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Known for her appearance on The Biggest Loser as the ‘straight-talking’ trainer, Michelle Bridges, 46, is Australia’s most prominent fitness trainer who has a son Axel with partner and fellow Biggest Loser trainer, Steve ‘Commando’ Willis.
She has thousands of clients who have achieved incredible weight loss results. With fifteen books behind her, Michelle’s online small business 12 Week Body Transformation (12WBT) program has helped Australian’s lose over 1.3 million kilos in total.
Q. What made you turn to sport as a small business?
I fell in love with it at a very young age. It became a passion for me. At school, when kids chose not to participate in sport, I would approach my school mistress and ask if I could teach those kids. I managed to pull together a class full of kids. We would go to the local squash court and I would teach them everything I knew about fitness. By the time I turned 18 was a fitness instructor. I thought this would make a great career! No one was working full time teaching fitness classes so I grabbed the opportunity and started doing it.
Q. What was your first small business?
Working as a freelance consultant for the fitness industry. I was self-employed teaching classes for different gyms. After gaining some experience, I started a personal training business and began working with companies such as Les Mills. I became a consultant for them to train other people. This involved attending conferences and that’s how my name popped up for The Biggest Loser. They were searching for someone who had a name in the industry.
“You have to be prepared to make sacrifices in small business.”
Q. When did things really pick up for you?
I managed to score myself an agent within my first year on the show. I started a product line called MB, consisting of clothing, books and DVDs. There was also nutritious meals, fitness equipment, footwear and kitchenware several years later. My 12WBT program emerged 7 years ago. Everything merged organically as the years progressed. It’s been an incredible journey!
Q. What are some obstacles you have faced over the years?
In the beginning it was trying to get people to listen to my message. They wouldn’t answer their phones, or let me have a go. I wasn’t very well known at the time. So I wanted to try and broaden my horizons.
I tried every possible way to get my message out there. And that meant challenging myself! I wrote articles for magazines and newspapers to increase my profile in the public eye. It took a very long time. I thought to myself, “Is this going anywhere?”. But slowly and eventually, I started making headway. It’s funny because now it’s all about having to juggle being across everything and trying to keep everyone happy.
“Having resilience is incredibly important.”
Q. What is something small business owners tend to forget?
You have to remember that in the beginning you can’t focus on just being paid. It’s all about getting your message out there for people to see and hear. You do it because you love it and want to show people what you are capable of. Once people show an interest in you, then they might be comfortable paying you.
Q. How do you both juggle being a mum and an entrepreneur?
Before having my son I literally said yes to everything. But now, I’ve had to say no to a lot of projects. I have parameters which only stretch so far. It’s about spending time with my son now. I’ve done my fair share of time in the field. I deserve a little less work time and more time with him.
In order to achieve that, I’ve had to become more organised and focused. If I can accommodate new projects, then I accept it, otherwise I don’t. To be honest, I don’t find it challenging to juggle work and being a mum. Because being a mum is one of the best things I’ve ever done. If I say no to something it’s for the good of my family.
Q. What is one piece of advice you would give small business owners?
It has to come from your heart to be a passion. It can’t only be for money. I mean it’s nice if you make a lot of money out of it. Ultimately, if it’s going to fly, it’s got to come from your heart. If you are wanting to start a business with the intention of doing it for the money and fame, you won’t last. It’s just too hard to keep that up.
It has to come from a place of passion and love. And you have to be prepared to make sacrifices in small business. Having resilience is incredibly important. The ability to say no and have a thick skin. It’s all about enjoying the good and the bad times.