Fiona from White Zebra
With a burning desire to bring really great information to the masses and a passion for all things health and fitness, Fiona Caddies launched White Zebra. A trainer and yoga instructor with a background in graphic design, Fi’s wellness website has also become a real-life platform for outdoor fitness training on Sydney’s northern beaches.
I first met Fi Caddies in ballet class, more than ten years ago, when she was studying graphic design at Uni. My pointe-shoed feet posed for one of her assignments (this was in the days of floppy disks!) and, several years later, she was a guinea pig student for one of my first Pilates classes, right before my final exam. Our paths have crossed time and time again, and no doubt they will well into the future. I’m most grateful to Fi for telling me about the Awesomeness Festival, held once a year in a different country, bringing together the coolest people ever from around the globe. What a dream…
Anyway, I digress. Fiona started White Zebra as a blog site, early in 2014, driven by her passion for really good information, contributed by experts with great knowledge in the health, fitness and wellness sector. Within a few months, mushroom sites were popping up everywhere and Fi will be the first to admit “it felt like flogging a dead horse”. So the White Zebra brand began to evolve and change with the market, as these things do, and when Fi and her husband, Bjorn, moved to Sydney, she started running outdoor group fitness classes six days a week at Dee Why Beach.
"I’ve got a conscience and I’m busting my gut. I won’t walk all over people. I’d rather be small fry than take advantage of people. It would backfire. You just have to treat people like they’re humans. They say money doesn’t buy you happiness, and it really doesn’t."
Ultimately, Fi is dreaming big with the future of White Zebra, with a collaborative e-book on the way, plans for workshops and retreats, and different streams of income to keep up with the demands of online business in this day and age. Though she’s firm in her passion for White Zebra as an online hub with great information, she admits “you’ve got to swim with the big fish or be trampled. Social media has exploded in the last year.” Hence the decision to go back in to offering training as well.
Like most focused entrepreneurs (and certainly most of those who’ve walked through the Cool People doors so far), Fi confesses to being a bit of a control freak. She never thought she’d go back to the early-waking hours of training, but hiring others who fit the bill and value the ethos of White Zebra has proved to be a harder task than expected. She’s managed to find a few awesome yoga instructors to share some of the classes, but in the long run it’s about assessing time management. Is it worth putting effort into training trainers up to standard?
With the industry more competitive than ever before, Fi’s more interested in the long term, rather than everyday training. “It’s important to differentiate yourself… there are plenty of boot camps and outdoor training ventures around. We’re moving in a more boutique direction.” This is a lady with her business head switched on. Expect big things! I certainly do. Big love to Fi.
Where does the name ‘White Zebra’ come from?
White zebras are real! Each zebra has its own individual barcode, like a thumb print. Each one is different, unique. Within that, there are two white zebras standing out from the crowd. I love white; it’s my favourite “colour”. In yoga, it means purity, it’s the highest power. And I’ve always loved zebras. So one day I put the two together and thought, ‘White Zebra sounds cool’, then I looked it up and realised they actually exist! It’s the summary of my whole belief. I encourage people… don’t conform, don’t be normal, or do things the way everyone else is doing. That feeds into training – finding the balance of what suits you and your body.
"What I’ve learnt most in business is that what you project is what you attract and you really need to be careful about what you’re projecting. Always be true to yourself, your morals and beliefs, and be a White Zebra!"
What made you move from design to fitness?
I liked design but I wasn’t passionate about design for other people. I didn’t love it enough. I love being active and interacting with people. I don’t regret doing the graphic design degree! I’ve got all these great skills which has saved me money on hiring a graphic designer for White Zebra.
Is this the first time you’ve owned your own business?
I ran my own training business for six years, with no website, not one bit of advertising. This was a different age, and in a “country town”, so people were loyal and there was no social media. People wanted quality. I saw on the news the other night that a toy shop has closed after running for 50 years, and the owner was saying that everything is disposable now and no one is interested in keeping toys. It’s all about flashing lights and plastic and batteries. It’s sort of the same in other businesses. I’ve even noticed that people don’t appreciate quality as much. Which is so sad.
How has the direction of White Zebra changed since you launched in 2014?
We originally wanted to be a trendy, scientific site about health and wellness with really good quality information. The idea was awesome, but you had to pay for people to give you the information, and when you’re new you don’t have the profile yet for people to be willing to do it just for the exposure or advertising. I kept saying to my husband, Bjorn, that we need to either inject a lot of money into this to pay for big names to contribute regularly, or pay for the marketing and take on some of the big health sites, and be blogging eight times a day. I’m not personally a writer and I’d be lucky to write a blog a month – it’s just not me.
So you decided to get back into training?
Yep. My belief is that if you start high end, and leave it at that, people will come. But it was hard, because I didn’t have a “name” in the city yet. I’ve never previously discounted but we did a launch special at first, which unfortunately attracted a lot of people who weren’t willing to pay when the deal ended. I wanted it to be female-only training, with a gymnastics inflection. I’ve got ideas about the direction to take it in, like executive training and one-on-one for higher profile clients. It’s all about test and reassess.
How have you promoted White Zebra?
Social media is number one. And originally we used Outbrain, which is an awesome program that sponsors your blog posts to appear at the end of other similar blog posts, as suggested sites. We did that for about three months. When you’re small, google ads works as well, but you can’t control what comes up on people’s feeds. We got a lot of traffic and started selling advertising, but got rid of that when I started training again. We’ve done some social media campaigns too. We approached a PR company but it wasn’t really for us in the end. It’s all about working the social media brand. People love food, and sunrises, and yoga poses! In the end, everyone’s readers are different. You’re testing every image.
Do you find it hard to self-promote?
At first, the website deliberately had no face, because it was a hub of information and I didn’t want to put up photos of myself! But speaking to people, you have to personally promote yourself in this day and age. So I decided to be the face – first and foremost I’m a reflection of the business. Everything’s about branding yourself now too. It’s not just a business marketing thing. It’s worth building the personal brand as well, because people always want to know the face behind it. You have to either be big business, with huge injections of money to dominate and spend hundreds of thousands on advertising a brand with no face, or you’re the entrepreneur who’s created a brand and you have to work on your own brand too, alongside it. [Editor’s note: funny how we’ve both followed the same journey of resisting self-promotion!]
What’s your number one piece of advice for others starting out doing cool things?
What I’ve learnt most in business is that what you project is what you attract and you really need to be careful about what you’re projecting. Always be true to yourself, your morals and beliefs, and be a White Zebra! In training, in business, in life. Within that, we just have to keep sailing along in the direction of our message and mission, and adjust the sails (or take full turns) when necessary to move and flow with this fast-paced society. When we do this, we create the business we want and inspire and attract the positive change we wish to see – whatever the direction or niche we’re in.
What does your perfect future look like?
I would love to work with some really talented yoga teachers and Pilates instructors. I’d love to do a retreat for trainers and instructors, so it’s all advanced. I’m trying to bring high end people all together from different fields. Creating a dream team under the umbrella of White Zebra. You can’t create a dream team with employees, they need to have their own businesses and get 100 percent credit. It’s about substance, building a social following and being elite in your field. I want it to be awesome.
"The underlying belief of White Zebra is Leaner Healthier Happier – no matter what."
By Amy Lovat