meets two strong independent women, both celebrating the 10-year anniversaries of their businesses
from Bexleyheath is the founder and company director of G.I. Jane Bootcamp. A fitness devotee, 10 years ago she took her interest to another level when she went to a bootcamp with her sister, a recovering addict, and saw the changes in her and how strong the connection was between mental and physical health.
Despite at the time running a successful local cleaning company of her own, Sharon says that after her bootcamp experience she realised her passion had changed and she now wanted to help women turn their lives around.
G.I. Jane was set up in 2008 with the first camp in April 2009, but it was pop star Kerry Katona who really kickstarted everything. Taking part in one of the early camps, when the troubled star – who had wellpublicised addiction issues – left after a two-week stay she never touched cocaine again and next January will be 10 years clean.
“I am extremely proud of the fact that Kerry credits us with saving her life,” says Sharon, mum to Georgia, 19, and also currently in her fourth year of an Open University degree in psychology. She is unstoppable.
“The publicity generated put us on the map and we now receive visitors from all over the world.”
Indeed, as well as operating in the UK, Sharon now runs camps in Thailand and is planning to expand into Greece and Spain.
The bootcamps are women only because Sharon feels adding men would change the dynamics of the group.
“Nobody worries about make-up or how they look and when you see women empowering women, amazing things really do happen.”
Through a combination of fitness training and nutrition advice, Sharon has women coming to camp with zero confidence and very low self esteem – but they leave with a massive sense of achievement and the belief that anything is now possible.
“We don’t claim to be a quick fix but we are great believers in education,” says Sharon. “When our ladies leave they have all the tools needed to implement positive changes in their lives, which many then pass on to their families so they can get active and eat well together.”
Employing military trainers, there is only ever a maximum of 14 ladies to two trainers and everybody is treated equally – including the many celebrities and even members of royalty who attend her bootcamps.
“To us everybody is a celebrity because what we do is tough and with most ladies attending alone, they all deserve the same respect as each other.”
Sharon Smith, founder of GI Jane boot camps for women