I was nineteen years old sitting in an Economics lecture at Curtin University scribbling away in my notebook. I should have been listening to the beauty of non-cooperative game theory and social choice but instead I was fixated on something else. I was consumed by the idea that no one was offering a workout for the everyday Australian. For the woman who was uncoordinated as anything but felt alive when the music turned up. For the girl who wanted to lose weight but couldn’t stand the treadmill . For the Mum who needed to keep fit but would never dare enter a gym. For the busy woman who didn’t have time to workout but needed it. My economic ears pricked because I knew there was demand but no one was filling it the right way.
I called my Mum and said “I think I can make this work….what do you think me about cutting back to part time uni?”
The response was everything I imagined from my Mother. In her bubbly, overly supportive and totally infectious tone she replied “yes…do it!”. That is how The Jungle Body was officially born.
In 2007 I graduated high school with dreams of being the next big economist and potentially a future Politician. I was Head Girl of my High School, “that girl” that started a Speech Club at lunch time and I entered every single extracurricular educational program and competition possible. I met my idol John Howard when I won The Hasluck Leadership Award and Richard Goyder presented me with the Business Icon award at only seventeen years old. I landed the John Curtin Scholarship when I finished High School and I began studying a Bachelor of Economics and Management. I scored my dream job in Advisory at PricewaterhouseCoopers straight out of School and everything was falling into place. I was clear where I was heading and no one could stop me.
What I have failed to add so far is that apart from all the studying, I had a passion for dance and fitness. My brother and I began ballroom dancing together when we were kids. We were always teased for giggling and smiling. The Franzinelli’s were always known as the “smileys” (my maiden name was Franzinelli).Naturally, as my brother grew up and realized ballroom dancing with your sister was not cool I began competing without him.
My mother was always very into staying fit and eating healthy. I was the child that was never allowed MSG or added sugar (long before it became cool) and I have countless memories doing Denise Austin workouts with my Mum for “fun”. I always struggled with knee problems from dancing so I was given a special membership at fifteen for my local gym (usually you had to be over eighteen) to do rehab. I hated doing sport at school in fear I would injure my knee which would hurt my dancing. Gym classes on the other hand I fell completely in love with. Before school my Mum would drop me at the gym for a Step class with a bunch of 40 year old woman. It was my outlet, the other dimension to me & something that I completely fell in love with.
It was late 2009 and it was time to depart to the US for my semester abroad which was part of my University Scholarship. I had a stopover in Los Angeles for a few days so I was left to venture out myself. I didn’t know anyone, I was underage and I was completely alone. This actually excited me because I absolutely love being alone and this was the first time I could truly live by myself. Interestingly, and potentially fateful I randomly decided the very first thing I would do would be go to the gym. The gym next to my hotel happened to the be the hottest gym in LA called Equinox on Sunset. It was Sunday at seven in the morning and not a person was in sight except the poor Manager who had to be there. I started chatting to him only to find out that he was the former Manager of the famous Gold’s Gym Venice Beach who had dreams of one day having his own Fitness Centre. Our conversation flowed as my legs chased after the treadmill and something sort of magical happened. I said to him that I would be happy to help out wherever I could in helping him create his fitness empire. Business plans, feasibility studies and numbers were what made me tick. So I exchanged my email and headed to New York to begin my studies.
New York University life is exactly like the movies. Fraternities, campus parties, dorm rooms and an obsession with American history. I was placed in a shoebox dormitory with a beautiful girl named Junehan from China. Jun was studying Musical Therapy which meant countless hours every day practicing her guitar skills. I think I heard John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” more than a thousand times. The tiny room would fill up with Chinese international students most nights and we would just giggle hardly understanding what each other was saying. In between learning about the American Civil War, listening to her learn guitar and assimilating to this new way of life; I was determined to impress this gym Manager from Los Angeles. I created the ultimate business plan for the opening of a gym in Los Angeles. With no expectations or payment, I just for some unknown reason felt the need to throw myself into this opportunity. This is how I always was. If there was a competition, a networking event, an opportunity to learn more or a person to meet; my hand was always up first.
I always felt the more I threw myself into life, the more I could gain. Every time I put myself in a challenging or uncomfortable position that was where I gained the most knowledge & satisfaction.
I spent the little money I had buying stockart to make this Business Plan look professional, filled the pages with financial estimates I found researching on Google and I showered the pages with my summaries, thoughts and notes. After about a week I had created a Business Plan that maybe PwC would have been proud of. I emailed it off…not knowing why or what it would lead to. But a sense of satisfaction that I had given it a go & potentially helped someone fulfill their dream. He returned my email totally overwhelmed and basically engaging me to help him & his Business partner Wladimir Klitschko open America’s greatest gym.
What followed this one fateful event was a year of travelling around the US trying the latest fitness classes, trademarking & meeting with Lawyers, creating branding with a high level Marketing company from Germany, checking out potential sites in New York & LA, producing startup costs with their accountant, recruiting the top fitness stars in the country and researching what it takes to be successful in the fitness market.
