Adala Bolto is every bit the image of a female entrepreneur extraordinaire. The founder of ZADI Training, an Australian female fitness studio offering bespoke, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training, has quickly cultivated a space many women turn to not only to find strength physically, but mentally.
It wasn’t always the path Bolto had imagined herself on, admitting that fitness was not something she’d "always been in love with”, but saw itself become vital in her life after welcoming her two daughters. It would be upon discovering this newfound passion that Bolto would eventually find a gap in the market for training that was specifically targeted to women who wanted to “get shit done”, a phrase which has since become the studios’ motto.
“I wasn't really pushed back in my day to go to the gym or stay active, which isn’t uncommon, but I realised there was a good purpose behind it other than the weight loss, but gaining strength. When I realised that if I maintained this kind of training as a way to control life and lead myself in a direction I wanted, I became very passionate about it.”
It was upon reflecting back to herself as an 18-year-old that Bolto began to question why she hadn’t turned to fitness to aid in her physical and mental health, noting that often the environment was too “blokey” and masculine to feel comfortable enough to get involved.
“There's nothing else that's geared to women, except for pilates and yoga, so I thought there needs to be a HIIT strength-focused model that's specifically for women, adding a vibe and atmosphere like when they go out with the girls and party, and naturally, I was watching the change in the industry move more towards boutique. I could see the benefit of it, with people wanting something specialised for them, which is how I came up with the original idea.”
Cultivating her 17 years experience in the fitness industry, in 2017 Bolto began to pitch to investors, offering a clear vision for a scalable franchise model that would launch into what is now ZADI Training, a first in the Australian market, offering up a fitness program that targeted women who were looking for a more specialised approach and unique experience.
“Since then I've been working on making sure that we have an amazing product and a great reputation, as well as happy members and results,” Bolto explains, but adds that naturally, “thanks to COVID, it's a bit of a slow start.”
The studios have quickly attracted the attention of a generation looking to take control of their health, offering a high-energy and captivating atmosphere that motivates women together, with Bolto explaining that the spaces use all forms of training styles to get their clients not only the targeted results they're looking for, but to form a routine that naturally fits into their lifestyle.
“We know that there are girls emerging that are really driven, very focused. They know what they like. So we're there to create that atmosphere that suits them and also to inspire the ones that haven't really found their voice.”
What’s made ZADI Training resonate so well with Australian women, is that it turns fitness into a fun and energising experience that doesn’t need to be obsessed over, but instead, a welcome aspect to a weekly routine.
“I guess in the fitness industry, there's a lot of bullshit out there,” Bolto says. “So we try to teach clients that you've just got to turn up three times a week, make sure they get shit done, do what we tell you to do in that session and go home. Don't worry about it, don't think about it, don't obsess about it. It should just be part of your lifestyle. It's still very much focused on getting shit done and having that positive result.”
As for the challenges Bolto has faced over the years, she says it’s become a lesson in managing expectations, especially when it comes to the people you bring on board to help bring a specific vision to life.
“You have the vision in your head as the founder, you know exactly what you want to build,” she says. “So it's always a challenge to make sure everyone understands your vision very clearly, because you're bringing in people that are writing your programs, people that are designing things that are going to represent the way you look. Everything. So, managing expectations and being very clear on your vision and very clear on your purpose is crucial, and standing that course is very challenging.”
While it might not always be smooth sailing, especially considering what the past few years have looked like with navigating a COVID-19 world, Botlo explains it’s about looking at the bigger picture for her business.
“So I just never think beyond, I have my plan and my goal or my strategy. Just remembering not to be too rigid mentally on how things are going to happen. And expect things to change and just roll with the punches. As long as you stay focused on the goal, the end result, no one is going to care about the little details of how you got there in the end. And neither are you.”
“Nothing so far has happened the way I planned it, but here I am, we still have the end goal,” Bolto adds.
And as any business owner will tell you, the rewards of seeing a vision come to life far outweigh the challenges that present themselves along the way.
“I don't want to sound cliché, but really to date, the most rewarding thing has been bumping into a member and when I tell them who I am, they are just desperately wanting to tell me about the great results that they've got, because they are achieving amazing results. It's so amazing to hear a client wanting to tell me as a founder, what an amazing brand it is and how it resonates with them. Their personality, their lifestyle, and all the things that they love about it and what it stands for. So hearing that, I can never hear that enough. Because that's the cornerstone of what we do.”
Bolto’s plans to expand ZADI Training nationally halted due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, all of which was made even more uncertain as a mum of two teenagers also grappling with the constantly changing new world.
“It's a daily struggle,” she admits. “It's not like you do it and you get it right. You just have to focus on the most urgent matters and things that are going to make a big difference, that is linked to the purpose of the business and me as a mum in my life. I want to make sure they feel important, that nothing else I'm doing is more important than that.”
As for how Bolto deals with the uncertainty? She says it comes down to “controlling what I can, and the rest will just come flooding.”