by Louis Nel
Credited for opening the first chain of women-only gyms in Turkey, Bedriye Hülya, founder of B-fit, has made exercise fun and rewarding, while empowering women at the same time.
Prior to founding the B-fit franchise in 2006, Hülya studied psychology in New York. She joined a fitness programme that prescribed a finite exercise time with a variety of exercises incorporated into the time frame, helping maintain focused attention. She realized that if she could redesign and incorporate the best qualities of the programme into a packaged fitness service, it would also serve the fitness needs of the women in her home country. After studying the dynamics of circuit training, she became convinced that her business idea had potential. She dedicated time to researching machines and equipment, talking to manufacturers and tweaking her business’ fitness and workout programmes. She spent two years going back and forth between the US and Turkey, finally hitting on a ‘formula’ she liked and opening her first gym in İzmir, Turkey.
Hülya’s gym proved very successful and within a year B-fit grew to three separate gyms. From there, the gyms grew almost exponentially, from 10 gyms in 2007 to 15 in 2008, 30 in 2009 and 52 in 2010 throughout the country. In an interview with Today’s Zaman, a Turkish print and web newspaper, she explained the franchise’s popularity.
“(…) This system works in great harmony with our traditions and ways. These B-fit sports gyms accept only women as members. From the founder to the sports instructors, everyone involved is a woman. (…) Then, in this system, women only do 30 minutes of exercise at a time. The most important element at work is that B-fit is quite cheap and therefore works for every budget,” she said.
Hülya points out that while everyone knows they need to exercise, not many people actually exercise. Her franchise fitness services taps into the needs of middle-class and lower-middle-class women, offering them a place where “where women of every age and type can come and be among only women.” This image has done a lot towards breaking down the negative perception of gym clubs in Turkey as exclusive playgrounds for the rich.
In addition, Hülya is also regarded as a social entrepreneur and advocate of positive discrimination. Franchise ownership is open exclusively for women and is seen as a great opportunity for women to start their own business. Aspiring owners are selected for qualities like ambitiousness, friendliness and the need for success, fulfilment or achievement. The costs of machines, brand rights and furniture are all included in the initial US $ 33,200 startup fee, and with clear finance plans available and payment terms spread over five years, business set-up is as transparent and easy as possible.
In addition to pure fitness, the franchise also requires franchisees to run their gym as a social club for women; offering a seminar once a month about healthy eating and nutrition, and organizing member activities, like eat-out dinners, movies and the theatre.
Chosen as one of Turkey’s best entrepreneurs by Endeavor Global in 2009, Hülya was recognised as a valuable high-impact entrepreneur with massive growth potential. Hülya has even set her eyes on increasing the brand’s presence abroad, especially in Central Asian and Middle East countries where women are sometimes less empowered. A positive agent for change, Bedriye Hülya is changing the world one kilojoule at a time.