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Lee Squire is the pint-sized
dynamo who has, over the past
seven years, built Ballarat's
Fernwood Women's Health Club into
one of the best Fernwood franchises
During a recent awards night at
Uluru for Fernwood franchises, Lee
accepted no less than six out of the
eight awards given out during the
Lee puts it down to great customer service.
But after only 30 minutes with the Ballarat
franchise partner for this article, it is
obvious that this pocket-rocket is the true
driving force behind the accolades.
A fitness instructor with 30 years'
experience, Lee took on the Fernwood
franchise seven years ago, 10 years after
the business was set up in Ballarat. The
mother of three boys has built the Ballarat
franchise up to more than 1000 members
and 23 staff.
Last year, $1 million was spent redeveloping
and renovating the Ballarat Fernwood
building, which incorporates 1100 square
metres of floor space.
Included in the redevelopment was state-
of-the-art equipment in all personal and
group fitness studios.
No stone is left unturned when it comes
to looking after the franchise's members.
The stylish showers and toilets also include
toiletries like shampoo and deodorant, as
well as hair dryers and hair straighteners for
those women on the run.
A member's lounge is the social hub of the
Fernwood club. Here members can enjoy a
complimentary breakfast, percolated coffee
and fruit before they head off to work. And
with the club opening at 5.45am each day,
there are many women taking up the offer
of exercising and enjoying breakfast before
taking on the rest of the day.
"Our members range from professional
women to housewives and the social
lounge provides a place where all women
can mix together," Lee said.
And the operating hours of between
5.45am and 8.30pm Monday to Thursday,
with reduced hours Friday, Saturday and
Sunday, suit most women. Child-minding
facilities are also available.
Fernwood offers 46 Les Mills-designed
exercise classes, as well as freestyle and
For those women who want to lose weight
as well as tone their body through exercise,
Fernwood offers a weight-loss program
designed specifically for women.
In the renovated basement of the
historic building, there is Ballarat's only
endermologie machine, which helps reduce
the appearance of cellulite. The basement
also accommodates cardio equipment,
each with a television so that you can watch
your favourite TV show or a movie while you
burn off the calories. There is also a spin/
cycle room, complete with mood lighting.
And for relaxing after those exercise classes,
there is a specially-designed room featuring
massive massage chairs.
"At the end of the day at Ballarat, we are
here to listen to all local women," Lee
"We understand the whole woman, not just
the bit that wants to lose weight or get fit.
We are here for every woman on every level.
Even if they just want someone to take the
time to listen and help. After all, our team
is dealing with real women. Most of us at
Fernwood have dealt with a similar situation,
so we completely understand where women
are coming from on a personal level.
"Everyone of us has a story, so do our
members and we exist because of our
members. It's just like another family
Story: Kim Quinlan
Pictures: Andrew Kelly
What, where, when: Diana Williams opened the first
Fernwood Women's Health Club in Bendigo in 1989.
Number of franchises: In 2007, Fernwood's 75th club
Figures: Fernwood is now the largest organisation of
its kind in Australia, with more than 80,000 members
and 2200 staff. In 2008, Fernwood was named joint
winner of BRW's most successful private business under
$100 million and has regularly appeared in the business
magazine's top 10 fastest growing private companies.
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