When Natascha Doran was widowed in her mid-30s, it forced her to take stock of her life. Putting a priority on happiness, she said farewell to her corporate job to take on the challenge of starting her own business. As owner of a GeckoSports franchise, Doran and her team run fitness programs for kids after school, within schools, at birthday parties and as school holiday programs. She believes the key to making exercise and fitness part of a child’s daily life is to make it fun!
Doran’s business was recently named as a finalist in the What’s On 4 Kids awards, in the category of best local franchisee school aged activity/class (5-12 years).
Tell us a little bit about yourself
Being a widow and single mum at age 36 has taught me that life is short and I should do what makes me happy… now! The struggles were real but it’s the struggles that helped me grow stronger and believe in my capabilities as a business owner. My parents never played sport or encouraged me to do so. I just lacked confidence to put myself out there. I want to make sure kids get plenty of opportunities to play sport and enjoy fitness so that it becomes a positive and beneficial part of their lives.
What do you love most about what you do?
Owning and running a sport and fitness business has many rewards and of course the biggest focus is on the progress and achievements of the kids in our after-school classes and school sport programs. Moreover it’s seeing kids in our holiday programs, incursions and birthday parties enjoy the simple pleasures of moving their bodies in different ways, trying lots of activities they may not otherwise have done at home, and seeing the glow on their faces as they realise they are awesome.
What path led you to choosing this career?
After spending quite a long time pursuing a career in web/ digital project management I realised websites drive me mad and doing the city commute and being in a city office was not good for my health (in many ways). I wanted to find something that would get me out and about and running my own business, but with the support of a franchise network. Working with kids was something I hoped I’d enjoy and has proven to be the best career decision I’ve made. It helps that I’m a big kid at heart.
Exercise is so important for both mental and physical health. What’s the key to helping children make exercise part of their daily lives, for the long term?
Make it fun. Everything they learn needs to be fun so they associate it positively and don’t even realise it’s a form of exercise. Praise every effort. Everyone has good days and bad days and everyone loves a ‘great job’ or a ‘keep going, you’re almost there’ to help us along, and kids are no different. Kids thrive on positive affirmation.
Is there a sport or activity most children show no interest in but really love once they try it?
Any ball sport has an element of fear for some of our younger players. We give them a chance to play various balls sports in our after-school GeckoACTIVE classes. Our class structure breaks down catching and passing skills with mini-games, which helps build confidence to enjoy the sport. Whilst catering to kids who are new to some sports, we also run flexible sessions with multiple coaches where the more adventurous kids get an opportunity to show off.
Favourite places in the inner west?
I’m a biased local and love Dulwich Hill. I love the village feel and The General for a margarita and a delicious veggie burger. Ballast Point Park, Birchgrove is probably my fave secret park for birthday parties. Stix in Marrickville for the biggest and best croissants and The Enmore for a good night out (looking forward to seeing more gigs here again soon!)