Kirri-lee Brazendale’s experiences with single parenthood and mental health challenges helped her find a gap in Tasmania's fitness market.
Five years ago, Kirri-lee Brazendale found herself unexpectedly pregnant.
She was 22 at the time and a full-time serving member of the Royal Australian Navy. She quickly realised single motherhood wouldn’t be compatible with life at sea.
"So I started studying for a business degree," she says. "I had my first set of exams four days before Addison was due."
But exactly what her new career would involve didn’t become clear until sometime later.
"I had very traumatic birth and ended up very ill for twenty days," Kirri says. "And I suffered really serious post-natal depression. As I was coping with those mental health issues, I was seeing a psychologist and the psychologist encouraged me to start exercising."
Kirri soon noticed a major impact in her mental health. Exercise was helping her feel better, and bond with her daughter.
"I remember vividly, Addison was about nine months old... I was unhappy and she was unhappy and I took her for a walk along the water at Midway Point . I started jogging with the pram and she started laughing and I started laughing - and I remember getting to the point, and feeling so happy and full of life and energetic and the best I had in a year - and I realised that was because I had started getting my endorphins pumping."
So in 2014, Kirri held her first boot camp at a park in her neighbourhood. 15 strangers turned up. She held another one. She wrote a business plan in 30 days; a friend helped her design a logo.
Three years later, Military Mumma is a thriving business with corporate fitness programs and a dedicated gym in Cambridge.
"There was a gap in the fitness industry in Tasmania. There was nowhere in Hobart I could go and exercise with my child without shoving her in a day care... or taking her somewhere that was really dangerous with kettle bells swinging.
"Being a single mother that was working, I felt like I was judged a lot and I didn’t know where I could go - so I created my own space,” Kirri says.
Her gym now has more than a 100 active members with a 91% retention rate.
"This time three years ago I was in a space where I didn’t think I was worthy of anything. And now three years on, I feel really proud of where I’m at, and I feel really worthy of this interview.
“I’ve had lots of people tell me that I couldn’t open a business, couldn’t leave the defense force. And each time I ticked one of those boxes, there was no better feeling in the world.”