Adala Bolto was on maternity leave when she first discovered her passion for fitness.
Thirteen years ago, the mum-of-two had put on weight, going from a size eight to a size 14. Even though she hated exercise, a friend "dragged" her to a local gym one day — after nine months, she was back to a size eight.
Ms Bolto was blown away and realised she wanted to work in the fitness industry. She quickly qualified as a personal trainer before getting a job with Fernwood. "I started out as a gym-goer post-kids, then got into the industry as an instructor and trainer," the 40-year-old said.
"I started thinking it would be a part-time gig while I worked out what I wanted to do, it turned into a group fitness role, and from there I bought the club and managed it for four more years."
Today, the former Fernwood franchisee is behind of one of the most talked-about new gym concepts. Zadi Training, which bills itself as "a movement of badass babes who get s**t done". It's sort of like a mix between CrossFit and a nightclub — without the champagne.
Despite only two locations, Zadi has a huge social media presence already with nearly 11,000 followers on Instagram.
Ms Bolto says she kept a close eye on what was going on in the fitness industry and saw there was a "massive gap in the market for a studio targeted at millennial women, high-quality training but also fun and funky".
In 2017, she pitched the concept to Fernwood chief executive Diana Williams, who agreed to back her. The pair co-founded Zadi in June last year with a studio in Sydney's Surry Hills, followed by Neutral Bay in November.
Each class has a maximum of 18 people with two trainers, who push members through ever-changing high-intensity circuits. "There isn't a typical workout," Ms Bolto said. "We program so you are always getting a different workout."
Ms Bolto said Zadi's programming was unique in being "very results-driven". "Ninety-eight per cent of our members have seen results since they started training at Zadi," she said. "The amount of referrals is quite surprising, there's a lot of hype about it."
Many of her clients didn't like the traditional gym environment and had already tried "a lot of things, that's why they come here".
"Most things targeted to women can be a bit fluffy," she said. "The vibe and atmosphere (at Zadi) is female badass, girls don't feel like they're precious — come in, kick some ass and leave."
Zadi's typical customer is aged 28 but they range from 18 to 40. "They are very busy, want quality, specialisation, are usually very active online with social lives," she said. "They go out a lot, travel, drink wine but also like to balance it with a workout."
While she couldn't disclose revenue, Ms Bolto said it was "going according to our original business plan" and both locations had been profitable for the past five months.
"We're growing at 20 per cent month-on-month," she said. "At Neutral Bay we're 80 members away from full capacity of 260-280."
Zadi is receiving franchisee inquiries every week, and Ms Bolto has plans for 50 to 80 locations across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in the next two years.
"For now we're going to keep our focus on Sydney — the eastern suburbs, beach areas, all the way out to Manly and Mona Vale, Bella Vista, Castle Hill, lots of pockets of Sydney," she said.
"It's such a great product, there is definitely a massive gap in the market. We believe (we can expand) rapidly because of the need for something like this everywhere."