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From refugee to franchisee: Abbas Nazari's success with Body Fit Training


The compelling journey of Abbas Nazari showcases the incredible transformation from being a former Tampa refugee to becoming a leading franchisee for Body Fit Training (BFT) in New Zealand. His success story embodies determination, resilience and the power of a supportive franchise system.

Abbas Nazari's life has been anything but ordinary. Escaping the Taliban in Afghanistan as a child, Abbas was rescued by the Tampa container ship in 2001 and resettled in New Zealand. From a perilous escape to becoming a Fullbright Scholar, graduating with a Masters in Security Studies from Georgetown University, Abbas's memoir, After the Tampa: From Afghanistan to New Zealand, skyrocketed to a #1 bestseller. Today, apart from being a sought-after speaker, Abbas is a proud Body Fit Training franchisee.

One more journey in a lifetime of journeys

Starting his career at the New Zealand Treasury, Abbas quickly realised the office environment was not for him. After extensive travels, he trained as a personal trainer, eventually setting his sights on the burgeoning group fitness industry.

“The pandemic brought my wife, Gen, and I back to New Zealand and I decided to go headfirst into business ownership when BFT was just emerging into the country. I had seen the growth of group fitness and wanted to get in early. I loved the appeal of proper strength training, coupled with a great cardio session - BFT was the perfect mix. It wasn't just about workouts; it was about providing an epic training experience.”

BFT's programme uses proven, scientifically validated training methodologies to develop 13 varied programmes into eight-week progressive training blocks. Each training block's foundation uses validated periodisation principles and progressive overload to provide BFT members with the best chance to achieve their health and fitness goals. These are the same principles and methodologies that are employed by conditioning coaches around the world to train elite athletes!

The initial training for franchisees, like Abbas, is robust, covering business operations and practical applications. This, combined with the tremendous support from the BFT headquarters, ensures franchisees are equipped to thrive.

“I attended the 6-day bootcamp and covered Business Operations and Practical Applications just as we had signed our lease, so it was good timing. The support from HQ and the educational material has been outstanding from initial training and ongoing. In March this year, we had the opportunity to connect with the other franchisees in the network at the BFT Global Conference in Australia and I had the honour of being the MC!

“We opened our first BFT studio in Wellington Central in October 2022, followed by the  launch of our second, Wellington East, in August 2023. With my wife managing the administrative aspects, I take the role of head coach, guiding our team of trainers. I believe it’s down to the support from HQ and the partnership with my wife that has led to our Wellington Central studio attracting nearly 300 members in such a short time.”

For Abbas, franchising provided an edge in the competitive fitness landscape of New Zealand. The powerful BFT brand, with its strong and rapidly growing brand awareness, offered a foundation that would have been hard to replicate independently.

“BFT encourages us as franchisees to be deeply rooted in our communities, fostering brand loyalty and ensuring we offer more than just fitness. You have to be people-oriented in this industry - if you’re not focused on people, the industry will spit you out. The community spirit is evident in our studio, where our members, enamoured with the BFT experience, become ambassadors, referring us to their friends and family – it’s the main way we grow our membership.”

Still more journeys to take

Apart from his BFT ventures, Abbas continues to advocate for refugees globally. He plans to travel to Antarctica and is penning another book. When asked about life outside of BFT, Abbas speaks of hiking through New Zealand's natural beauty, setting off to Antarctica later this year and engaging in keynote speaking opportunities via Celebrity Speakers NZ.

Abbas's journey with BFT reiterates the brand's strength, both in the fitness industry and in nurturing success stories like his. His advice to potential franchisees? "It is tough work. But absolutely worth it."

With 56,000+ members and more than 250 studios open across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, USA and the UK, BFT is an internationally recognised fitness brand with proven success in its science and technology-based functional and strength-based training. BFT provides workouts with more than just scattered programming and results; it is also a welcoming, inclusive, motivating environment.

Interested and want to know more about Body Fit Training (BFT)?

The Body Fit Training (BFT) profile outlines all aspects of their franchise opportunity and allows you to contact them for further information or to ask a question.

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