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By Charlotte Roberts
uring lockdown, people have been flocking to Ciara Madden’s Body By Ciara online classes in their droves. It’s not difficult to figure out why: her chirpy, endearing persona makes a refreshing change from some of the more souped-up personal trainers online. She tells you when it hurts, she actually sweats and seems like someone we could all be friends with. And behind the scenes, her fitness empire is exploding.
‘I’ve always had the drive to make money but I don’t see it as important in my life’
The biggest thing I have spent money on this year is… The business: on staff, on wages, on buying more merchandise for our customers. Meals out are probably my main personal expense. Most weekends I’ll go out to eat. I don’t go to clubs any more, so it’s nice to have something to look forward to. But I do like luxury, too, don’t get me wrong. Every year I will buy a new pair of Louis Vuitton boots or a nice handbag.
I spend too much on… Other people. I find other people paying really uncomfortable, which obviously becomes expensive. That can easily roll into a grand or a couple of grand a month. I need to rein it in sometimes.
My most extravagant purchase to date has been… Paying off my dad’s credit card, which was £6,000. I would never buy myself something that was £6,000.
Now I can afford… This may sound ridiculous, but peace of mind. I just don’t have to worry at the moment. I could have paid off my dad’s credit card before, but it wouldn’t have been spare money. Now I can afford it.
My parents taught me a great work ethic They worked so hard. Mum always had two jobs – she now works in a school with kids who have home issues and also on the NHS 101 health helpline – and my Dad is 70 and is currently decorating my gym. He’s still climbing up and down ladders. They’re grafters. I’ve never learnt any business off my mum or dad but they always made sure we had what we needed. They always provided, considering there were four kids. I always had pocket money – the max I got was £10 a week. So in that sense, they taught us the value of money and working hard for money.
One of my first jobs was… Babysitting from around 12. Then as I got older, I worked at ClownTown play centre in north London at weekends, which at the time was embarrassing. I used to get £20 a day, from 10 am till 6 pm. Basically around £3 per hour. The worst part was dressing up as a clown to serve the birthday cake, but we got unlimited Slush Puppies! I worked there till I was about 16, then I started working at Waitrose, which I would do on a Saturday and a Wednesday plus all the overtime I could get. As soon I was legally able to work, I did. I worked at Miss Sixty on Carnaby Street, which was probably the worst job of my life. Everyone who worked there thought they were at Milan Fashion Week: there was a bit of a mean girl culture, a superiority vibe.
I am in the process of buying… My first property. I currently live in a one-bed on my own. But I want to renovate that and then sell that on. I want to get into property. I don’t have a boyfriend and I don’t have kids at the moment, so I’d love to start getting into doing up properties, selling them on and buying more.
I lease… My car. I pay mine monthly. I like the idea of having a car for a year or so. I can’t be bothered with trying to sell it and all that hassle. I’d rather just pay monthly.
I usually save more sporadically… If I get £5,000 in, I’ll usually move £3,500 of that into savings, but then I sometimes find myself dipping back into that.
I’ve got a financial adviser. Since being a sole trader, I’ve always had an accountant. My financial manager pays all the staff, the DJs, etc. The amount of times he’s like: “You’re overdrawn, Ciara, I’ve put money into your account.” It’s useful to have him helping like that.
I invest in… My business. I also put £2,000 into bitcoin a few years ago. It was done in a very ad hoc way: a friend of mine who had dabbled in trading did it for me. The problem is I lost all the money I’d invested, because I didn’t really know what I was doing and nor did my friend. This time round, I want someone to guide me. Now I’m investigating it again a bit more sensibly, with a proper financial adviser.
I’ve always had the drive to make money… But I don’t see it as important in my life. I like to see it as a target, but if you ask me what’s in my bank account I wouldn’t know.
I have increased my earnings by… Opening up different revenue streams. Beforehand, when I was just a personal trainer I could only make a certain amount. I’d be doing 12-hour days and be absolutely wrecked, working Monday to Sunday. At that point I felt I couldn’t put my prices up. I didn’t think it was justified. I could put it up to £150 an hour, but do I think that’s morally right? Do I think that a PT session is ever worth that? Honestly, no. So I started opening up revenue streams. I’ve got the gym, the merch, the online squad, the nutrition plans. I’m also working on a fitness clothing line. It’s going to take ages, but I want it to be really good. So when people put it on, it’s the best.
My business icon is… Any woman in business who’s successful is iconic to me. Conna Walker – she owns House Of CB – I have followed her and her journey and I think it’s amazing that she’s taken it from this little Instagram boutique into this massive global company with stores in LA and London. But any woman in business, there’s not one above the other; being a woman in business is really hard. We’re behind men in terms of having confidence in themselves and being transparent about money. Men bullshit their way through life and women put themselves down, and we need to ask questions. In general, if you ask me anything I would tell you everything, I don’t think there should be any secrets, I think it’s so important that women share information. If you look in my team, apart from my financial controller and the guy who is building my website, everyone else is female. Even my project manager at my gym, we’re there with the builders and at 4 pm, they’re all out the door, whereas me and her are there till 7 pm or 8pm. I think we feel we have something to prove, so we’ve got to work that little bit harder. I love working with women: we speak our truths and we work hard.
Rather than going all out for the money, Ciara focused on smart revenue through brand extensions – and building her self-belief.
By Charlotte Roberts