From studying law and then working as an air hostess, to becoming a life coach and personal trainer, Karine Gauthier’s career has been one of self-discovery, and she’s grateful for all she has learnt on the journey. I caught up with the high spirited entrepreneur and busy mum of three at Body Temple in Loewen Gardens – a fitness studio that advocates women training women.
How did you come to live in Singapore?
I was born into a French-Canadian family and grew up on the east coast of Canada. In my early twenties I decided to travel and then lived in Australia for eight years. I met my husband Mike on a trip to Singapore 16 years ago, in 2000 – saying that makes me feel super old! We got together and lived in Sydney, but eventually he was headhunted to come back here to work.
At what stage did you decide you wanted to be a personal trainer?
I studied law, but decided not to pursue it – I didn’t’ like it at all, actually! That’s when I went travelling and ended up in Australia. It was supposed to be just a year’s trip, but I decided to stay. I started out in film and television casting, and then I moved on to work for Qantas as they were looking for French-speakers. Being an air hostess for four years was fantastic, and during that time I met Mike. I was getting paid to travel and that was great fun, but it’s not something that you can carry on doing forever. When we both got the chance to move back to Singapore, I took it as an opportunity to walk away from trolley-dolly life and start a fresh.
When did this career switch come about?
My husband had gone to see a life coach back in Australia. Soon after we moved here, I thought I’d book a session too, as it was time for me to invest some thought into what I was going to do for the next few years. I met up with a coach who gave me some very good direction. In the end, I was so inspired that I went and studied to be a life and business coach.
So how did your journey with the Body Temple begin?
I met Suzanne Bocking – the founder of Body Temple – at the Prime Time Business Association, and she was looking for personal trainers. I’d always been passionate about fitness as a hobby, but hadn’t seen it as a potential career path until I met Suzanne. I soon gained my qualifications, and she was my mentor along the way. When Suzanne decided to move back to Australia, she gave me the first option to buy the business. I was pregnant at the time and I purchased Body Temple on the day my first child was born. I felt like I took on two new additions at once! I operated out of what was The Gallery Hotel at the bottom of Mohamed Sultan Road, along with a few other trainers, both male and female. Two years in, we opened our first proper studio space at Carpenter Street. Eventually, we wanted to expand to a second branch, and that’s when we came across the space at Loewen Gardens. It was just perfect for us. I loved the gated area for kids, the fact that you could train indoors or outdoors, and the beautiful natural surroundings. In the end, our landlords tried to double our rent in the city, so we focused our efforts in Loewen and haven’t looked back.
What’s Body Temple’s vision?
Our idea was always to create a centre for women, trained by women – a sacred and holistic place where you feel safe and encouraged at all times. We wanted to provide a more personalised service, not one where you feel like you’re simply ticking boxes. We acknowledge that everyone has different levels of fitness, and we’re very goal-orientated ourselves when it comes to health and wellness. While offering you accountability and support, our trainers want to nourish not only your body, but also your mind and soul.
What do you specialise in?
Although we offer a variety of fitness classes, our ultimate passion is one-to-one training. I think that if you can make a difference in the life of one woman a day, your time has been well spent. I’m also a big believer in using your own body rather than lots of gym machines. If you keep your exercise routine simple, you’re more likely to stick to it, and that philosophy has worked for us for eight years! Also, we have a lot of prenatal and postnatal clients. Many women who have just had a baby want a place that feels safe, somewhere they can build up their confidence again. We know how to take care of them, but at the same time place an emphasis on good training and nutrition – after all, 85 percent of weight-loss depends on what you put into your body. If we need additional expertise for any case, we always refer her to the appropriate person; we’re lucky to have built up great working relationships with health specialists in Singapore over the years.
Tell us about your fitness classes.
Each of our classes is held at the studio five times a week; we keep them small and focused, with a maximum of around 10 to 12 people. We’re experienced with injuries, and with educating clients on things they can do at home to become or stay fit. If I keep hearing requests for an exercise we don’t currently offer, I’ll look into our trainers getting a qualification for it.
How have you managed to balance work with the demands of a growing family?
When I took over the company, I threw myself into deep water, but I’m thankful that this job has allowed me to work flexibly while expanding my family over the years. Having my third child definitely tipped my balance a lot, but in the end it taught me that you simply have to prioritise and make compromises. Singapore is regarded as a transitional place, but I’ve always had a steady network of inspirational women around me, including my team, who’ve been a great support. When it comes to making time for family, I always feel like I’m performing a juggling act; but when guilty feelings creep in, I believe in stopping and being grateful for what I have. Of course, I’d love to spend more time with my kids like some other mums do, but when I look at the bigger picture I know I’m very lucky. I’m able to work every day, managing a beautiful team in a positive environment, yet I’m also able to wake up with my children, have breakfast with them and see them off to school. I try to put a positive spin on everything, and I think it’s important that my children can look up to me as a good role model – someone who works hard, yet loves what she does. Ultimately, though, what keeps me going is seeing the women around me achieving great things every day.
What are your plans?
I definitely want to take on more trainers, ones who have different niches and specialties. Also, having created a balanced daily routine for myself, I want to be able to give that opportunity to other mums who want to work flexibly. Next, I want to work on our class schedules. These days, it seems to be more affordable for people to attend a few sessions a week, so I want to make sure we have a diverse timetable and a great range of classes on offer at all times. In the longer term, I’d love to open more Body Temples around Asia – in Jakarta and Bangkok, for example – to provide our services for both the locals and expats there. Maybe I’ll consider that in my next five-year plan!
If you had any advice for other female entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Follow your gut feeling and go for it. If you’re doing what you love and love what you do, I believe the money will come. Even if it doesn’t go as planned, you’ll have learnt something from the experience. There’s no such thing as failure. My other piece of advice is not to see people just as dollar signs. Listen to their needs, and be willing to make a difference to their lives with your service. In business, people really do connect to those with good intentions. To me, honesty and transparency are the way forward. That’s my mantra, and that means I can go to bed at night feeling good about myself.
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