Weekly Local Biography

  Sunpetch Soratorn

The managing director of Fitness Thailand is a young man who is living proof that if you really want to do something with your life, a little hard work will do you no harm. And while education can be the key to unlock your future, a lack of education is not necessarily the end to your future hopes.

Sunpetch was born in Surin, not the most affluent province in Thailand. His parents were rice farmers, and Sunpetch was the fifth of their seven children. As you can imagine, this was a poor rural family. That they could put rice on the table, was the sign of success.

He went to the Surin government schools, but dropped out of high school when he was 14 years of age. In the poorer provinces of Isaan, your childhood finishes early. He shouldered his backpack and went to Bangkok. “This is normal for Isaan people to do,” said Sunpetch. “We have to work out by ourselves what we need to do, because our parents could not, so we look for our future in the big city.” That type of childhood breeds a fierce independence.

The young adventurer made it to Bangkok and started his working life as a labourer on a building site. This he did for one year, and then spent another two years as a general worker in a plastics factory. Slowly he began to see that his future was not just at the end of a factory production line. He was only 17 but with maturity forced upon him, he began to look further.

A hotel on Petchburi Road needed waiters and he got in on the ground floor, working his way up from being a dishwasher. He spent three years there, but he knew this was not his true direction either. “I was confused as what was to come next,” said Sunpetch.

The hotel had built a small fitness center, and this interested the young man. He went to the GM and asked for a job there as a fitness instructor. He felt inherently that this was what and where he wanted to be. He requested the change from the Food and Beverage Department to the fitness center by appealing to the GM. “I don’t have experience, but my heart is 100 percent directed towards working in the gym. If I cannot do it in three months, I will leave. Can you give me a three months chance? I don’t even care about the salary!” He was only 21 years old, but mature way beyond his chronological age.

The GM acceded to his impassioned plea and he entered the world of the fitness machines, dumbbells and aerobics. He was enthusiastic and he learned fast. He learned much in the initial three months and then began to take his experience to new levels as he moved between various fitness clubs in the capital. After four years he knew that he was ready to move to the next level, or phase of his professional fitness life - that of being a freelance personal trainer, which he did for two years.

However, he was brought back into the fold of the corporate fitness clubs when the Grand Hyatt Erawan offered him a full-time position, which he took, but then went on to further his experience at other corporate clubs. He was now in a phase of personal consolidation, even though he did not realize this at the time. He was keeping and storing all the information he could, not just about training techniques, but about the different types of fitness training equipment that was needed by a top establishment. “It was important for me to learn by myself. I could not afford to go to study courses, I had to do it all through personal experience. When I was teaching one on one I would remember the member’s questions.”

Having gone through the ‘school of personal experience’, Sunpetch felt that he was ready to do something for himself. He wanted his own fitness center. He looked around Bangkok for six months, but could not find the right location. By now he was also married to Panarai Worasontarosod, and his mother-in-law suggested they should come to Chiang Mai and see if they could start something here. “I arrived in Chiang Mai and made up my mind by four p.m. that afternoon. There were many expats here and in Chiang Mai there was nothing like what I had in mind.”

They moved up to Chiang Mai and the work began. They met a marketing man, Satchuset Raungdessuwon, who knew the equipment suppliers in the world market. Sunpetch knew the equipment he needed, and Panarai had the business experience. This was the basis for Fitness Thailand, and they opened the doors on the first of November last year.

Despite working in the fitness field for many years, Sunpetch has not lost his initial enthusiasm. “I like fitness and exercise. I spend two hours a day with my own personal exercise programmes, but I am in the gym all day. I am happy when I stay there. I don’t like staying in the office!”

Sunpetch has also not lost sight of his roots, going back to visit his parents in Surin as often as he can, to also allay his parents’ fears. “They worry about me,” he said. He continued, “Sometimes I hit myself on the head. Is this true? Am I dreaming? I never thought (to begin with) that I would ever have a business like this.” He also remembers the times when he had to work with his hands. “I came from a farm,” he said simply.

He has no special ambitions, other than to see Fitness Thailand take off and then to franchise the business later. “This is the challenge for me. I also want my wife and her family to be proud of me.”

Sunpetch is a proud boy from Isaan, and he should also be proud of what he has achieved.