Kent Life - - Business Life - WORDS: Sarah Sturt PHO­TOS: Manu Palomeque

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

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