Empowering Women Every Day: How Upstate Studios Is Redefining Success for Women in Victoria

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Empowering Women Every Day: How Upstate Studios Is Redefining Success for Women in Victoria

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Words by Talia Rinaldo

Upstate Studios isn't just a fitness powerhouse; it's a platform for change, a catalyst for progress, and a sanctuary for women seeking strength, both physical and emotional.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of Victoria’s ever-growing fitness scene, one name stands out as a beacon of empowerment and inclusivity: Upstate Studios. Established in 2009 by sisters Gail Asbell and Charelle Cuolahan, this fitness haven isn’t just about breaking a sweat; it’s about breaking barriers and championing women’s success, both within its walls and beyond.

Specialising in a diverse range of classes including Pilates, Boxing, Yoga, HIIT, and Meditation, Upstate Studios offers something for everyone, from seasoned athletes to newcomers looking to embark on their fitness journey.

Stay up to date with what’s happening in and around the region here.

As we herald the arrival of International Women’s Day 2024, Upstate Studios stands tall as a shining example of what it means to support and uplift women, not just on a single day of celebration, but every day of the year. Rooted in the heart of Victoria, this neon-bathed fitness studio has become synonymous with female leadership, empowerment, and unwavering commitment to fostering a community where every woman feels seen, heard, and valued.


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From its humble beginnings in 2009, Upstate Studios emerged from the shared passion of Gail Asbell and Charelle Cuolahan for yoga and holistic wellness. What started as a vision to create a boutique fitness experience blossomed into a movement, a sanctuary where individuals could embark on a transformative journey towards self-discovery and empowerment.

“Our vision extended beyond just offering classes; we aimed to cultivate an inviting, motivating environment where people could discover their best selves. It’s a mission we’re still proud to uphold today,” says Gail Asbell, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Upstate Studios.

“From day one, Upstate Studios has been proudly led by a 100% female management team and this is something we have strived to continue throughout the growth of the business and continue into the future.”

Central to Upstate’s ethos is its unwavering commitment to female leadership. From the boardroom to the studio floor, women hold the reins, steering the ship towards greater heights of success and inclusivity. Asbell and Cuolahan’s vision of a women-led business has not only shattered glass ceilings but paved the way for a new era of empowerment in the fitness industry.

“We are dedicated to empowering women both within our studio and beyond. Internally, we work to create an atmosphere where our women feel both confident and supported to not only enjoy but thrive in their careers. We’re big on fairness here, whether it’s fair pay or opportunities to grow,” says Asbell. “And outside our studio walls, we’re all about spreading those good vibes, partnering up like minded and women-led businesses as well as supporting causes close to our hearts.”


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One of Upstate’s defining characteristics is its dedication to providing full-time career opportunities for women in an industry often plagued by contract roles. By prioritising internal hiring and professional development, Upstate Studios is not just a place of employment; it’s a launchpad for women to realise their dreams and aspirations.

“At Upstate, we believe in offering full-time career opportunities because it aligns with our values of investing in our team’s long-term growth and success. We also believe that every individual deserves the opportunity to build a successful and fulfilling career, regardless of gender or employment status,” she explains. “By providing stability and support, we’re nurturing a team of dedicated individuals who are committed to achieving greatness together. We’re incredibly proud of our team of Upstate superstars and the positive impact they’re making, both in the studio and the communities we serve.”

With “a goal to create an environment where our team feels valued, supported, and empowered to unleash their full potential, both personally and professionally”, Upstate offers comprehensive training programs to its staff and instructors, such as Money and Mindset sessions with industry experts like Amy Bett, as well as Leadership Training Programs tailored to uplift and empower women within the organisation.

Recognising the importance of work-life balance too, Upstate Studios offers a range of supportive policies and workplace flexibility options to promote women’s well-being. As Asbell explains, “Upstate Studios offers workplace flexibility, including options for part-time work and working from home. Supportive policies, such as maternity leave, further exemplify Upstate’s commitment to women’s well-being in both personal and professional aspects.”


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Nurturing a generation of empowered women who are ready to conquer the world from within their business, Upstate’s commitment to women’s empowerment actually extends far beyond the confines of its studios. Through strategic partnerships and community initiatives, Upstate actively supports causes that champion women’s rights, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Whether it’s sponsoring events or collaborating with like-minded organisations, Upstate Studios is a driving force for change in the community.

“We’re always seeking opportunities to collaborate with like-minded brands and support causes that resonate with our community. This International Women’s Day, Upstate will donate 100% of its Intro Offer sales to the Happy Boxes Project, offering individuals the chance to explore all that Upstate has to offer while supporting their incredible cause. For just $29, guests can enjoy 30 days of access to Upstate’s offerings and join in spreading good vibes and giving back to the community.”

Embodying resonant theme of International Women’s Day, Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress, in every aspect of its existence, Upstate Studios is a regular host of initiatives aimed at celebrating and empowering women. From special events honouring female athletes to professional development programs, Upstate is laying the groundwork for a future where women not only thrive but lead.

“We recently hosted a special event to celebrate the achievements of 20 incredible Australian female athletes who are also members of Upstate. It was a meaningful way to honour their dedication and inspire others, especially the younger generation of aspiring athletes, to pursue their fitness and career goals. This initiative reflects our commitment to empowering women both inside and outside the studio.”


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Looking ahead, Upstate Studios is dedicated to championing gender diversity and women’s empowerment both internally and within the broader fitness industry. “Our goal is to create a workplace and industry where women feel valued, supported, and empowered to succeed,” says Asbell. With plans for rapid expansion, including the launch of three new studios across Melbourne, Upstate Studios is committed to providing equal opportunities for women and supporting their advancement in the fitness industry, spreading the positive energy far and wide. “Expanding Upstate Studios into new locations in Melbourne presents a significant opportunity to further our mission of providing equal opportunities for women and supporting their advancement in the fitness industry,” adds Asbell.

“With each new studio opening, we not only create job opportunities but also establish avenues for career growth and development. The expansion also allows us to offer a diverse range of roles within the business, including instructors, studio management, customer service, marketing, and administration.”

As a leader in the fitness industry, Upstate Studios envisions a future where women’s success and representation are not just encouraged but celebrated. “We’ll continue providing equal opportunities, offering tailored support and development programs, and amplifying women’s voices within our business and the broader industry,” affirms Asbell. By fostering a culture of inclusivity and empowerment, Upstate Studios is paving the way for women to thrive, both within the studio and beyond.

Ultimately, Upstate Studios is more than just a fitness studio; it’s a community built on the foundation of empowering women to prioritise their health and well-being every day of the year. “We believe in being the best part of someone’s day by providing accessible and empowering class experiences that encourage community, happiness, and personal growth,” shares Asbell. With a diverse range of class styles, a supportive environment, and an inclusive community, Upstate Studios inspires women to make self-care and wellness a priority, fostering a positive lifestyle that extends far beyond a single day of celebration.

On International Women’s Day, Upstate Studios stands as a shining example of what it means to invest in women, not just today on March 8th, but every day of the year. In a world where the journey towards gender equality is ongoing, Upstate Studios is not just counting women in; it’s investing in them, accelerating progress, and paving the way for a brighter, more equitable future—for women, by women.

Ready to join the movement? Dive into the positive vibes at Upstate Studios and discover your own strength. Head to the website to book your spot here