A 22-year-old Australian entrepreneur behind new exercise program The Jungle Body has unveiled plans to launch in Finland, Malaysia and Vietnam, having already launched in London and Dubai.
The Jungle Body, founded in 2010 by Perth-based entrepreneur Tara Simich, specialises in female-friendly fitness, offering dance-based classes designed to sculpt the entire body.
Simich came up with the concept after spending 12 months working with heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko and Matteo Baker, owner of 220Fitness Concepts International in the United States.
When Simich returned from America, she saw a gap in the group fitness industry for classes that were simplistic, results-driven, and a hybrid of existing techniques.
The Jungle Body program has grown to include more than 160 licensees in Australia and Asia, and saw the number of instructors increase by 75% in 2012 alone.
“I always loved fitness but never, ever thought of it as a career or a business [opportunity],” Simich told StartupSmart.
“I was studying a Bachelor of Economics – I got a scholarship – and I went to New York to study that… I noticed a whole bunch of workouts that were really big in the US.
“Coming back to Perth a year or so later, there were none of those workouts here. Zumba had just hit but that was just one.
“I created The Jungle Body to redefine the group fitness industry in Australia. The response my instructors and I have had to The Jungle Body overseas has been phenomenal.
“Women want to have fun when they work out… I see hybrid exercise which constantly mixes up training and dance techniques as the future of group fitness.”
Simich, who continues to fund the business herself, says the expansion overseas happened purely through word of mouth and social media.
“I didn’t choose [the markets we have expanded into]… We had a girl working in Sydney as a fitness instructor and then got a job in Dubai and started the program over there,” she says.
“Even Finland grew from word of mouth, and we have some from Asia… They all pay a monthly fee to receive all our choreography material.
“Everything’s done online – instructors receive all the choreography online. People can become instructors online.
“This is what keeps all the costs down compared to, say, Zumba, which sends out DVDs of all the choreography and flies instructors around the world.
“I can’t afford to do that so we do everything online, which ends up being a positive.”
However, Simich admits she finds it “extremely difficult” operating the business from Perth.
“Being an Australia-based business and a Perth-based business, people don’t take it as seriously. They think, ‘It’s just an Australian business, it’s a start-up – it will fail’,” she says.
“There’s only a few gyms around [in Perth] – it’s such a small place. We have 30 instructors here in Perth and that covers the whole of Perth.
“What I’m noticing is we have to focus on overseas first and then Australia catches on once they see it’s cool overseas.
“Now we’ve expanded overseas, people in Australia want to get on board.”