Fernwood founder’s leadership tips for women

By Sarah Stowe | 28 Oct 2019 View comments

Diana Williams started out in her fitness franchise journey back in the late 1980s.

So what inspired her to start the Fernwood Women’s Health Club business?

“Actually I wasn’t inspired to start a business, I was more inspired to form a place where women could go and work out and get the benefit of strength training that I used to do. I used to go to a mixed gym and I loved the idea of the results I got from working out with weights. Most women didn’t go to a gym and certainly if they did, they certainly didn’t go into the weights area of the gym,” she says.

In this exclusive podcast, a partnership between Inside Franchise Business and InspireTalk TV, Williams explains how she set up a club in an abandoned school in Bendigo, and after six months relocated to larger premises, hiring staff and growing a membership.

At that point she realised her idea was going to turn into a good business.

Business growth and success is about incremental improvements, says Williams.

There were plenty of early challenges for her, a country woman with no business experience, building a business in fitness, and franchising, neither of which had great reputations at the time, she points out.

“I liked to think it was different to a gym, and that’s why we called it Fernwood.”

But that brought equal opportunities issues too. In 1995 when Fernwood was taken to the Equal Opportunities Commission the situation turned into a pr win – the case was won, and people started talking about the brand. They were saying “Oh, it’s not a nursery, it’s a women’s gym,” Williams reveals in this interview.

Fernwood founder’s leadership tips

Williams says she was a sponge, absorbing new ideas all the time as she started out her fitness initiative.

“Constantly learning helps you know you are on the right track. When you are growing a business you tend to second-guess yourself sometimes, you don’t have the confidence…when you go and see what other people have done it gives you that extra confidence that you can trust yourself and you’re making the right decisions.”

Williams’ advice for women in leadership:

  • Have confidence
  • Know that you can change your mind
  • Do your due diligence
  • Continue…even in the face of naysayers.

In this podcast the fitness franchise founder shares her thoughts on the importance of social media, creating a community feel and how the business engages with various philanthropic programs.

So how will Fernwood adapt to the future of fitness, and embrace innovation?

Listen to this exclusive podcast with Federico Re from InspireTalk TV and find out Diana Williams’ top tips for aspiring entrepreneurs and growth strategies.