CruBox Los Angeles: Punch like the stars

CruBox co-founders and siblings (from far left) Calvin Ding, Valerie Ding and Bebe Ding.
CruBox co-founders and siblings (from far left) Calvin Ding, Valerie Ding and Bebe Ding.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

CruBox Los Angeles, which sees celebrities such as reality TV stars Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, opens an outlet in 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, in 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 in Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, which opened in October 2017.

Celebrities such as reality television stars Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, singer Usher and actress Ashley Greene have been spotted at CruBox Los Angeles.

The gym was also featured on the finale episode of the 15th season of the reality television series, Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

CruBox is the Dings' second fitness concept.

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

Growing up, the siblings have always been close, but have different personalities and strengths. So when it came to doing business, each took up his or her role easily.

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

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

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.

MS VALERIE DING on starting CruBox Los Angeles with mainly her sister Bebe in 2017

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 stab at the fitness industry - 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, they had investors who were interested in franchising their brand come 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 50-minute, high-intensity group boxing classes in the dark, in which participants punch to the beat of the music.

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

Ms Ding says: "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."

Good timing also played a part in the studio's success and expansion. She 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 took them two months to launch CruBox Singapore.

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2019, with the headline 'Punch like the stars'. Print Edition | Subscribe