A SUNDERLAND woman who started her fitness business from her front room, and in a few short years saw it become a global franchise, has been named the UK’s top fitness professional.

Katie Bulmer, 27, has been named the UK Fitness Professional of the Year 2013. Her business, The Little Black Dress Club, has become a global phenomenon in the six years since she graduated with a degree in Sports and Exercise Development from the University of Sunderland.

Over 800 people were originally nominated for the award, which was whittled down to a shortlist of five by a panel of fitness professionals.

Katie said: “I’ve been self employed since 16, teaching fitness classes and working at gyms. I funded my way through Uni and after graduation I decided to use what I’d learnt in my degree and my working life to take it further, and set up my franchise, The Little Black Dress Club.”

Global franchise

The Little Black Dress Club franchise now has fitness clubs in 20 locations across the UK and in Canada. The idea of the Club came about when Katie realised there was a market not catered for by gyms – women who simply didn’t have time to keep fit.

“The idea behind The Little Black Dress Club was to target a very specific market,” explains Katie.  “The Club is for real women who have got full-time jobs and family commitments and are very ‘time poor’. These women have real lives, and they simply don’t have the time to go to the gym five nights a week.

“Most of these women will have a little black dress hanging in the back of their wardrobe which they want to be able to get back into.”

Fit Mummy Manual

Now Katie is hoping to expand her business in a new direction. She said: “My latest venture is The Fit Mummy Manual – it’s a series of online products to let new mams get into shape after they’ve had a baby. Over the last few months I’ve started selling this product all over the world, in South Africa, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and America.”

Katie’s business is certainly thriving, despite the recession – but what’s her secret?

“In my opinion there’s never been a better time to start your own business,” she says.  “Jobs in big companies are becoming more and more scarce, and people need to get behind smaller businesses to keep us thriving.

“What I learnt from my degree at Sunderland is that if you apply yourself to something enough the rewards can be massive. I worked really hard at Uni, and it paid off, I came out with a First class degree. I learnt from that that if you apply yourself to anything you can be a success.”

Exceptionally motivated

Ian Whyte, Team Leader in Sports and Exercise Science, who taught Katie at the University of Sunderland, said: “During her time with us Katie worked extremely hard on both her academic and professional development. She was an exceptionally motivated student who always tried to excel.  This prestigious title has been awarded by peers and colleagues from her profession and is testimony to her continuing desire to advance and innovate in her chosen field.”

You can find out more about The Little Black Dress Club and The Fit Mummy Manual at: www.www.katiebulmer.com/