Less Shame, More Gain: Redefining Fitness for Women With Stacy Kim

Stacy Kim

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Stacy Kim is the owner of Kuma Fit women’s kickboxing studio in maine. She’s also a passionate advocate for inclusion of all women in the fitness space and the creator of Feel Strong Movement, a directory that lists gyms and trainers who are committed to making the gym experience less intimidating and more comfortable for women. 

In this episode we talk about shame – and the role it has traditionally played as a motivating tool for women in fitness. We talk about what’s keeping women out of the gym in a post-covid era. We also get into how shifting the conversation away from weight-loss and toward feeling better can be a positive force in your coaching practice. 



1:18 – Why shame has been used to motivate, pitfalls of shaming

7:52 – Stacy’s move toward women’s fitness

10:28 – Retooling the onboarding process

12:40 – Focused ads for women

13:48 – Post-pandemic aversion to gyms

17:02 – Steering the focus from weight-loss to intrinsic benefits

19:34 – Feel Strong movement

21:43 – What ‘positive-based’ coaching looks like in a class setting

25:47 – How to attract more women to your gym, and keep them there

32:24 – Stacy’s career path

Tiffy Thompson: 0:04

Hello, and welcome to Women in Fitness Business. Today, I’m talking with Stacy Kim. Stacy is the owner of KUMA Fit, a women’s kickboxing studio in Maine. She’s also a passionate advocate for inclusion of all women in the fitness space and the creator of Feel Strong Movement, a directory that lists gyms and trainers who are committed to making the gym experience less intimidating and more comfortable for women. In this episode, we talk about shame and the role it has traditionally played as a motivating tool for women in fitness. We also talk about what’s keeping women out of the gym in a post-COVID era, and we get into how shifting the conversation away from weight loss and towards feeling better can be a positive force in your coaching practice. Stacy , welcome to the show.Stacy Kim: 1:02

Excellent. Thank you so much.Tiffy Thompson: 1:04

So when it comes to women’s fitness or all fitness, but especially women’s fitness , shame is often used as a sort of motivating tool. Why do you think that is?Stacy Kim: 1:19

