Sussex entrepreneur who sold drinks at Harry and Meghan’s wedding opens women-only gym and cafe

A young entrepreneur from Sussex who sold drinks at Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding, has opened a women-only gym and cafe in the heart of Burgess Hill.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 6:12 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 12:54 pm

Eliot Rogers, 24, of Hurstpierpoint, opened Mama Fit in The Martlets with co-owner Chris Wyles, 25, of Saltdean, on Monday, March 8.

The two-storey business is now open for takeaway coffees and food, with the gym set to open on April 12 and classes starting on May 17.

Activities will include yoga sessions, self-defence classes, HIIT circuits and zumba.

Eliot Rogers, co-owner of Mama Fit, a new cafe and gym at The Martlets Shopping Centre, Burgess Hill. Picture by Steve Robards

“We wanted to set up an empowering space for ladies,” said Eliot.

“We’ve been pretty popular so far.

“We’ve offered something quite different to what the other places do.”

Mama Fit’s goal is to provide a comfortable, safe and supportive environment for women to exercise in, said Eliot, adding that almost all staff are women.

The cafe at Mama Fit in The Martlets Shopping Centre, Burgess Hill. Picture by Steve Robards

The cafe side of the business is open to everyone and sells locally sourced food like cakes from Hurstpierpoint, pastries and bagels from Brighton and coffees from Wivelsfield Green.

The aim, Eliot said, is to support Sussex businesses while keeping their carbon footprint low.

School friends Eliot and Chris worked hard at refurbishing the property for two months.

“We were not coming from a building background so there were quite substantial challenges,” said Eliot.

Mama Fit co-owners Eliot Rogers and Chris Wyles. Picture by Steve Robards

“We haven’t officially opened the gym yet so I’m sure that will pose some of its own challenges but it will be a good, fun learning experience.”

Eliot trained as a bartender and mixologist. He started his first business at age 20, and founded Mama Gin in 2016 with his friend Amelia Taylor who is now a social media influencer.

The gin bar evolved into a mobile bar business, Mama Bars, and the pair purchased a 1971 vintage Citroën HY horse-box van, which they fitted to serve cocktails, craft beers, ciders and coffee.

The vehicle was both iconic and practical, offering plenty of headroom to work in.

After breaking into the events world, the company sold drinks at Harry and Megan’s royal wedding, the Royal Windsor Horse show, the South of England show, Le Mans in France and dozens of parties.

After Amelia left the business Eliot purchased a vintage horse-box trailer to convert into a bar and a coffee van. And in late 2019 he drove to France to purchase a vintage Peugeot horse-box van for summer 2020.

However, when the Covid-19 pandemic struck in spring last year, the UK entered its first lockdown and Eliot’s events diary was wiped out.

“I was devastated at the time and I didn’t know what to do,” said Eliot, adding he was worried that four years of hard work had been for nothing.

As an employee of his own company, he was not eligible for any self-employment grants, but, thinking on his feet, he decided to start his own takeaway business.

At first he delivered Persian and Middle Eastern dishes to food lovers across Sussex, then he switched to serving American barbecue food.

And at the end of the first lockdown he started pop-up coffee events in a field around the back of the South of England showground, which grew into a popular space for food, drink and music.

Eliot said he has not been put off of running his own business, despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

His advice to young people who have a plan to start their own business is ‘give it a go, trust in your abilities and be courageous’.