Dolly's Bootcamp

Dolly's Bootcamp was designed as a place for women to exercise more comfortably. Today, 90 per cent of its clients are Muslim women.

Dalal Karra-Hassan, or Dolly as her friends call her, knows a thing or two about willpower.

She was told she would fail if she tried to start her own business, her marriage might collapse, and she would be a bad mother. 

"It's just the first generation to come from overseas so everything is negative in their mind," she laughs.

Luckily, she didn't listen. Her gym, Dolly's Bootcamp, in the Sydney suburb of Auburn, now draws an average of 100 women a month.

 90 percent of them are Muslim, but Dolly says she's not trying to be a create an exclusively Muslim gym. It's simply the clientele she attracts, being a Muslim woman herself.

"We're they're role models. Yes, we wear the scarf and we're fit and healthy so they look at us, so of course that's the target market we're going to attract."

Dalal Karra-Hassan experienced a lot of negativity when she first started Dolly's Bootcamp.
Dalal Karra-Hassan experienced a lot of negativity when she first started Dolly's Bootcamp.

Early Obstacles 

But rewind seven years ago, and Dolly had never even stepped foot in a gym.

"I was desperate to go to a gym or start training, I was engaged at the time, it was close to when I was going to get married, so you know you have to have the perfect body!" she jokes. "So I begged my dad to allow me to go to the gym, he allowed me to go when I was 19." 

She found she was a natural gym junkie and the more she went, the more of a following she grew.

 "I was doing my own squats in front of the mirror, I had people lining up behind me copying what I'd do. I'd go to the bike and they'd follow me to the bike and I'm like what are they doing, I should be following them, they're older than me!"

That led to fitness qualifications and a job at the gym. Then three years ago, she decided to strike out on her own.

Dalal found her love of fitness when she first entered a gym at 19.
Dalal found her love of fitness when she first entered a gym at 19.

She's since grown from holding one class in a local park, to six classes a day in her own dedicated space. 

And while some in her family may have been skeptical of her prospects for success - others actively supported her and loaned her the money to start the business.

" I only had a little bit , like not even fifty grand and I was like, 'I'm going to do it'. And you need 28 grand just to open your own place for like ," she says. "I had to borrow money off my parents, I borrowed money off other family members."

Since paying back her loans, she says any extra profit has been invested back into the gym - with equipment being one of the biggest expenses.

"In my first year, I think I spent $145,000 Just to get this place started. I bought heaps of equipment, for example assault bike is $1500. My rowers are $2200, each box is $550."

Working up a sweat

On a recent morning, about 20 women gathered for a training session - some in scarves, some in shorts - but all sporting Dolly's branded bootcamp t-shirt.

"I say wear my shirt and it's your choice to wear trackies, shorts, etc, it's your choice, your life."

Dolly herself trains in a scarf and she encourages women who do wear it, to keep it on while training. That's because she wants them to get used to the feeling, so they don't feel like they need to limit their physical activity outside the gym.

Dalal and her clients exercise in their scarves.
Dalal and her clients exercise in their scarves.

"I say, honey, when you go and play footy with your child, you can't say 'I'm not going to play with you, I'm going to get hot and sweaty!' So, for example, I wear my scarf and train, my sisters, and we're able to do every sport outside of the gym, in our normal clothes on, with our scarf."

Her clients, who include her mother, say her dedication and enthusiasm is what keeps them coming back.

Dolly's two sisters now work as her fellow trainers, and she's recently hired a fourth trainer. She's now considering opening a second location. 

But she says her sweetest success has been proving her doubters wrong. 

"I think they're all shocked and gobsmacked because wow, she really did do it, wow, her and her husband are still married. Everything negative they thought, they're just swallowing it now. It's a good feeling. A really good feeling."

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Source: SBS Small Business Secrets