowers, boxing, kettlebells and other weights.
A few months after launch, we also added yoga to the Studio B timetable, catering for a maximum of 11 people across three different styles of yoga. It means we can offer cardio, strength and flexibility all in one destination, with most members doing a bit of everything.
“Shine Cycle is about positive energy. We believe that as your light shines brighter, you ignite that same power in others.”
Tell us about your community.
Shine Cycle is dedicated to helping its members achieve a healthy lifestyle through exercise and inspiration. It’s about training your body, focusing your mind and finding a new radiance inside and out. It’s about the power of positive energy: we believe that as your light shines brighter, you ignite that same power in others.
And we see this in our community of around 300 members. Our reception team provides a warm welcome, our instructors motivate everyone in class, our space allows people to escape the stresses of everyday life, our customer service is consistently excellent… but it’s also our members who spur each other on to train regularly, making pacts to work out together the next day.
And members do attend very regularly: we run classes at 6:15am, 5:30pm and 6:45pm every day, plus some lunchtime classes, and many people come two or even three times a day, perhaps doing TRX in the morning and a cycle class in the afternoon.
The absolute minimum we see is one or two visits a week, but that’s very rare. Generally it’s at least four or five visits a week, and most people come at least once or twice a day – so much so that when a member is heading out, we don’t say “goodbye”. We say “see you later” or “see you tomorrow”.
Then you launched Shine X…
Shine X launched in June 2019, once again inspired by the workouts our founders were enjoying overseas – in this case, boutique bootcamps. Combining treadmill running and strength, each day’s workout focuses on a different body part: Monday is legs and abs, Tuesday is chest and back, Wednesday is full body and abs, and so on.
We have capacity for 19 people in our Shine X studio, although the 19th is ‘double tread’ – you don’t do weights. Some members want this, though, so we give them the option to specifically book that space.
“Most people come at least once or twice a day, so we don’t say ‘goodbye’ – we say ‘see you later’ or ‘see you tomorrow’”
Shine X is located just a few units away from Shine Cycle, and while some members just do Shine X, many combine Shine X and Shine Cycle, mixing and matching for a well-rounded workout routine.
Our Unlimited package covers Ride and Strength (TRX) only. You can also buy monthly Shine X-only packages. But if you want to do a bit of everything – Ride, Strength, Yoga and Shine X – you need to go for a Universal class package.
What cycling classes do you offer?
Set to a soundtrack of great music, ours are rhythm cycling classes, with most following our signature 45-minute Shine programme: joyful, high-intensity, low-impact cardio parties that strengthen mind, body and soul.
We do have 30-minute class formats, but these are only used occasionally, such as during fasting months. At other times, our members tend to prefer 45-minute classes.
We have a Tag Team class every Saturday night, too, with two instructors up on stage and a great party atmosphere. There’s fancy dress, special themes and the rider of that week’s ‘lucky bike’ – chosen at random via a lottery draw – wins a prize. Tag Team is incredibly popular and always waitlisted.
“The studio timetable changes slightly each week to incorporate what members have told our instructors they want”
Then at least twice a month, we host a Custom Ride: a private class where the studio is rented out for a celebration such as a birthday ride. It’s basically a healthy disco!
All our programmes are designed by us, with templates outlining the overall shape of the class as well as suggested movements for a safe workout; we don’t go crazy in the saddle. But then we hand over to our instructors to bring their own style to each class. They’re the ones in the room with our members. They see what our members enjoy. They know who are beginners and who are more experienced. We give them the flexibility to choreography accordingly.
We also ask our instructors to help shape the studio timetable, which changes slightly each week to incorporate what members have told our instructors they want.
How do you train your instructors?
Our original team of master trainers all went to the US to train, and every new instructor – we now have a team of eight – goes to London to experience the studios there. But it doesn’t stop there, with regular visits to conferences and studios around the world, from London to Singapore, Malaysia to the Philippines.
We also invite guest instructors to come in from overseas. They instruct classes for our team and spend time with our instructors, sharing knowledge and ideas. From this, our instructors can take away the elements they know will work in Brunei culture.
Shine trains instructors in other markets, too: we recently sent a team to train instructors in Singapore, for example. Our view is that this helps our instructors as much as it helps the people learning from them, furthering their own development.
So, ours is a constant learning and development process, with our instructor team both supported and empowered. As a result, only two instructors have ever left Shine and it was pretty unavoidable: one joined the army and one moved to Australia!
Tell us about Shine’s charity work.
There’s a strong social agenda at Shine, with a culture of giving to those in need and helping as much as we can.
Across the year, we host special classes that tie in with events like International Women’s Day, Breast Cancer Day, World Autism Awareness Day and so on. All proceeds from these special classes – and sometimes that whole day of classes – are then donated to a relevant NGO. We also have donation boxes around the club, sometimes for money, other times for things like unused shoes that we can distribute to rural areas.
“For us, success is asking our members
what impact Shine has had on their life and hearing how happy it makes them”
We also run Shine Community Challenges; we always try to get our members involved in our charity efforts rather than just making simple donations ourselves. Members form teams of two to four people and we set them challenges like ‘most classes in a month’. There’ll be a range of targets they can aim for, with Shine donating a set amount to charity for each target achieved. It’s a win-win-win: members stay active and feel involved in the good work, Shine benefits from even more regular attendance, and the charities benefit from the donations.
