“I was just like, yep, this is it,” Hembrow says. “This is what I am going to be. My own boss. I want to start my own businesses.
“It was the only class that sort of made sense to me. And then I actually dropped out of uni. I was like, ‘See you later, don’t need this any more.’ ”
It was while studying that she’d post pictures of herself exercising on Instagram, which had only been around a couple of years when she was posting in 2012. Then, at 19, she fell pregnant. She was told her life was ruined.
‘so much influence’
Hembrow had other ideas. She posted her pregnancy and fitness journey on Instagram and more followers flocked. She now earns millions each year by endorsing brands on social media.
“I remember how I had like 15,000 followers or something, which I thought was a huge deal at the time because, like, there weren’t a lot of people on Instagram,” she says.
“I followed a few women who had like a million followers. And I just thought it was the craziest thing. And I was like I’m going to get to that. But I also saw them and thought why they aren’t doing more with what they have. They had this big audience and they had so much influence over these people. And I couldn’t really see them taking advantage of that or starting businesses with it.”
One of the businesses she started to market to her followers was her fitness app, Tammy Fit, which she started with just $400. It began as a PDF of her workout exercises from her.
“My initial investment was about $400 I spent with someone to illustrate the exercises on the programs I was making,” she says.
“But then from that I just wanted to elevate it more and more. And then eventually came Tammy Fit the app.”
From the outside, it all looks a bit easy: post pictures of trim physique while working out; share workout tips; getrich.
But behind the filters is an ambitious business builder. And it has not all been smooth sailing, she tells the podcast. “I ended up trusting some people I shouldn’t have,” Hembrow reveals. “I didn’t really know better at the time, but I got taken advantage of and actually ended up wasting a lot of money, like hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It was a supplier, someone we were paying to do something for the app, and they sort of just took advantage of us.”
Consult the experts
She now takes precautions. “A lot of people look at me and think this young blonde girl, like she doesn’t know anything,” she says.
“Unfortunately, what I’ve learned from that is to really take precautions and triple- and double-check things.
“If you are not an expert in something, consult with someone that is, like a third party that could maybe let you know this person is taking advantage of you.”
She’s not the first influencer who has been taken for a ride. Jessica Sepel, who’s behind vitamins and skincare group JS Health, revealed in the first season of How I Made It that she blew a lot of money when she was trying to get her business off the ground.
“We put money towards people who screwed us basically. I had an awful experience where it was basically someone who led us on. I think at the end, it was $10,000 to $12,000 down the toilet,” Sepel told the podcast.
Hembrow admits she got a first mover advantage that’s helped fuel her business. She gained a healthy following when the platforms were in their infancy. But it doesn’t mean people can’t replicate success if they’re starting out today – the trick is to try and stand out.
“I think timing did help a lot. In my situation, I got in there at a really good time. Instagram is so saturated now. It’s a lot of people trying to do the same sort of thing. Whereas when I started, I couldn’t really see anyone doing what I was trying to do. And it was just really perfect timing. But that being said, you can still do it. You definitely can, it just might be a bit harder.”