One On One With The Woman Behind Some Of The Biggest Gym Chains In The World: Selena Short

Selena Short’s business acumen was revealed quite early on in her life and in a most unusual way. Short reveals that “as a kid, while others played games, I played shops, would even make up raffles to sell. Actually, I would raffle off my Mum’s frozen chickens, without her knowing about it, sorry mum!”  From that nefarious beginning, Selena Short has built for herself not only an incredibly successful career but one that is full of passion and purpose.

If one hears of a big-name fitness club, chances are Selena Short has had a hand in it.  The New Zealand native holds a Master’s Degree in Commerce from Victoria University in Wellington and has been working in the fitness industry for 18 years.  A fortuitous move to Hong Kong (having previously worked for Air New Zealand as a Business Analyst) gave her the chance to apply for, and secure, a job as Marketing Manager for California Fitness Centres (CFC).  She shares that “over the 7 years with this company, I worked my way up into a senior role as Vice President in charge of Marketing and Human Resources.  I managed an annual marketing spend of over US$5 million and oversaw the HR for over 2,000 employees across 6 countries (Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia).”  When the company was sold in 2005 for a record $1.6 billion US, Short made enough from her shares to be able to make the move to Australia in 2006 and start her first gym.  She reveals that “alongside my husband and business partners Mark Mastrov and Eric Levine we started V Club, a revolutionary concept and a gym that won the best gym in Sydney 4 years straight.  Since then we have grown the business into 10 Crunch gyms across Sydney and Melbourne.”  Selena was also involved in opening the first international locations for UFC Gym and Hard Candy Fitness, the fitness company started by music superstar, Madonna, and her manager, Guy Oseary.

It’s obvious that Selena is passionate about fitness and health.  But the 46-year old is also passionate about, she shares, “seeing people grow in their unique gifts and purpose…we have over 750 in our team who are responsible for close to 55,000 members, I get to equip our teams to inspire and motivate people to live better…I love building strong teams that are on a mission to help people ‘perspire to greatness’…if our business can help someone become stronger and be healthier, then we will have played a part in helping them live their life to the full.”

Massive success has the unfortunate side effect of warping one’s sense of self-worth and sense of entitlement.  But nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Selena Short.  Take for example her revelation of what has been the most memorable experience of her career so far: “Opening the doors of our first owned fitness club for the first time will always be a defining moment…it is a moment I relive with every new club opening to this day. I am personally on site helping set the club up and finish the final clean! I’m there on opening day and I do the first workout with members. But right before we open our doors I pause and say a little prayer for all the lives we are about to change from that day onwards! It’s powerful, we impact communities!”  This from a woman who has worked with stars such as NBA legend, Magic Johnson; model extraordinaire Cindy Crawford; UFC President Dana White, and NBL Australia’s Executive Director, Larry Kestelman!  The half Kiwi/half Cook Islander directly attributes her continued humility and down-to-earth nature to her Christian beliefs – “I believe I am positioned where I am today because it is God’s plan.  All I had to do was obey the signs and work extra hard for it.”

Any successful business entrepreneur got to where they are because there were people who influenced them along the way.  For Selena, these included her business partners, Mark Mastrov (founder of 24 Hour Fitness) and Eric Levine (founder of California Fitness).  But perhaps the most influential, and who provided the impetus for Selena to start her own gym, is movie legend, Jackie Chan.  She fondly remembers “working with Jackie on design concepts for a Jackie Chan-endorsed California Fitness Centre.  He wanted a whole lot of crazy concepts in the club, I was the only one who would tell him ‘no’, but together we came up with some cool ideas!  Jackie spoke life into me, it prompted a confidence in me to move on to start my own business.”  In China, Chan’s philanthropy is as legendary as his acting career.  Short recounts attending Jackie’s 50th birthday party where the action star became annoyed at guests who gave him big, flashy flower arrangements.  He growled that he preferred to be given money – but the money wasn’t for himself.  Selena shares that “he then sent his team out into the party with buckets for all his guests, the who’s who in Hong Kong to take off their expensive watches and jewelry and donate it to his causes.  I love that he is not just about his movies and business, but is driven to help children living in poverty in China.”

The now Sydney-based wife and mother of 3 continue to have big plans to inspire others to ‘perspire to greatness.’  She shares that they “plan to continue to grow our business in Australia and possibly into New Zealand.  We have a few new clubs in the pipeline now.  We are also going into franchising, I look forward to mentoring franchisee owners and helping them build their own fitness businesses.  Personally, I am starting a foundation to help support women and families through health and fitness initiatives.”  And it all started with a few frozen chickens!  But, as Selena shares, you must figure out your ‘why’ first.  She emphasizes to “figure out what it is that you are passionate about.  What gets you out of bed.  What gets you excited.  And go for it!”  She passionately urges others to actively seek their calling, put in the hard work for it and enjoy the ride – “When things are going well, enjoy it, you’ve probably worked hard for it. When things are tough, don’t give up but fight harder, you are just being shaped for greater things to come.  Love the saying, tough times don’t last but tough people do!”  And there is no better example of this advice than Selena Short herself.

‘LIGHTNING FAST’ Round:

1. Last good movie I’ve seen – ‘Moana’

2. What do you consider beautiful and why? Tiare Teina (Gardenia flower) because it is my favorite reminder of home Cook Islands – from the gorgeous white flower to the beautiful unique scent – it’s my sense of home.

3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could?  Trace my ancestor’s steps back through New Caledonia and Samoa, my sister’s idea I love.

4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d…” sail across the Pacific Islands in a vaka

5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself? Oh, so many!  I am highly competitive, can cause over-the-top behaviour!

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