Entrepreneurs

Michelle Bridges on the secret to entrepreneurship: “It’s got to be something living inside of you”

Emma Koehn /

Michelle Bridges is no stranger to pitch meetings, and she has one simple piece of advice to entrepreneurs wanting to convince others to get on board with their ideas: “Whatever you want to achieve has to be real”.

“I think first and foremost, it’s got to be something that’s living inside of you — it’s got to be something you truly believe in,” she tells SmartCompany.

When asked about her business goals over the years, the prominent entrepreneur highlights that throughout the projects she’s worked on since becoming a personal trainer as a teenager, she’s had a consistent focus and passion for one area — helping Australians live healthier lives.

This extends to a new partnership with Woolworths, for which she’s created a variety of ready-to-cook meals that are designed for shoppers to easily grab off the shelf without derailing their diet plans.

“I’ve been a personal trainer since I was 14, officially since I was 18. Even then I was giving meal plans to my clients. It’s something I’ve been doing for a really long time,” she says.

“This was a conversation from a couple of years ago — and it’s one I’ve always wanted to do — we approached Woolworths with the concept and the idea,” Bridges says.

“I understand that in the year 2017, people have a lot going on in their lives. I love to cook — I cook as many nights of the week as I can but not every night of the week, because stuff happens.”

Over the past decade Bridges has become one of the nation’s most prominent fitness gurus, gaining national exposure as a trainer on Channel Ten’s The Biggest Loser and then cementing herself as an entrepreneur with the success of her 12 Week Body Transformation business.

In 2015 she debuted on BRW’s list of Australia’s 30 richest women, with an estimated net worth of $53 million. She’s also been on SmartCompany’s Top 30 Female Entrepreneurs list two years running, this year with an estimated company revenue of $60 million annually.

The Woolworths meals partnership will hopefully appeal to two types of customers, Bridges says: those who are already on the health and fitness bandwagon, and those that want to be.

“There’s two schools of people,” she explains.

“It’s for those that are already eating healthily, but want to keep themselves on track, and then, when you go further afield, there are many Australians that aren’t getting meals that are nutritionally balanced.”

“This was another opportunity to introduce that concept [of healthy eating] to some.”

As for where partnerships like Woolworths fit into her business and goals in 2017, Bridges says she’s now focused on not becoming over-committed.

“At the moment I’m trying to find balance in my life — and what I’m doing is not biting off more than I can do, just sticking to a project and trying to see it through,” she says.

“This is a really important project.”

Knocked back? Rethink your pitch

Bridges has a reputation for chasing down big names on her quest to spread her message — she launched her career as a presenter by following daytime television personality Kerri-Anne Kennerley around the gym where Kennerley was taking one of Bridges’ classes, pitching the idea of a fitness segment on Kennerley’s show.

So when it comes to asking big brands if they want to get involved in your ideas, is it as simple as just making the pitch, or picking up the phone?

“No,” she says.

“Gosh, you do have to have some resilience. It’s about being resourceful, it’s about seeking out the people that you need to get whatever your project is.”

That might mean having to step back, too, and thinking about why a particular idea isn’t resonating with people the way you’d like it to, she believes.

“You need to go back and rethink your plan — that’s not to say it can’t work, but it might just be that you need to listen to the brief a bit more,” Bridges says.

“Strike the balance. You can go back for a second and a third bite of the cherry, if you can step back and understand why it didn’t get off the ground this time.”

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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