Plus, the fun stuff…like watching Wladimir fight at the Staples Centre and trying out endless classes that I loved like Piloxing, Zumba & Spin. I started to become addicted to group fitness classes so much so that I joined New York Health & Racquet Club because they had clubs on every block in Manhatten. Every night I would look at the Group Fitness schedule of all classes across the city! I’d finish a 6am aerobics class downtown and then race up to midtown for Pilates at 9am. Probably the most memorable class was one where the treadmill had no sides & you were to jump from one to another. Not sure where that one is today!
New York has an energy about it when you live there that is hard to describe. I stayed in Chelsea around the corner from the Meatpacking District which meant I could workout till late into the night and safely walk home absorbing the people, the sounds, the families, the celebrities …and everything in between.
You would think I would have lost weight, but I actually gained 5 kilos from post-workout caramel protein shakes, Ben & Jerry’s at every corner store, loaded chopped salads & cookie dough covered frozen yoghurt.
I remember one day coming up with the idea of Virtual Fitness classes. We thought we were going to be millionaires as the idea of being able to run Group Fitness classes all day with no instructor seemed like the ultimate lucrative idea. After a few hours we were in tears laughing on the floor at how ridiculous the idea was. Who would want to walk in a room alone and listen to a screen? Fast forward six years and it is actually happening. In the end we came up with the name 220 and the tag line ‘Second to None’. Today the gym reigns supreme in Santa Monica, Los Angeles and was voted “#2 Gym in the Nation,” by The Huffington Post and Self Magazine.
When I arrived back in Perth for Christmas in 2009 the first thing I did was head to the gym with my best friend; my Mum! I was hoping to see the Protein Shake bar, Cardio Theatre, Personal Trainers that were almost celebrity like, endless dance fitness classes & Pilates reformer rooms.
Unfortunately, the experience was quite the opposite. Staff that couldn’t crack a smile, the same techno beat aerobics with the same moves from 1994, bored Personal Trainers sitting on their Blackberries and a small fridge with Powerade. Something clicked in my mind and I knew I had to bring some of the energy from the US to Australia.
I was obsessed with Zumba so I began teaching it while at University. In the US there is a strong connection to South America and Latin music, food & culture is so natural. But in Australia I was finding the Bachata, Samba, Salsa, Merengue were not connecting. All I wanted to do was put on my own Hip Hop music, do some simple moves & throw in some other styles like Boxing & Cardio because half of my class could not dance. So, I just did it. I created my own program I called KONGA® and the classes were at max capacity each week.
The very first Instructor Training in Perth. So many of these faces are still teaching or part of my life. Including Shereice!
To this very day I still teach at the same Sporting Club I began teaching at in 2010. The same time, the same place, the same numbers, the same stage and a lot of the same people.
Photo at my Class at the Italian Club from 2010. I still teach here, same time, same place, same people!
It has been six years now. So much has happened I could write a very long book. Maybe the next DVD I can continue this story. But in short, I have had six unbelievable years. Yes it has been an uphill battle getting gyms & instructors to believe in the programs. It has been a struggle starting at nineteen with a few hundred dollars to my name. It has been difficult when everyone chose the global competitor over the underdog. But each week I kept going.
I kept going because I saw so many lives transform. Mindsets have been altered, relationships created & careers formed. Plus, i am a big believer that the best way to find happiness is to earn it. I thrive off a journey of hard work & it’s the challenges that have made me who I am today not so much the wins. I love being able to problem solve & become a better version of myself.
The company has grown up in the last six years. The sort of change you see in an infant from birth to six years of age. That is why now felt like the right time to do a DVD. The programs are now exactly what I imagined them to be, the instructors represent all that I could ever have dreamed of & the brand is exactly what I sought out to achieve.
In London with Shereice, who has been part of this journey with me…through the thick and the thin!
The power & spirit of The Jungle Body is not just in the movements & the music…it’s in the people. It’s the energy & culture we have created that make the workouts addictive, uplifting & empowering. It’s the friendly smiles you get from our instructors, their easy-going attitude that you fall in love with, their screams of joy for that 80s track you love, their determination you see at the end of that arm track or that hilarious look as we all attempt to twerk. It’s the feeling of inclusion, the feeling of acceptance & the mutual goal to be a better version of ourselves that makes it amazing.
I truly hope that The Jungle Body injects some light into your life & that my story inspires you to go out and achieve what you want! The Jungle Body is only what it is today because of every participant, instructor and supporter….the people I will forever be grateful for!
Don’t wait for the right time or the perfect circumstance for every challenge only makes you better. There will be struggles, there will be problems – but if your heart is in the right place and you are determined to work hard every single day – it will be worth it no matter what the end result.
I look forward to re-blogging this story in another 5 years with hopefully more amazing Jungle Body memories with you!