#Kaylascult – From passion project to full fledged, multi-national fitness empire

A business born on social media simplicity #Kaylascult

Kayla Itsines is part of a social media powered movement that is changing the way consumers interact with the fitness industry. She is doing this through a simple business model supported by a low-cost operating model, and she is WINNING.

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.21.25 pm

The Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide (BBG) is a set of 2 PDF documents (each ~60 pages) that retails online for ~$140. The first PDF is a 12-week exercise plan; each week contains three 28 minute workouts that require minimal equipment. The second is a 12-week food plan which covers the optimal food types and quantities for leading a healthy lifestyle.

Once a customer buys the guide they can opt in to being a member of the BBG community. The hashtag #BBG has been used two million times on Instagram, at a rate of one post every thirty seconds. Other hashtags such as #KaylasArmy, #thekaylamovement, #thek2movement, #deathbykayla, and #kaylaitsines are also widespread. Kayla Itsines has amassed over 4 million Instagram followers and uses this platform to bring her clients together, motivate, inspire and on sell!

Since it’s inception 2 years ago Kayla has expanded to 3 BBGs, and recently begun introducing apps, products and a global boot camp. Keeping this business model simple and leveraging the low-cost operating model is allowing the company to                                                          grow organically and rapidly in a highly competitive industry.

The key features of the operating model are around product offering and advertising channels.

  1. BBG is a low cost product and quick to bring to market

Kayla Itsine’s researched and wrote the BBG whilst working at a women’s training facility in Adelaide, Australia. Rather than entering the market with a glossy book or online subscription, the product she came out with was a PDF document that a customer can download onto their laptop or phone. As such the guides are replicable at no-cost and the main business expenses are the website and online sales system.

Following the release of BBG 1 customers demanded more. With a low cost and quick go to market product Kayla was able to rapidly introduce the next two guides, the third being a sustainable lifestyle model to ensure long term engagement with the brand. The simple PDF format has enabled a young business to keep pace in the highly competitive fitness industry.

Additionally, maintaining a low-cost product allows the retail price to remain relatively low and promote trialability. The cost is equivalent to ~2 personal training sessions or a month’s gym membership making it justifiable for many people.

  1. BBG is simple, not intimidating

The guide is very simple making it accessible to a wide range of customers. The key enablers of this are:

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.29.03 pm> Basic instructions and pictures

> Minimal required equipment

> Minimal time commitment





  1. BBG advertising platform creates a community that delivers its own content

The biggest feature of being a BBG user is being part of the community. By establishing an easy to use website and maintaining a high-volume Instagram Kayla has created a platform where her followers interact, share success stories, day-to-day experiences and healthy lifestyle tips. This is an engine that runs itself at a very low cost. It also continues to grow organically. As Instagram is an open forum if a user stumbles upon any of the Kayla hashtags they will fall down a rabbit hole of Kayla fanatics driving them to try the BBG way.

IMG_6200             IMG_6199

This established platform is now available anytime the business wants to expand its products. Recently, Kayla introduced equipment, clothing and sponsored products through Instagram, deepening customer’s relationship with the brand.

The global reach of the social media advertising campaign has driven rapid geographical expansion with minimal additional investment (translation of the guides). The demand for Kayla Itsines outside Australia led her to conduct a sold out US Boot Camp Tour in 2015, next stop Europe.


  1. Kayla as the face of the brand drives loyalty at a low cost

Kayla Itsines is the face of the brand. This does two things:

IMG_6201> Fits in the low cost operating model as the business is not spending any money on spokespeople, associated branding campaigns etc.

> It aligns with the ethos of the brand to be a genuine, supportive community-led product that delivers results. Kayla posts insights into her life, photos with her fiancé, dogs, struggles in the gym. This makes her and the brand highly relatable. This is a critical part of her competitive advantage, stopping the BBG is not like ‘giving up on the Atkin’s diet’, it means cutting off ties with a community, which is much harder to do.






Lorenz, Taylor, ‘Meet the Australian Instagram fitness queen who’s about to take America by storm’, Business Insider, March 2015. Retrieved: 5 December, 2015.

Boyd, Sarah, ‘Reshaping the Fitness Business: Kayla Itsines’ ‘Bikini Body Training Company’, Forbes, March 2015. Retrieved: 5 December, 2015.

Burke, Brittany, ‘Kayla Itsines is becoming the world’s most influential trainer’, Well+GOOD, July 2015. Retrieved: 5 December, 2015.


