Money makers: Sweating with Kayla

Kayla Itsines is leading the way in the craze for hyper-toned tums, says Chris Carter. And she's made a £28m fortune along the way.


Kayla Itsines has more followers than Gwyneth Paltrow on Instagram
(Image credit: Copyright (c) 2014 Rex Features. No use without permission.)

When it comes to looking good, fit is the new thin. The "thigh gap" is out and the "ab crack" is in. For the uninitiated, the ab crack is the vertical line down the middle of a hyper-toned tum. It's also what earned Kayla Itsines a £28m fortune and made her the youngest debutante in Australia's Business Review Weekly Rich List, alongside her bodybuilder fianc Tobi Pearce, who is the chief executive of their business, the Bikini Body Training Company.

Itsines started out at 18 as a fitness school graduate who realised that there was money to be made selling her workouts. The Bikini Body Guide e-books followed, a name she now regrets "because it implies that there was only one type of body that should be in a bikini most likely hers", says Bernard Lagan in The Sunday Times. That's why her new app is called Sweat with Kayla instead. "Sweat is so empowering," says Itsines.

It has sold more than any other fitness app this year, while Itsines has more followers than Gwyneth Paltrow on Instagram. Yet for all the hype, Itsines is relaxed. "I don't think of this as a business," she says.

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Hire a mermaid

Life as a professional mermaid isn't all glamour. "You have to tolerate chlorine and salt in your eyes and keep them open like it's no problem," Linden Wolbert, a self-described "entrepremermaid" in Los Angeles tells Bloomberg's Caroline Winter. But for all that, being a mermaid for hire is, in her own words, "meriffic" and "mermazing".

Her "merformances" start at $1,000, and have been booked by Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake, while her YouTube channel brings in a four-figure sum every month. Wolbert took the plunge over a decade ago, learning to use a monofin a single, large flipper while working as a scuba-diving model. A friend who worked in movie special effects made her a monofin that looked like a fish's tail out of silicon. Seven months and $20,000 later, they were booking gigs.

A money-making moggy



In 2007, Bob the cat was a sorry-looking stray with an abscess on his paw. He was lucky enough to run into James Bowen, a recovering drug addict earning a pittance from busking, who spent his last £28 nursing Bob back to health. After that, the two were inseparable, says Mick Brown in The Daily Telegraph. Then Mary Pachnos, the literary agent who handled the UK rights for Marley & Me, a book about a Labrador puppy, noticed Bob one day, sitting "like Buddha" on a pile of Big Issue magazines that Bowen was selling at Angel Tube station.

The result was A Street Cat Named Bob, published in 2012, turning Bob into a huge star. When Bowen turned up for a book signing with Bob it was like the Beatles had arrived, Pachnos says. Women were screaming, "Bob! Bob! Bob!" A film, to be released this month, will make the pair even more famous.

Bob "can be a little diva sometimes", says Bowen. "He's aware of who and what he is. You point a phone at him, a camera at him, he'll pose perfectly when he's in the mood to." He's developed more expensive tastes, like a penchant for eating chicken pt out of a tube. But he and Bowen can now afford it. "It's mind-boggling what this little man has done," says Bowen. "He's bought me a house." Still, "when James writes that my life was richer for having Bob in it'", says Brown, "he is not talking about the money".


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The rise and fall of a retail revolutionary

"It would be dishonest to suggest I'm distraught over the death of Crazy Eddie' Antar" (above), says The Wall Street Journal's Ralph Gardner Jr. Yet the former electronics retailer, who died in September aged 68, "deserves credit" for the frenetic style of advertising he brought to America's airwaves during the 1970s and 1980s.

Antar's sales pitch involved Jerry Carroll, a radio DJ who became the face of Crazy Eddie, cramming as many words into 30-second TV slots as possible, and declaring that his prices were "insa-a-a-a-ne". The ads were widely imitated, and parodied by Dan Aykroyd on Saturday Night Live, the popular US comedy show.

Many viewers assumed that Carroll was Crazy Eddie but the real Eddie was far more colourful. The grandson of Syrian Jews from Aleppo, Antar grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He clubbed together with his cousins to open a shop in the city during the 1960s selling discount electronics. Business exploded following the repeal of price-control laws in 1976 and the firm grew from four shops to 47. Antar took the business public in 1984 (against Carroll's advice) but soon he was cooking the books.

The shares collapsed in 1989, after which Antar led a failed attempt to take the firm private. Federal investigators were on to him and Antar was ordered to hand over $50m in profits. Instead, he fled to Israel, where he hid for two years, before being extradited to serve almost seven years in jail.

"Eddie Antar was a bizarre combination of Old World and New World," says Steven Malanga on "He used the hard-bargaining techniques of the Middle Eastern souks to undermine the staid, clubby realm of American retailing" in a way that was a "boon for consumers". But his approach didn't "translate well on Wall Street". He "will be remembered, but he won't be missed".

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

You can follow Chris on Instagram.