Wow. We’re gonna start off with a really big one. <laugh> OK. So, I’ll just say this—I’ll preface this, too—I think a lot of the things that I might say today are gonna be kind of contrary to what a lot of gyms do and what they believe. But that’s kind of why I’m doing this. You know, the answer to this question is sort of that, you know, this is a deep-rooted cultural belief that women have, that exercise is to lose weight, or to shape and tone their bodies. So that’s something that’s been pounded into us from media and I’ve actually been reading this really interesting book lately called “Let’s Get Physical” by Danielle Friedman and she talks about the history of women’s fitness. And it’s really interesting because back in the ’50s and ’60s, when fitness was just starting to become something that, you know, people started doing in their free time, it was really something that only men did. And you know, people were trying to, different women were trying to convince other women to work out, and they couldn’t get people to join them. And the only way that they could get women to join them is if they started to market their workouts as something that would shape their bodies and improve their curves. And finally, through that marketing and messaging, it became sort of acceptable in society for women to work out because, you know, well, if women were gonna work out to be more beautiful, that would be OK. Right. But working out to feel strong, would’ve been complete blasphemy then, right . So, you know, we really, we kind of built, you know, we dug our own ditch, so to speak. We were really trying to get people to allow us women to work out . But we also sort of set the tone for why it is we want to work out. And in marketing , just a real basic of marketing is to identify a problem that people are having and say that you have this solution, right. That’s just sort of marketing 101. And you can do this in a good way, or you can do it in a bad way. Right. So you can choose to , you know, pry on people’s feelings of guilt and shame that they’re not fitting in with other people’s bodies , or that they don’t feel like they’re in the body that they want because it’s not matching what they see, you know, or you can choose to do what we do in our marketing with my studio, which is focus on those more intrinsic benefits. So, you know, feeling strong, feeling more confident, gaining energy, you know, all the benefits of exercise that we know exist. It’s just that we’re using those sort of cheap market marketing tactics. You know, of course, we always want to lean into emotions. And again, it’s really, you know, which ones you’re gonna choose is really up to you. And I do wanna offer sort of this story , this personal story. So when I first started my class, I actually had a martial-arts studio before this gym and I had some free time in the evening. So I decided to start a kickboxing class. I thought that would be really great to do. So that’s kind of how my gym really came to be. And how my path sort of got into women’s fitness. And when I did that, one of the things I did early on was offer a 21-day Paleo challenge, right? So this was something that I was doing on my own. It was, you know, Paleo. It’s been something I’d done before and I was doing what every other woman did, you know. I was feeling like I needed to lose weight. And so I thought, “Well, if I do this challenge, I’ll get my members to do it. And I’ll be able to lose weight on my own.” Right. So I offered this challenge and it was really great. Women were, you know, we sort of built this community around this idea, this sort of common goal and, you know, women lost weight. And it was really successful , for a time. Right. So people were so excited about the weight they lost. I was excited about the weight that I had lost. And if you’ve ever been through a diet before, what generally happens is you lose weight. You feel really great. People start to say, “Wow, you look so good.” You know? And in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, “Wow, did I look so bad before?” And you know, there’s some something in the back of your mind thinking, “Gosh, when’s life gonna get in the way? When am I gonna start to slip?” You know, because I myself have been on many, many diets throughout my life, you know. I started probably my first one in high school. And they always, at some point, you know, you always sort of slip off and you start to go back to eating the way you did before. So that’s sort of in the back of my mind. So, you know, the women in my challenge, you know, they started to gain the weight and what happened is they started to not come to class as much anymore. And then they started to feel guilty. Like they had failed me somehow, or that they had failed somehow. And I felt that way, too. You know, if you know myself as someone who owns a gym, can’t be disciplined enough to keep this weight off . You know, how am I gonna be successful? How can I be seen as successful? So I felt like a failure. And right then I was like, “Wow, like if I feel this way, I’ve just made all these women feel this way. And I don’t wanna do that again. Like, that’s not something that I wanna offer people.” I don’t want to bring something that’s gonna cause eventual harm to people in their mindsets. I know that diets can be, you know, I usually say Paleo worked the best for me. And I only say that because it lasted two years. Right. But I’m not doing that anymore because it wasn’t sustainable. So I think that for me, that was where I realized how much shame is used in, or it becomes this thing that women feel. And then they start to avoid all of those great benefits of fitness and the gym. So, you know, that’s really kind of what led me to this entire mission was really that moment. And that one challenge that I had had.Tiffy Thompson: 7:37

So then at that point, did you move towards closing the martial-arts school and then opening this women’s-only kickboxing school?Stacy Kim: 7:50