GrubHub: Connecting 6.5 million hungry people with 35,000 restaurants


ClassPass: Bringing Boutique Fitness to the Average Yuppie

Student comments on #Kaylascult – From passion project to full fledged, multi-national fitness empire

  1. While I agree that Kayla Itsines has a low-cost operating model, there are several concerns that I have regarding the sustainability of the business, two in particular that would suggest she could be a future “Loser”.

    • Unprotected revenue streams – While the BBG guides are transferred to the final customer via a low cost, PDF file, they are just as easily shared with non-purchasers thereafter. For instance, EBay is one of many secondary markets, currently selling the ‘product’ for as low as 5% of the retail price. (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Kayla-Itsines-Bikini-Body-Guide-and-H-E-L-P-Nutrition-Guide-Bundle-/111366537226) Without built-in mechanisms to block content access to non-purchasers (akin to Kindle), there is little reason to believe Kayla Itsines could sustain continuous revenues.
    • You’re only as good as your last act – In an attempt to solve the problem above, Kayla recently launched an app (on November 22nd) that would deliver a recurring revenue stream: $20 per month for a minimum of 3 months. The app has a 1.5/5 rating in the apple app store with many fans in the community responding in “outrage” (it seems paying for content is not something Kayla’s cult is actually interested in doing). Therefore, while this community of followers is one of Kayla’s most valuable assets, I’m unconvinced that this loyalty will sustain over time. As an attendee of Kayla’s worldwide tour stop in NYC, I am reluctant to admit that this business model may be just another fitness fad that ends as fast as it began.

  2. Great article – thanks!

    While I agree with Trang that the revenues from the guides are not protected (given how many people forward the guides to friends for free), I believe Kayla has a significant opportunity to capture value outside of this overt revenue stream.

    Kayla’s primary opportunity is capitalizing on her captive audience of 4 million Instagram followers. Similar to how Facebook makes money by providing a free service to consumers and charging advertisers, Kayla has the opportunity to charge advertisers to market to her Instagram following. This can be particularly attractive because Kayla’s captive audience is of a very specific demographic — of young girls (and more recently, mothers who have just given birth) who are interested in living a healthy and fit lifestyle. This demographic provides a fertile opportunity to market clothing brands, athletic wear, healthy food brands, etc. Top Instagram accounts these days can rake in serious money by posting sponsored photos. According to one LinkedIn post, based on Kayla’s following of 4M followers, she could be making ~$20K+ per photo (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-much-do-top-instagram-accounts-make-kwai-chi).

    It is unclear whether Kayla is currently charging for advertising on her Instagram feed, but the opportunity certainly exists to make money on her countless posts of new Nike sneakers. Her guides and world tours can simply be a method of value creation (i.e. creating a community of captive Instagram followers), while value capture can be through advertising.

  3. Interesting view Purple haze! I am largely with Trang in wondering how to take today’s social media-fueled success sustainable, if there is no IP and protected revenue associated with her actual workout program. It seems that other revenue streams (apparel, Instagram ads, bootcamps) rely on her continued celebrity status, which is tenuous in a saturated “#fitfam” market of Instagram-born personal trainers. If someone else with a newer, more novel concept enters this space and her followers drop, so does all her revenue-earning power. In contrast, someone like Jillian Michaels has built a brand around herself off of initial “Biggest Loser” fame and leveraged it into a line of workout DVDs, magazine articles, book deals, TV shows, etc (http://www.biography.com/people/jillian-michaels-5948#personal-life) as well as a strong social media presence. Most of these avenues generate royalties and also help convey a certain legitimacy/expertise it is difficult to do through social media alone.

    However, #Kaylascult is new to me so these are my outside-in impressions. In your view, is there something she does differently than other social media-based fitness experts that will protect her follower base and help fend off competition?

  4. Nice post on #kaylasarmy. Curious on your thoughts re: Anna’s suggestion. Agree there would typically be a clear (albeit time sensitive) social media marketing opportunity here, but Kayla has been pretty vocal about NOT getting paid for promotions/using her social clout to advocate for brands. Nonetheless, she recently launched and started (quite shamelessly) promoting Kayla-branded products and, to Trang’s point, a new paid app which seem to bluntly conflict with the earlier messages. I can certainly see why these decisions make sense from a financial stability and business model perspective, but if community is critical to the operating model – don’t they entirely undermine that?

Leave a comment