Singaporean siblings behind boxing studio in LA popular with celebrities like the Kardashians

SINGAPORE - Blood is thicker than water and especially so when running a business.

The Ding siblings Valerie, 32, Calvin, 31 and Bebe, 28, would know best. The trio, who have been in the fitness business together since 2014, recently opened their third fitness studio CruBox, an indoor boxing gym, on Duxton Road.

They also live together and, for the most part, socialise with the same group of friends in Singapore and Los Angeles, where they have a holiday home and spent much of their growing up years.

"Running a business is hard work but because we are family, there is a stronger level of trust as we all work towards the same goal in the family's best interest," says Ms Valerie Ding, who spoke to The Straits Times last month at the opening of the boxing studio.

It is the sister outlet of the first CruBox studio in Los Angeles, located on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, which opened in October 2017.

Celebrities such as reality TV stars Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, singer Usher and actress Ashley Greene have been spotted at CruBox Los Angeles. The gym was also featured on finale episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians' Season 15.

"We were already doing quite well at that point but the endorsement and the massive press buzz it generated made it even more legit," says the eldest Ding sibling who spoke to The Straits Times.

CruBox is their second fitness concept. They are also the owners behind popular indoor cycling studio CruCycle, which opened in 2014 and housed on the ground floor of the same building as CruBox Singapore.

Growing up, the siblings have always been close but have quite different personalities and strengths. So when it came to doing business, they each took up their roles easily.

Valerie handles business development and marketing; Calvin looks after the business operationsprimarily, while Bebe is head of training.

"Because we're family, we tend to more openly honest and brutal with each other. That way, we also make decisions quicker because we don't have to sugarcoat it," says Ms Ding.

On the flipside, she says when they fight, they pull no punches, metaphorically of course. Their father, who is a businessman, is often the one to put them back in line.

In 2014, the Dings decided to take a jab at the fitness industry as it was something they were passionate about and a big part of their Los Angeles lifestyle that they could not get in Singapore .

Six months into CruCycle's opening, investors interested in franchising their brand came knocking on their door but they decided against it and wanted to keep it within the family.

Soon after, they looked into other fitness-related opportunities.

In 2015, as boxing was gaining popularity in Los Angeles, they set out to create CruBox. Together with a professional boxing trainer in the United States, they developed a 50-minutes high-intensity group boxing classes in the dark, where participants punch to the beat of the music.

It took close to two years to set up CruBox Los Angeles, lead mostly by the sisters.

"There are not many Asian business owners along Melrose Avenue, much less two Asian girls from Singapore running a boxing gym. We had a lot to prove." says Ms Ding.

Good timing also played a part in the studio's success and expansion. She also says the release of Hollywood film Crazy Rich Asians in August last year fuelled interest and helped put Singapore on the map.

"People were coming in and going, 'You're Singaporeans? I've seen the movie'," she adds.

In Singapore, the Dings took up the space on the fourth floor above the existing CruCycle studio a few months after the previous tenants vacated. It only took them two months to launch CruBox Singapore.

While the gym is open both men and women, Ms Ding wants CruBox to be a safe place for women to take up boxing, which is a traditionally male-dominated sport.

"We want to empower women to be stronger and tougher. When they focus on punching it out on the bag, they can tune out of the world and just focus on themselves," she adds.