Tammy Hembrow: from social media star to business success

Fitness influencer and businesswoman Tammy Hembrow
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A talent for connecting with customers – plus a large dose of determination – fuelled the success of fitness influencer Tammy Hembrow

 

When Gold Coast entrepreneur Tammy Hembrow started posting fitness content to Instagram in 2014, she immediately recognised the platform’s commercial potential.

 

“Through my pregnancy, and to be honest even before that, I saw the potential for business opportunities,” she says. “Women related to my content and I thought, ‘There are so many businesses I can create out of this.’”

 

Today, this 26-year-old serial entrepreneur has amassed 12 million followers on Instagram, leveraging her social media following to launch three different businesses that provide both products and services to her customers.

Fitness influencer and businesswoman Tammy Hembrow

There’s her fitness and health app, Tammy Fit, which provides targeted workout and meal plans for $99 a year, and has been downloaded 1.7 million times. There’s also Saski Collection, which offers athleisure and swimwear via (almost) monthly drops, and, to round off her fitness offering, Hembrow also offers downloadable e-books – such as At Home Booty and At Home Pregnancy – that retail for up to $67.99, payable via Afterpay.

 

The key to reaching young consumers

 

Young women make up 98 per cent of Tammy Fit’s customers, with a similar demographic across Hembrow’s other businesses. That makes Afterpay an essential payment method, she says. “Some of my collections can sell out very quickly, so if someone doesn’t have the money to purchase an item outright, they don’t need to miss out.”

 

Hembrow attributes much of her success to creativity and persistence – both of which she believes are essential when entrepreneurs inevitably encounter setbacks. “There are always going to be mistakes, but you have to be consistent and committed to working through those mistakes or figuring out creative ways around them.”

Swatches of fabric for Tammy Hembrow's brand Saski Collection

Finding a fresh approach to her businesses

 

In many ways, Tammy Fit was the natural extension of her personal brand; 98 per cent of subscribers are female and the app features Hembrow and her friends completing mini workouts and training sessions. The tone is fun, sassy and personal.

 

When Saski Collection launched in 2017, however, she made a deliberate decision to be less visible within marketing and branding. “I was the face of it in the beginning, but I moved away from it personally so that it could exist independently of me.” That way, says Hembrow, she could focus strategically on the long-term future of the brand – “and while I’m young and popular now, you never know what the future will bring, so it didn’t make sense for the brand to be entirely focused on me”.

 

Creating ongoing revenue through e-books

 

Her downloadable e-books, meanwhile, reinforce Hembrow’s positioning as a fitness expert for women, while also providing recurring revenue. “Any downloadable content is great for women as they can access the right kind of content for them at any time,” she says. Her first e-book – At Home Pregnancy – took Hembrow just a few weeks to produce, particularly as she wrote and designed it herself. Now, e-book production involves professional shoots and design, but it’s still worth the investment, she adds.

As with any new venture, there’s a risk that you might not see a return. But Hembrow believes in the power of just trying out ideas to see if they fly. “Start with whatever you have, don’t wait for the ‘right time’, don’t wait for more money,” she says. “Just take it day by day, little by little, and see where it takes you.”

 

Tammy Hembrow’s tips for entrepreneurs

 

Just start… Hembrow launched Saski Collection because she felt there was a gap in the market for good-quality, fashionable activewear. But she readily admits that she and her co-founder (her older sister, Amy) knew almost nothing about how to manufacture womenswear. “We were pretty much just learning everything as we went and we made a lot of mistakes,” she says. “We had to stop it from becoming overwhelming by just soldiering on, telling ourselves to keep going and it would all work out.” The same applied to her first e-book, which she shot and produced herself on her laptop. “I paid someone $200 to illustrate the exercises, but otherwise I did everything,” she says.

 

But know when to let go… As Saski Collection grew quickly, Hembrow says her reluctance to relinquish control threatened to hold it back. “I didn’t like delegating and I wanted to do everything myself, which became overwhelming and then impossible as the business grew,” she confides. “Once I hired my friend Bella, who became our general manager, I saw that I needed to have people to help me. I’m now really proud of my team.”

A sports top in Tammy Hembrow's Saski Collection

Build a great team: “I have a great team at Saski Collection and Tammy Fit – I couldn’t keep track of what was happening with the businesses without having good people in place,” says Hembrow. Saski Collection’s general manager, Bella Laws, was a high-school friend, and had little direct experience when she was brought into the business. “Fit is more important,” says Hembrow. “And I love to see what people can achieve when they’re given the chance.”

 

Fitness influencer and businesswoman Tammy Hembrow

Mistakes aren’t always bad: When Hembrow and her sister accidentally over-sold their first drop for Saski Collection, Hembrow jumped on the phone and called as many people as she could on the hundreds-strong purchaser list, offering them the choice of a refund if they didn’t want to wait for their order.

 

“Customer service is so important for a brand, and I’d already got off on the wrong foot,” she explains. “They weren’t going to get the product that they were so excited for, but I thought at least they might feel better if they got a call from me.” Most people were delighted to receive a call from the founder, and what could have been a PR disaster became an opportunity for customers to deepen their relationship with the brand.

 

Felicity Robinson’s work has appeared in a range of magazines, from marie claire to Glamour, and she is the co-founder of Studio PRIMER and PRIMER Photos by Justine Walpole.

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