Orange Ladies Fit Zone
Owner(s): Ana Sekulic
Location: Belgrade, Serbia
Number of members: 2,700-square-foot club
Year opened: 2008
Ana Sekulic’s vision, plus a little help from IHRSA, have produced one of Belgrade’s top clubs.
Driven by a clear vision and a promising opportunity, Ana Sekulic set out to enhance the lives of women in Belgrade, Serbia, by opening Orange Ladies Fit Zone, her 2,700-square-foot club, in 2008. Her clearly stated mission was to “give modern women the opportunity to spend their spare time in a new, more beneficial way.”
Sekulic was truly a courageous trailblazer. At that time, Serbia had no women-only health clubs; it was still economically challenged and suffering from the lingering effects of decades of war and Communist rule.
“In our country, fitness isn’t developed to a large extent, and I saw the chance to provide something that nobody else had offered,” she tells CBI. “But I realized that introducing and positioning a women- only fitness facility in the Serbian market would be a tremendous challenge—probably more difficult than anywhere in Europe.”
Moving forward undaunted
Sekulic, who’d pursued a career in sales and marketing in the healthcare industry, became committed to fitness while working with her husband, Slobodan, from 2003 to 2007 at Fit Trade, an exclusive Life Fitness equipment distributor for Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia- Herzegovina. An avid exerciser herself, she performs a cardio and circuit routine four times a week.
She chose the women-only market, foreseeing its great potential. “From the beginning, I made a commitment to serve women because some aren’t comfortable exercising in mixed company, and many visit fitness centers more regularly than men.”
Once she found an ideal location in the heart of Belgrade’s city center, Sekulic chose the name “Orange” because it connoted freshness and health, along with energy and positivity. Her business is built on the cutting-edge concepts of “exercise is medicine” and “exercise is health.”
Orange Ladies Fit Zone, where monthly dues range from $50 to $70, now offers Life Fitness’ cardio and Signature Series strength equipment, along with group exercise classes and individual training sessions, employing STOTT PILATES Reformers and the Wunda Chair. An electro- muscular stimulation (EMS) machine, from Miha Bodytec in Germany, offers an additional way to engage muscles.
Personal trainers guide members through cardio and circuit-training workouts; a professional nutritionist provides counseling on diet and healthy food choices; and a post-partum program helps new mothers regain their strength. Members can also pamper themselves at the club’s spa, which offers massage, facial and body treatments, and an infrared sauna.
One challenge, Sekulic admits, has been finding qualified employees, so she’s particularly glad to have found Olivera Mutic, the club’s manager and lead personal trainer. Mutic, who’s studying sports and physical education at the University of Belgrade, has been with the club since it opened, and oversees six employees, who provide service to its 800 members.
“Without Olivera, we definitely wouldn’t be as successful,” says Sekulic.
As a committed club operator, Sekulic works with local organizations, including the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, the Ministry of Sports, and the European Wellness Institute, which educates Serbs about disease prevention and major health issues.
Some new clubs in Serbia are imitating the Orange Ladies Fit Zone concept, but this inspires her, she explains. “We appreciate competitors because they force us to improve and upgrade our marketing, programs, and overall business.”
In fact, Orange Ladies Fit Zone has enjoyed such success that, despite the sluggish economy in Serbia and elsewhere in Europe, Sekulic hopes to open three to four more clubs over the next five years.
Joining an international family
Sekulic attended her first IHRSA International Convention and Trade Show in 2005 with her husband, and immediately recognized the valuable resource it could be. She joined the association shortly after opening her club.
“We evaluated various associations, and realized that IHRSA could help us solve every problem we were concerned about,” she notes. Since then, she’s turned to IHRSA for assistance on matters such as hiring, marketing, and finances.”
Sekulic also attended the 2009 IHRSA European Congress in Dublin, the 2010 European Congress in Barcelona, the 2011 European Congress in Milan, and, two months ago, the 2012 International Convention and Trade Show in Los Angeles. She says the numerous lectures and networking opportunities she’s enjoyed have made a real difference. “I recall sitting through a number of extremely interesting sessions, including some on marketing and social networking, that provided useful tips I could apply,” she says. “And the motivational keynote speakers inspired me to go back to my staff, and try to be a better leader, and feel more positive about what I’m doing.”
Making new friends is another valuable benefit of IHRSA membership, and Sekulic was delighted to meet Frances Michealson, the owner of Muscleup Canada, an exercise-product distributor based in Quebec. “Frances gave me ideas for programming and introduced me to new products that could enrich my club’s offerings. We also shared ideas about hiring and staff issues. Such an exchange of information is incredibly important in terms of remaining innovative and keeping ahead of competitors.”
Beyond Serbia, Sekulic is eager to play a role in the global fitness industry, and hopes to serve on IHRSA’s board of directors. “I want to pass along the newest industry information to my country,” she enthuses. “I also want to be a part of the big IHRSA family and participate in developing the fitness business worldwide.”