Crunchmoms talks with Maryam Fattahi Salaam, proud mom of three, who left her promising career as an attorney to launch the Dubai franchise of Physique 57 fitness studios

First up, tell us about yourself.

I am a fitness enthusiast, attorney, and mom of three boys. Fitness has always been a huge part of my life, having played a variety of sports since childhood throughout my teens, including tennis at a competitive level. With a BA in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and a JD from Villanova University School of Law, I practiced law at Guggenheim Partners in New York City. Combining my passion for health and fitness with my determination of running a world-renowned business, I am beyond thrilled to have successfully launched the first international location of Physique 57. We just celebrated our seven year anniversary!

How did you discover Physique 57? What about it appealed to you so much that you decided to leave your career in law?

Born and raised in the UAE, it was during my three years in New York City that I was exposed to the wonders of Physique 57 with its dance-inspired workouts and a signature blend of fun and empowerment at its core. Walking out of my first Physique 57 class, I knew I had to bring the life-changing workout to Dubai. When my husband and I decided to return in 2011, I was on a mission: to launch the luxurious, boutique exercise studio in the UAE.  

Physique 57 workouts

The women of Dubai were my inspiration. Knowing they were deserving of an incredible way of life drove me to make that career shift. Physique 57 is more than a workout – it is a powerful mind-body experience. The vibe of our studio and community is uplifting. Together we pulse, squeeze, and burn toward the finish line, and celebrate our accomplishments. 

What were the biggest challenges faced when opening the Physique 57 franchise in Dubai?

Bringing Physique 57 to Dubai was easy. The challenge came post-launch in the form of balancing quality and growth. Building scalability versus doing what you have to do to get the job done.

Time and experience have taught me that depending on where you are in your business' lifecycle, the scale will tip one way or the other, but both are necessary at different times. I also tend to obsess over details and have trained myself to obsess over the right details. Customer service, though, is one area where I’ve found obsessiveness to be acceptable. 

What makes P57 different from other fitness studios? Would you recommend the classes to moms-to-be or new moms? 

The benefits of Physique 57 are a lean sculpted physique, better posture, increased flexibility, stronger core, a revved up metabolic rate, and a sense of empowerment after each class. It is a low-impact workout so you build strength, endurance, and blast calories without the unnecessary wear and tear. But don’t let the word 'low' fool you! The workout is great for mental endurance and builds a strong mind-body connection. We focus on exercising the easy-to-forget small muscles as well as large muscle groups.

Clients love that it does not take long to see the results they want and that our classes easily fit into busy schedules. As for new or expecting moms, Physique 57 really is the ideal workout!

Physique 57 studio in Dubai

How did COVID-19 impact your business and how did you adapt?

We had to get creative about generating revenue and keeping clients engaged during the pandemic. We launched a daily schedule of live-stream classes. Our signature heart-pumping formats and inspiring trainers allowed women to participate from home at our virtual studio on Zoom.

Every business will go through times of vulnerability and fragility. This has taught me that having a solid product or service that people love will never be enough. No matter how successful a business, the model needs to be ever-evolving to protect that success.

Can you share what you’ve learned about entrepreneurship?

Knowing how fast to grow is a combination of art and science. With growth comes challenges, but challenges don’t define you. Setbacks provide you with an opportunity to learn and grow. They also allow you to be better prepared for the next challenge, whatever that may be.

What advice do you have for women who aren't sure about the ‘right time’ to start a business?

This moment is all we have. Life is short, but if you still have breath in your lungs you can start again, and again, and again. Stop waiting for the ‘right time’ and focus on making decisions that nobody else other than you might understand.