Yeah, so actually, I own them both at the same time. Which was very difficult because they were two totally different businesses. And I actually sold my martial-arts school to another owner who was gonna take it over and keep it basically the same, which I was really proud of. I sold that, signed the paperwork, it was February 2020 that I signed that paperwork. Wow. OK. Yeah. So <laugh> , it was definitely like a “phew” moment because I had to go into COVID with my other, my fitness studio. I used the word studio a lot. I really thought about that ’cause I was, like a lot of people: I purposefully avoided using the word gym just because I think that it sort of lands a little bit softer for people who typically hate the gym. So a lot of words that I use are very intentional. So when I started the new, you know, I was running those two together, COVID hit, I had some really good members at that point. I probably had about 30 people who paid me throughout COVID just to do online programming, the typical pivot things that a lot of people were doing. Yeah. But I really used that time to re-engineer everything that I was doing. So I had sort of learned that lesson from that Paleo challenge a little bit earlier on. So it took me a little bit of time. Like I did start to—I made the change in some of my , you know, the way I was speaking about things. I started to talk more about, encourage people to remember how strong they felt after class, things like that. But during COVID was when I really had some time to basically redo. It was like a complete reset for my business. And so I chose to really take advantage of that. So I rebuilt our website and I, you know, some people can make the decision to want to talk about the intrinsic benefits of fitness but then sort of only dabble in it. But I went full on, and I did this knowing that I’m probably not going to be appealing to everyone. I’m gonna be losing some of that audience. And I was OK with that because I wanted to be able to get the right audience. And I wanted to be really mission focused. I wanted to do it a hundred percent. So my website, it speaks entirely to that. I even call out things like how fitness is not for weight loss. I use some strong words like “diet culture” and all that type of thing. And then I also re-engineered how we onboard new members. So people—before we did a lot of typical things, you know, like let people drop in, give them a one-month trial, one-week trial. We did all these things, but everybody was coming into the regular class. So now , when someone starts at our studio, they have to go through what we call a “foundations course.” And that’s what we do, is we make it session based . Which is also, I think, not something a lot of gyms wanna do because they wanna enroll as many members as possible, but I would rather enroll , you know, they’re quality leads. By the time they go through foundations, I would say 80 percent of them choose a membership and convert to membership. So even though I max out at about 20 people that can come through that program any given month, we’re probably signing up 15 or 16 of those people. And they’ve also gotten a really good onboarding experience. So they go through , you know, I really created something that I thought would be the most comfortable for women who didn’t like the gym. Right . So what do you have to do, you have to think about how walking into a class full of a bunch of people who know what they’re doing feels. Super intimidating. So our course is exclusive for new members only. So it’s only new people. They get to come in , they get to own the space, they get to experience the coaches and , you know, small things like where to put their things before class, right? That’s the type of thing that can make someone feel really uncomfortable. Where do I stand? What do I do? What happens before the class begins? So that foundations course really sets the tone for their membership. And it’s also two weeks long. So they have consistency. They come twice a week. So by the time they’re done, they think, “Oh, I can do this. Like, I just have to continue. I’ve already started the rhythm. I know what it’s like.” And then they jump into regular classes.Tiffy Thompson: 12:21

What does your marketing look like towards that group?Stacy Kim: 12:26

So I, you know, honestly I’ve kept my marketing super simple. It’s Google AdWords and Facebook advertising. And to be honest, I’ve run more or less the same ad since I started this. And it’s basic, it’s—the copy in the ad is really asking women if, you know, if—I focus on a couple different things, like, have you been interested in trying kickboxing? ‘Cause kickboxing is a really big pool for our gym, people are looking for the kickboxing workout. I ask people if they’re looking to feel strong or if they’re bored with their normal workouts. So a lot of those things are different benefits of kickboxing in general. I’ve chosen kickboxing specifically from my history as being a martial artist. But also because I think that it’s probably one of the most empowering workouts a woman can do. So I’ve kept my marketing really simple. But you know, I really focus on how we can, you know, how you can learn kickboxing in two weeks. And this is a private class for new members or for new women only.Tiffy Thompson: 13:35

It’s interesting. Cause I was reading, I think it was a Forbes article the other day, and it was talking about how women, since COVID , a lot of women have maybe gotten out of shape or they’ve put on weight and it’s hampered them from even wanting to go to a gym. So by having this approach of highlighting the positive strength building aspects or the positive aspects of trying a new thing kind of takes the focus away from that body shame and moves it to a better place.Stacy Kim: 14:07

Yeah, it definitely does. And I think too that, well, one of the things that I offer people is if they’re not ready to sign up for foundations, they can just schedule a free consult with me. And I’ve had a lot of those and I can definitely echo what the Forbes article said because most women say, “I haven’t really done much over the whole COVID pandemic.” They will mention that they have gained a lot of weight or, you know, they’re nervous about starting because they feel like their body is different than it used to be, or they feel super out of shape. It’s really interesting that women are always so nervous about starting fitness when they feel out of shape, but that’s really the time that most women are really starting. So everybody’s sort of—that’s, again, that’s why we do the foundations class and that’s one of the first things that we talk about is we actually have people introduce themselves and talk a little bit about why they wanted to start kickboxing and they all sort of share this same type of thing. Exactly like what you read in the Forbes article.Tiffy Thompson: 15:07

So how do you approach coaching those clients whose goals are weight loss or dropping a size?Stacy Kim: 15:14