What plans for the future?
We take all member and instructor feedback onboard and continually try to make what we do even better. We were thinking about introducing barre classes before COVID, for example, so we may well do this now.
In fact, our instructors are always coming up with new ideas: new equipment to keep things interesting in Studio B, for example. Our approach is to stay flexible and let our instructors take the lead: they know what our members want and they’re also incentivised to ensure every class is great, with commission paid per class attendee on top of their basic class fee.
Would we open another studio or even a new concept? Maybe – we discuss lots of ideas– but probably not yet. We pride ourselves on our customer service and quality of our instructors, so we’d need a really strong team in place to guarantee those same standards at any new location, all without letting levels drop at our original studio. We’d never expand at the expense of quality, and would certainly never franchise Shine.
What motivates you personally?
I get a real buzz from seeing people coming out of class having worked hard but also smiling and knowing they’ve achieved something. We’re helping people become better versions of themselves.
For us, success is asking our members what impact Shine has had on their life and hearing how happy it makes them, how much they look forward to coming back, how we help them escape their daily stresses and provide a space where they don’t feel judged.
I’m also inspired by our founders, who are constantly involved in the business, always looking for ways to make Shine an even better place not only for our members but for our team too.
Barbara Chancey – Studio designer & consultant
Designing a brand
Light and dark
“Design is storytelling, and both Shine Cycle and Shine X create journeys full of adventure and curiosity, incorporating a mix of materials and influences that evoke two opposite moods.
“At Shine Cycle, the brief was to create a sense of radiant joy. A place where your inner light shines to inspire the light in others. It’s a joyful and uplifting space: open and welcoming with touches of art deco modernism that nod to the client’s affinity for art, travel, design and appreciation of quiet details.
“Shine X is the direct opposite in both attitude and design: it’s the dark, mysterious, rebellious little sister that reflects the journey we all go on during a workout. From dark doubts to bright accomplishments, the design embraces both conflict and euphoria, incorporating recycled materials and reclaimed wood indigenous to Brunei’s rainforest.”
Lighting the way
“Shine’s illumination is designed to evoke emotion at the touch of a button, from soft candlelit moments of reflection to high-energy, grand finale sprints to the finish line.
“Daryl Vaughan of Light Partners – a lighting designer who’s worked with some of the biggest names in rock & roll, from Genesis and Paul McCartney to Sting, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones – created the lighting systems at Shine Cycle and Shine X.
“The starting point was weaving the brand into the lighting and working with Shine instructors to identify specific points in class where lighting changes might bring a sense of drama, a magical moment, something unexpected. We then developed a library of special effects and themes to be used at just the right moment; the magic happens when everything is seamless and timed to perfection.
“We developed a library of lighting effects to be used at just the right moment; the magic happens when everything is timed to perfection.”
“Lighting is used creatively throughout the social spaces, too. The backlit, suspended X beams along the ceiling of the Shine X corridor are a personal favourite, where high-output LED fixtures produce slow pulses of light all along its length when class is about to start.”
“In Brunei, there are no nightclubs or bars. Shine Cycle and Shine X fill this gap, providing healthy, fun entertainment.
“At Shine Cycle, there’s a juice bar and café for laughter and hanging out, as well as a selfie wall. At Shine X, recessed alcoves along a darkened corridor provide discreet seating for more intimate conversations. In both cases, it’s about creating places to linger, social spaces that allow members to come early and stay late.
“All of a sudden, Shine Cycle and Shine X aren’t just about fitness. They’re about lifestyle. They’re about social interaction and the forging of friendships. And the resulting sense of community is evident when you look at events like the Shine Games, which perfectly illustrate the culture of kindness and joy that imbues everything at Shine.”
“We don’t just design for today: we imagine the future and design spaces to hold fitness trends for the next 10 years.
“For example, Shine Cycle’s Studio B features a barre, built-in storage and reinforced walls and ceilings for anchoring equipment. It’s a versatile space that affords Shine total freedom to adapt to new trends, new instructors, new ideas.”
“Your instructors should be allowed to retain an aura of superstardom, so at Shine, we included a dedicated space for instructors to get ready for class. When they come out, their star persona is in place and they’re ready to command the room and deliver.
“I’ve been amazed by the level of showmanship at Shine. I’ve never come across a more naturally talented group of instructors. Musicality is in their blood.
“Nor have I ever met a group of instructors who take what they do more seriously: they truly see it as a profession. We brought them to the US for training with Parker Williams, a legendary veteran of rhythm rides with 20 years’ experience. He encouraged them to take it back to basics, focusing on technique, consistency in language and meeting their clientele where they were: at the beginning of a journey, having never known anything like rhythm cycling before.”
“The princess is hugely creative, with an infectious sense of humour, and we had a lot of fun along the way. One great memory was developing names for the juice bar menu, with Diplomatic Immunity one of my favourites!
“Her generosity and gratitude epitomise the essence of Shine. This was a joyful project to work on, surrounded by some of the kindest people I’ve ever met.”