Options for This Page
Apr 6, 2006
At Home with Kimberly Fowler:
“I’m not starting a Subway or a Starbucks, I’m keeping it selective.”
And with that, Kimberly Fowler smoothes her white collared shirt, pets her canine companion Lucky, and discusses what she knows best from the comforts of her minimalist Venice town house: empire-building. No, Fowler may not be opening a legion of Subways, but she is building an international brand—the YAS brand to be exact, and she’s doing it one franchise at a time.
“I always wanted to expand, but I originally thought I’d open studios on my own. After doing my research I realized that it’s hard to be the “face” of all the locations and that franchising is the best solution,” says Fowler.
Problem-solving and evolving, along with a touch of trailblazing, is all in a day’s work for Fowler. In fact, on this particular lazy, hazy Monday afternoon, Fowler’s usually high energy, A-type personality is on pause, almost like the calm before the storm. Surely in a matter of hours her Blackberry will reinstate its centrality, reams of her signature green and grey YAS-wear fabric will blanket her solar-powered home, business meetings will transpire, and YAS classes will spin on with the fabulous sounds of a David Bowie song to guide the way.
Over the fast six years, Fowler has seamlessly transformed herself into a bona fide fitness icon with her trademark YOGA for ATHLETES® program that single-handedly reinvented yoga as a form of cross-training and took the world of child poses to a whole new level of cool. With more than 600 YAS die-hards, dressed in YAS wear from head-to-toe, no less, frequenting her Abbot Kinney studio on a daily basis, the only direction for Fowler is up, up, and away to new realms of success.
Next up on Fowler’s to-do list is the release of her motivational DVD “Overcoming Obstacles the Secret to Success,” that is based on a chapter from her upcoming autobiography Bent Out of Shape. With the completion of her first book Yoga is a Sport under her belt, Fowler is delving deep into her past within the pages of her life story.
“When I started writing Bent Out of Shape, I knew it was the right thing to do because I had this amazing amount of energy and I couldn’t stop writing. I was functioning on two hours of sleep,” reveals Fowler. “It was therapeutic and there was a lesson to be learned from everything that happened in my life.”
And Fowler has been sharing those lessons throughout the country as a motivational speaker at numerous conventions, encouraging others to live harder and more fearlessly. But besides her creative labors of love, Fowler is entering new territory and tapping into the serious business woman inside of her that has since taken a backseat to cycling and sun salutations. More business-minded than ever, Fowler is fiercely franchising.
“I’m a control freak and I set up a specific sequence for my all my classes at YAS. I’m regimented, I start and finish on time, and every instructor is trained through YAS,” explains Fowler. “You need uniformity to create a brand that stands for something and YAS is a perfect model for a franchise.”
YAS Franchise Inc is the fourth company under the ever-expansive YAS umbrella that has earned Fowler a place amongst the crème de la crème of the top earning female business owners in the nation. Having received franchising requests from all over the US, Australia, Japan, England, and the world over, Fowler is taking baby steps in order to ensure quality control and a certain level of exclusivity for her yoga hybrid brand.
“YAS is a very east coast thing because you’re in and out without any bullshit. I received so many requests from New York that I was encouraged to franchise, but it’s a massive endeavor and I have to start close to home. After all, Los Angeles has always been the fitness capital of the world.”
Looking to open 15 studios in California, Fowler is searching for “entrepreneurial spirits who want to make a difference in people’s lives” and with over 200 applicants vying for 15 franchising contracts, the competition is intense and the standards high.
“During the teacher’s training I can tell who feels YAS is their passion and understands the set sequence. I prefer applicants with a business mentality because it’s a serious business,” says Fowler. “I’m only selling to owner operators so the franchisees have to spearhead the daily workings of a studio.”
Currently, Fowler’s company is dominated by women, boasting a ratio of 33:2, with the XY chromosomes greatly outnumbered by spandex-clad female instructors and managers. Fowler hopes to reproduce a similar female-centered franchising sector and is courting fit females to take hold of the fitness/franchising reigns.
“I think that YAS franchising is a great avenue for business women because it’s both safe and rewarding. As women it’s in our nature to be nurturing and with YAS they’re working and changing people’s lives.”
The subject of female empowerment prompts Fowler to sit up a little straighter, talk a little faster, and even Lucky seems to channel her enthusiasm with an eager bark. Suddenly, the bra-burning, veteran NOW member within Fowler resurfaces as she takes her socio-political soapbox.
“Over 50% of businesses are owned by women, but only 2% make over a million dollars. There’s something very wrong with those statistics,” exclaims Fowler. “If you’re aggressive as a woman then you’re a bitch and if you’re emotional you’re incapable. It’s a Catch-22 to be a business woman.”
Rallying for strong women who can hold “plank” as well as manage successful businesses, Fowler has proven herself a warrior long before she perfected her Warrior II pose. Overcoming an impoverished background, a brain tumor, and two-near fatal bicycling and rock-climbing accidents, Fowler is living proof of the power of mind over body.
“I’ve had so many obstacles thrown at me that it gives my franchisees the hope that if I can persevere, they can too. That’s the kind of figurehead I have to be for the franchise.”
As Fowler enters a new phase of her business, swapping creativity for number-crunching and contract-signing, she's coming full-circle to her corporate beginnings as a lawyer and later, COO of The Winning Combination, a $200 million dollar American vitamin company.
“I came from this major business background where I had over 500 employees under me, but when I started YAS I entered this smaller mode of existence,” recalls Fowler. “The first time someone referred to me as their ‘spin or yoga instructor’ it made my hair stand-up, it was humbling to say the least.”
Having worked the front desk and taught 25 classes a week, Fowler has paid her dues and is prepared to give motivational speeches, set-up workshops, and share her proven business model with the world beyond her Venice, California confines. And with her “now or never” attitude, it’s only a matter of time until the whole world is painted green and grey while living and loving YAS.
“This is about my re-branding; I needed to be that yoga personality to get YAS going and now I want to step back and be a positive business role model.”