Yeah. So that’s kind of, that’s a really difficult question and I do as much as possible not to get that question one-on-one, because it’s one that I have to be delicate with because I don’t want a woman to feel badly for wanting that. Like, of course she feels that way because that’s what everything tells us, you know, all the media, all the pictures, it’s all about weight loss. And the other thing, too, is the idea of body neutrality is sort of, it’s sort of new too. So not everybody’s really aware of that. And I would say most of our members are a little bit older. And so that demographic is even more isolated from that idea, but you know, there’s-Tiffy Thompson: 15:56

They’re not on TikTok then.Stacy Kim: 15:57

Yeah. They’re not, they’re not there yet. They don’t see those corners of the world. But the first thing that I really do is I just try to make sure that I’m attracting the right people. So most of my messaging really indicates that even when they schedule a free consult, I ask them, you know, “How would they like to feel once they start kickboxing?” Like, I try to emphasize words like that so that I don’t get the question about weight . But when they do, you know, I ask them a question , I sort of bounce back with a question. I say, “You know, what is it that you would like to be able to do? Or how would you like to be able to feel after you’ve been doing this for a little while, like, what’s your goal in terms of how you wanna feel or how you wanna perform?”Tiffy Thompson: 16:43

What sort of answers do you get after that question?Stacy Kim: 16:45

So, I mean, it’s simple things like, “I wanna be able to have more energy. Or I wanna feel like I can keep up with my kids,” that type of thing. Or “I wanna feel maybe even just better in my body, I just wanna feel better. Like I can be more mobile. That I’m able to do more.” That type of thing. And so when you get those answers, then I can really start to focus on that and say, “Our studio really likes to focus not on weight loss, but on how fitness is going to make you feel for the long haul. What are the benefits that you’re gonna get? What are the intrinsic benefits that you can really gain from moving?” And a lot of times, you know, women start to tell me more stories about how that’s gonna be a really great fit for them.Tiffy Thompson: 17:37

That seems like it would be more salient than just reaching an arbitrary number on the scale. Like the “why” of what they’re doing rather than just, “Oh, I just wanna get back into my jeans from high school or whatever.”Stacy Kim: 17:49

Yeah, totally. And I think the goal of reaching a number, actually it kills fitness because once you reach the number, well, what then is fitness, you know? Something that you could just throw away? Or, you know, if that number’s not really achievable because your body is just different. It’s just not gonna be, you’re not gonna be able to get that number. Like sometimes people might think that they wanna reach the number they were in high school, but, you know, we all know our bodies change so much every decade. So it’s just an unrealistic expectation. So then you create a really bad—you start to think about fitness in a bad way. It’s something that didn’t get you where you wanted to go. You failed at it. It’s something that you can just throw away. So the more we can keep weight loss and those numbers away from people’s goals, I think the longer they’re gonna stay.Tiffy Thompson: 18:38

So you not only apply this to your own gym, but you also have a broader mission of imparting this sort of positive approach to other gym owners and other coaches. Can you talk a little bit about what redefined fitness for women is?Stacy Kim: 18:55

Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, my goal in general is just to help as many women come back to fitness and love fitness and just help them change their lives through movement. And when thinking about how I could do that and what was sort of next for myself, one of the goals is to open in a second location, but I was thinking, “Wow, that’s still just not enough. Like, I wanna be able to do more.” So I came up with this, it’s really a bigger movement, so it’s called the Feel Strong Movement. OK. And in the Feel Strong Movement, there’s three parts. So there’s an awareness. So working, being able to, I guess, educate people and bring awareness to the idea that the marketing that we’re using is creating more harm than good for women. The second part is coaching for gym owners and trainers , which includes , ideally will include some type of certification. And that’s what redefined fitness for women is , that, that’s sort of my call to action to other gym owners to start to do something. It doesn’t have to look exactly like what I’m doing in my gym, but there are a lot of changes that they can implement that can really drastically change an experience for a new woman walking into their space. And then the third part for the Feel Strong Movement is a resource for women. So ideally what I want is , you know, I already have an online directory built, and I would love to see all gym owners and trainers that are already doing this add themselves into that, which is free. It just, you know , I verify the listings and make sure that they really are places that, you know , if I look at their website, they don’t have the language that I think is harmful and the imagery and all of that, you know. I want women to be able to say, “I wanna join a gym, but I don’t want that gym. That makes me uncomfortable.” Right. So where do they go? And that’s what this resource is. So, you know, I always use this statistic that over 75 percent of women don’t go to the gym because they’re afraid of being judged for how they look or perform. Wow . I’ve seen different numbers. I’ve seen 75, I’ve seen 85. I’ve seen a lot. I usually just sort of lay it on 75, but I think that we can all sort of agree that a lot of women, most women don’t wanna go to the gym. And if business owners, if gym owners can change that just a little bit, not only does that make it a better experience for women, but it also is in its potential for new business revenue. So that’s something that, I mean, it’s really a win-win for everyone.Tiffy Thompson: 21:35

