BBC News

The actor who gambled on a career change

By Will Smale
Business reporter, BBC News

Published

Flying back from Los Angeles a broken man, actor Daniel Percival decided he had no choice but to gamble on a complete career change.

A jobbing actor, back in 2010 the Londoner had been in Hollywood for two months for a "pilot season", auditioning for roles in numerous TV shows. And things did not go well.

"I'd be sitting in rows with 20 or so other actors, and everyone was a similar but better version of me," says Daniel, now 36. "I'd be sat there thinking 'that's what I'd look like if I went to the gym all the time', or 'that's what I'd look like if I didn't eat too much'."

After renting an apartment and car in Los Angeles for eight weeks, he ultimately failed to get any work.

"So by the time I flew back to London I was completely broke, maxed out on my credit card... and completely miserable. I said to myself on the plane - 'I'm quitting this, I've got to do something else with my life'."

image copyrightAP
image captionDaniel became disenchanted with the life of a jobbing actor

A graduate of the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) acting school, Daniel had been a professional actor for eight years.

His credits included roles in movies Van Wilder 2 and Against The Dark, and parts in TV shows Casualty and Sherlock.

"I was a working actor, a good working actor," says Daniel. "But I had a naive idea that I wanted to be Daniel Day Lewis or Robert De Niro.

"When you realise that you are never going to be like them, and you realise that you aren't interested in whether the reason for this is luck or talent, you know it is time to stop.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionAfter an unhappy two months in Los Angeles, Daniel decided to quit acting

"Because the gaps between jobs are really tough - I once went five months without work - and it is really tough to keep going into rooms and auditioning for work... you feel out of control.

"If you lose that passion, you have to stop and get out. And I have never looked back."

'Completely insane'

So, flying back to the US, Daniel decided there and then that he was going to quit acting, and do something else with his life.

Passionate about yoga, and specifically hot yoga - yoga done in a hot and humid environment - he decided he was going to open his own hot yoga studio in London.

media captionYoga boss: Ignore consumer research

However, there were two significant barriers in the way - he had no money, and no experience of running a business.

And his family and friends were not initially thrilled by his plans. "Everyone thought I had gone insane, they thought I had lost the plot."

Undeterred, Daniel set about devising a plan to raise the £200,000 or so he calculated that he would need to get a yoga studio up and running.

With no bank prepared to lend to him, he decided he would do something "incredibly stupid" - try to raise the cash by gambling on the financial markets.

Securing £17,500 from the sale of his South London flat (the rest went on paying back the mortgage), he quickly learned all he could about investing.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionDaniel gambled on the financial markets

Then working as a waiter by day, he would gamble on the stock markets at night.

Daniel says: "It was completely insane, nuts. I had done a degree in economics before I went to Rada, but I knew nothing about investing, and I didn't have a gambling background.

"But I'd be trading things like the Aussie dollar at four in the morning... betting both ways every two minutes... the hardest thing is knowing when to get out.

"I really believe that in the long term I genuinely would have lost it all... but I made £165,000 when I stopped... it was insane, just sheer luck."

'Energy and excitement'

With about 75% of the capital he needed for the yoga studio raised, a friend of a friend eventually came on board with the other 25%, and in 2013 Daniel opened his studio, called Yogacentric, in the north London suburb of Crouch End.

image captionDaniel likes to employ actors as his reception staff

Business quickly built up thanks to positive word of mouth, and today it employs 15 hot yoga teachers and 15 receptionists. And a second venue, a more general gym called Centric 3 Tribes, is due to open up the road next month.

While Daniel says he doesn't miss his previous profession, in a nod to it he tries to only employ actors for his reception staff

"It is a nightmare when they go away all the time to audition for parts, but actors have a fantastic skills set," he says.

"I didn't realise it when I was one, but actors have an energy... an excitement... a warmth. And they are incredibly great at thinking on their feet.

"They give you a warm environment, a great atmosphere, they make people feel comfortable and welcome."

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