Women supporting each other to business success.

Posted 15 Sep 2021

We’re proud to have given support to a wide range of businesses in our city. Every person who starts their own business can at times feel like they’re going it alone, and so it’s important to have a supportive group to lean on when times are tough. 

The Women in Business group has shown repeatedly that a positive atmosphere can often be the secret to success, and we spoke to one local businesswoman who credits the group with helping to make her business a hit.

BollyFit Active, started by entrepreneur Shamime Jan, is a unique fitness movement with a simple aim:

'To create a community of empowered women who want to take control of their health, wellness and fitness.' 

Shamime told us that the idea for the business was a result of her own lived experiences:

“I was in a low place at one time in my life, and I needed exercise to help improve my mental health, so I started going to a women’s only gym.

"I loved it, but the male personal trainers and male cleaners would often walk into the classes, and I didn’t feel comfortable.” 

She explained how for a lot of women the presence of men in an exercise space can be intimidating. For many South Asian and BAME women they are also in need of a place to exercise where they can remove their religious or cultural clothing, without men in their environment. 

“I went to try and find some new classes”, Shamime says, “and what I found was that there were not very many Asian women at these classes. I got a better understanding of why they weren’t going to the gym, I understood it from my own journey. 

“This is where I got the idea to start up BollyFit, as a place that offers a strictly women-only environment, incorporating cultural music and cultural dance. With the classes we want to tackle obesity, isolation and depression and improve the health and well-being of South Asian and BAME women in the local community. 

“The classes were really popular, more and more women wanted to attend, and they were even speaking to their doctors about the classes. 

“Then what happened is that local GPs took an interest. They had found that a lot of people were experiencing health issues due to isolation, and so they saw my BollyFit classes as something that they could refer the women they were treating to.” 

Shamime told us that for her business to work she needed to be more than a self-employed fitness instructor. In order for her to receive payment for her partnership with GPs and doctors’ referrals, she needed to set up as an enterprise.

"I decided to meet up with Jenny from the Women in Business course.

"I loved the sessions because it was women from all races, all religions, and that gets my soul excited when I see the combination of different communities coming together.

"They’re supportive and understanding, and I went to the meetings to absorb the energy of a room full of inspirational women.” 

Even during the pandemic, when she had to put a temporary stop to the fitness classes, Shamime was taking part in the Zoom meetings that Jenny was arranging.

“The pandemic really highlighted the inequality in our communities. In a report I read, I learned that South Asian women keep going to their doctors to talk about aches and pains that they have, which are caused from inactivity. 

“I could see that BollyFit was bigger than me, and I had more conversations with Jenny, we spoke for months. Eventually we decided that the company needed to be a Community Interest Company, a social enterprise.” 

BollyFit is a wonderful example of a business that has benefitted from networking, as well as the support from other community enterprises. During the pandemic they have worked with a number of charities in the community who have contributed funding so that BollyFit could also run a food bank. 

We’re also proud to say that One Manchester have been able to financially support Shamime’s business, by providing funding for 10 volunteers to take part in Emergency First Aid, Manual Handling and Food & Hygiene training courses. 

“Wayne from One Manchester has also been a great help, keeping me up to date with all the information, training courses and resources that I can take advantage of. The more I know, the more I can help people in my community!  

“I attend lots of the workshops that are on offer from the Enterprise service. I say to people that if they’re starting a business, they really need to connect with One Manchester because this is where you will find out the information you need.”