So can you kind of break down what this positive approach to coaching looks like in a class setting? Like-Stacy Kim: 21:43

Yeah, absolutely. Positive-based coaching is something that I really learned through my martial-arts training. OK. So in terms of a class and the way that I coach my coaches, it’s some simple things . So one is to reframe your words. So instead of using words, like , “if you can’t do this, then do this,” right. So you don’t wanna say something like that. You don’t wanna say, “I know you hate push-ups, but blah, blah, blah.” Right. Or “don’t do this. Do this.” Right. So all those things are very negative. So instead of saying things like that, you wanna reframe the way that you say something. So instead of saying, “I know you guys hate burpees, but we’ve got 50 or whatever,” right. It’s, you can reframe that statement and say, “Today, we’re gonna have the best challenge. And I know you guys are up for it. We’re gonna be doing 50 burpees, blah, blah, blah.” You know, you don’t have to emphasize the hard work and how people might feel. People might still hate burpees. Right. But you don’t have to say, “I know you hate this.”Tiffy Thompson: 22:50

Cause a lot of that could just be projection too. Like maybe they don’t a hundred percent.Stacy Kim: 22:53

Right. Maybe they don’t. And they’re like , “Great.” You know? So then they start to hate burpees. Another huge one is offering progressive cues instead of modifications. And that’s a really big one. So , for example, if you are doing push-ups , many times someone might say, “If you can’t do a regular push-up or a full push-up, you can come on your knees or you can use a band or whatever.” But instead of doing it that way, you offer a progressive cue . So you say, “Let’s start with the bands for the push-ups. If you’re feeling good, you can go on your knees and do them that way. And if that’s not enough, you can come all the way up into a full push-up position.” Right.Tiffy Thompson: 23:40

That’s so interesting ’cause, like, whenever I’ve taken like a fitness class or anything, doing the easier version always feels like a demotion or something,Stacy Kim: 23:48

A demotion. Absolutely. Like nobody wants to feel like they have to take the cheap way out. Right? Yeah . So instead we start from the baseline. So everybody starts at the sort of base, this base level. And then if you’re doing awesome or if you need more of a challenge, then you can bump it up. Otherwise, you’re doing great. Right . So that’s a really huge one. Especially, you know, and I think it is probably for anyone, but I really think it is, especially for women when they’re already feeling really self-conscious about movements if they can’t do them very well. So if you’ve ever watched a class and let’s say everybody has to do burpees, well , what about someone who’s never done a burpee before ? What about somebody who’s in a different-sized body? Like what about someone who’s older? Like, that totally changes it. And then they feel like, “Wow, I really don’t fit in with this class.” Yeah . So it’s a bad experience. Right. And then the another thing is I always emphasize to keep all of the conversations in the gym positive. So it’s not just about what happens. I always tell my coaches: class starts when the second one person walks in that door and it doesn’t end until the last person leaves. So whatever happens has to be controlled. So if our coaches are talking to other people or other coaches or if other people are talking and it gets to be too gossipy, too negative, you know, self-hate, whatever it is. The coaches are sort of taught to shift the conversation to something positive. And so people have really known that over time and that’s the way people talk in our gym. So the nice piece is that our members know that when they come into KUMA, it’s gonna be a positive experience, right . It’s a place where they can sort of let all that baggage go.Tiffy Thompson: 25:29

