Katrina Brown is the founder of Fit Kat Coaching, a community gym for women and girls in Hendon, Sunderland which aims to make exercise, fitness and sensible dietary advice accessible to all women and girls, regardless of their circumstances, age, or ethnicity. Its members currently range in age from 18-76, and they inspire and empower one another as a group.
Of her drive to run the enterprise, Katrina says: “This is my passion. I started out with a little dream of helping women to build confidence and improve their health, but it’s so much more than that, and helping women to get fitter and eat more healthily impacts on their families too. One of my clients said that if she could bottle how she feels about a session here she would be worth a fortune, and that’s what makes this amazing.”
What’s the ethos which lies behind your enterprise?
“The ethos of the gym is that we support one another. There is so much more going on than exercise or dietary advice alone; we’re chatting about life in general and supporting one another.”
What drives you personally to do this?
“I absolutely love what I do, and I love to see the improvements that women can make in their lives. Those improvements aren’t just in their body shape or fitness; it’s more to do with their mindset and how they start to feel about themselves as they become more confident and more knowledgeable about food. It’s life-changing for these women. I have one woman who would never have thought about wearing a swimming costume, yet now she is going on holiday and really looking forward to getting out there because she feels confident in herself again. It’s not about being skinny; it’s about feeling good in yourself, and seeing women achieve that is what drives me.”
How would you describe yourself?
“I’m a very independent person and I do strive for my best self. Everything I do with the women I do with myself first, and that’s how I learn before passing the knowledge on to them. When lockdown happened I really focused on my health and the women who come to the gym know about the improvements I’ve made in my own body and mindset, which is inspiring for them.”
What’s been the most important turning point in your journey? “There hasn’t been a big turning point as such, and I’ve always been fit and trained even before I was a trainer, but lockdown did put a lot of things in perspective, including what I wanted for myself.It’s about fitness and eating well, which is not about calorie-counting; it’s about education and women loving themselves for who they are. My focus is on healthy eating on a budget, managing food waste and the things we can all do to feed our families better.”
What’s your wish for the world?
“I passionately want to see much better information out there about processed foods, eating healthily on a budget, and how to avoid food waste. The way people think is also a major part of what I do; understanding how thoughts can lead into spirals, and how we can change that. It’s basically about making people feel marvellous; women and girls feeling amazing.
“One of my clients said that if she could bottle how she feels about a session here she would be worth a fortune. Imagining that bottle of amazingness and sprinkling it on everyone is wonderful, and the thing is, it is doable.
“The beauty of it is that Fit Kat is all about word of mouth. I don’t even know how people find out about me, but they message and say they want to join and that’s amazing. It’s very rewarding and shows that when you’re doing something right it can grow without forcing it on people. I want people to come here when they’re ready, and when they walk through that door they realise it’s not intimidating. We have a laugh, we play music, and we chat about life while we’re working out. So many conversations come up that people couldn’t talk about outside of this environment, so it’s therapy for a lot of women. The women come in tired early in the morning and they walk out feeling alive.”
Why did you decide to become a Community Interest Company (CIC)?
“I started out with a little dream to help women, but it’s about so much more than that; it’s about impacting on the community and being a CIC means you can do that. We tackle so many issues, such as obesity, not only among women, but within their families. By giving a woman advice, you’re impacting on her life, her children’s lives, and her husband’s. What we do can impact on many more than the one person.”
Would you encourage other social enterprises to work with the BIC?
“The support I’ve had from the BIC has been invaluable. At the end of last year, we were ready to grow further to reach more people. Our adviser at the BIC has been amazing in helping us to achieve that and in providing on-going mentoring tailored to us.
“I’d encourage anyone – whether they’re already running a social enterprise or they’re just at the idea stage – to use the BIC support. They can help with things like business planning, funding bids, financial forecasting and the like, and the ongoing mentoring I get from them is tailored to what I need. I’m so pleased to have their support – they make everything possible. We’ve been able to bring women from the Bangladeshi community into the gym, and we’re looking to offer our services for men-only classes also, all thanks to the BIC.”
“I’m looking for a male personal trainer now so that we can start men-only sessions with the same ethos, for men intimidated by going to a gym and who want a safe space to be together.”