I first met Alison at the opening of her 6th Curves outlet at Sunway Nexis, thanks to an introduction from Steve and Zac of Curlec. She may be petite in stature but upon her warm greeting, I could feel a sense of both tenacity and kindness radiating from her. It’s no surprise as she now leads a team of about 30 staff across the six Curves outlets in Malaysia.
If you are not yet familiar with the Curves brand, it is a workout focused on fitness, flexibility and weight loss. Imagine a half-hour workout with specially designed machines, built to create resistance that increases with effort. To put into numbers, you can burn up to 500 calories in just 30 minutes. Sign me up!
In this piece, you can read how Alison, a former finance professional, fell in love with the fitness & wellness industry and what inspired her to bring the Curves franchise into Malaysia.
1. Tell us what inspired you to open Curves in Malaysia?
Before I became CEO of Curves Malaysia, I was a certified chartered accountant who used to work with one of the “Big Four” international accounting firms, Ernst & Young, in Australia and the United States. When I returned to Malaysia, I joined a multinational fitness company in their regional finance team. As I started going regularly to the gym, I fell in love with the fitness and wellness industry for its fun and positivity. But I never truly felt comfortable working out next to my male colleagues – especially during unglamorous moments that involved being sweaty or doing squats.
The real turning point came when a personal trainer pressured my mother into doing weights until she got a slipped disc in her neck, nearly paralysing her. My mother spent thousands in recuperation and was in extreme pain for months.
Ever since, I’ve dedicated my career to providing a better workout solution for women. I decided to bring Curves to Malaysia when I saw how the women-only workout concept transformed my cousin in Australia from being a stressed-out mom to looking amazing, healthy and happy. I saw immediately that Curves was what women in Malaysia had been missing this whole time.
A certified fitness trainer guiding customers during their circuit workout at Curves
2. What are the three hardest challenges you faced in running this business?
1) Belief in yourself and your business – when running a business you can have extreme highs and other times be faced with challenging days where it seems nothing is going right. It’s at times like this you really have to dig deep. You need to have a very clear purpose in your business and in yourself. For me, I know it’s to “Strengthen Women”. So even when there are days where I have to handle things I don’t like to (and it happens) be it admin duties, customer issues, external factors – being rooted in my purpose helps me to stay focused because I know what I’m doing is going to contribute to me Strengthening Women.
2) It can be lonely at times – running a business means you are running at full speed and everything is your responsibility. You are the front of the business and you are the driver and motivator too, and must remain professional not only with our customers but our staff too. This means there can be a lot of weight on my shoulders as a lot of people depend on me and I have to be strong, and this can at times be a lonely journey. What has helped me in this area though is networking with other businesses and finding mentors. You can learn so much from each other’s experiences and lend support to each other. I have made so many incredible friends and met so many people that I admire, its been really wonderful. My husband and family are also extremely supportive, and that helps a lot!
3) Finding a Team that is as passionate as you are – I think every business in Malaysia must have at some point complained about how hard it is to find staff, or the attitude of staff etc! Whilst we certainly have faced our challenges in this too, I believe building culture in the company is essential. By having a strong purpose that we all believe in, backed by our core values, and continuously working on team building, training initiatives, formal and non formal feedback and other methods, we have built a team environment that I’m truly proud of and I really enjoy coming to work and being surrounded by our strong and energetic team members every day.
3. Describe female entrepreneurs in 3 words
Passionate. Leader. Self-belief.
The Curves team and members
4. What advice would you give to all the ladies out there who want to be female entrepreneurs?
Find your Purpose, back yourself and go for it! Be prepared for a long road and lots of hard work. There will be ups and downs, but keep true to yourself and enjoy the journey!
5. What is your favourite cheat meal?
Pasta, and lots of it!
Curves Bandar Sri Damansara
B-3-13 Block B, Ativo Plaza, No.1, Jalan PJU 9/1, Damansara Avenue, Bandar Sri Damansara PJU 9, 52200 Kuala Lumpur
Curves Bukit Damansara
No. 67-M, Jalan Setiabakti, Bukit Damansara Kuala Lumpur, 50490
Curves Seri Manjung Perak
No. 2, Jalan PPMP 3/1, Pusat Perniagaan Manjung Point 3, 32040 Seri Manjung, Perak
Curves Taman Tun Dr Ismail
Suite 1-3, 1st Floor, Wisma WIM, 7 Jalan Abang Haji Openg, Taman Tun Dr Ismail Kuala Lumpur 60000
Curves Wangsa Maju
20-1, Jalan Wangsa Delima 6, Seksyen 5, Pusat Bandar Wangsa Maju Kuala Lumpur, 53300
Curves Sunway Nexis
B-01-10, Sunway Nexis, No. 1, Jalan PJU 5/1, Kota Damansara, 47810 Petaling Jaya, Malaysia