Mm-hmm <affirmative>. If you could give a tip to gym owners and coaches, what’s one thing they could do to A, attract more women to their program and B, to keep them coming for the long haul?Stacy Kim: 25:45

Yeah. That’s a really good question. When I’m coaching people and I’m trying to teach them to learn something new , the first thing I always tell them to do, or the first thing that anybody can do to create change is to start and take notice, to be mindful of what’s going on. So the first thing a gym owner can do today is to walk through their gym, walk through the onboarding process, like a beginner. So have that beginner’s mindset, and by “beginner,” not only just a beginner, but like maybe somebody who’s never been in a gym before. Maybe someone who feels super anxious about coming to your space. Take a look at your communication. Like, are you really clear? Like before someone comes into the gym, have you said something as simple as, “Hey, when you come today, here’s how you wanna dress.” This is what you need to bring. This is who’s gonna meet you at the door, really outline exactly what it’s gonna look like and what it’s gonna feel like. Watch your coaching, see what you’re coaching or, what are your coaches saying? That type of thing. What does your space look like? Is it full of mirrors? Do you have a scale? Do you have pictures of, you know , women in sports bras and six pack of abs or whatever? Not that any of those things are necessarily bad, but if that’s all that you have in your space and you have people who are feeling really self-conscious, it just sort of magnifies that for them, right. If we’re talking about the next , my top recommendation is to implement a women’s-only class. I have a full women’s-only gym, but the best would be to maybe offer a women’s-only program. If a program’s not possible, I know that everybody has the opportunity to at least create one class on their schedule that’s limited to women only, and this would be a really great place to onboard new women. It might also be a really great place to keep newer members. So if you take a new woman and you put her into a regular class, women really take notice. You sort of walk into a space and you start to like, look at things. “How do I fit in?” Is kind of one of the top questions you’ll ask yourself. “How do I fit in? Do I look like these people? Can I do what they can do?” And if a woman is in a regular class, unless they’re an athlete, like that’s a whole different person, but if it’s someone who’s feeling anxious and they walk into that, they’re not gonna feel very great. They’re gonna feel really intimidated, and it’s gonna take a lot for them to continue. But if you put them in a class where you’re fostering an environment for new people to come in and sort of avoiding walking into when you go into a gym where everybody has been in the same class, you know it’s kind of cliquey, not because people are trying to be cliquey, but because they know each other. That’s super intimidating. That’s intimidating for me walking into a gym, somebody who owns a gym. Right. So can you imagine if a beginner does that? Doesn’t feel so great. So , and then of course the other thing too, is , I have a free Facebook group for redefined fitness for women where I provide a lot of different resources and ideas. And I would love to see more people do that as a way to start figuring out how to make their space more comfortable for women.Tiffy Thompson: 29:10

Mm . And you get that by having conversations with the women in the group.Stacy Kim: 29:14

Yeah, absolutely.Tiffy Thompson: 29:15

So I wanna shift gears a little bit towards your career trajectory. You were a design business owner and then martial arts and then this, but how did that come about?Stacy Kim: 29:31

<laugh> Yeah. I never thought as a kid that I’d be a gym owner. I don’t think that ever came into my mind, but you know, I went to art school, and then right out of that, I started a design sort of marketing web shop . It was pretty small, and during that time I was , I had started martial arts and I became kind of obsessed with it. I would probably train six times a week and eventually I started teaching. And then finally I decided to sell my partnership in the design business. And I wanted to work sort of full time for my martial-arts school. And in the first year that I spent my martial-arts school, I had been there for 12 years. So it was my community. And I worked there and I didn’t realize that the sort of under the hood or behind the scenes was kind of terrible. So the owner’s son, the founder’s son was the one that ran the school and he was just a terrible boss. He was controlling, condescending , he’d say things like, “I don’t pay you to do whatever you wanna do. I pay you to do whatever I tell you to do” type of thing. Yeah . It was awful. And it left me with a really, really tough decision. And the decision was either, stay in this community with all my friends and all the people and everything that I knew for the past 12 years or leave martial-arts schools. And I won’t say all of them, but old school, traditional ones, it’s k ind o f like, when you leave, you k ind of leave people i n my case. Yeah. They almost sort of like, “You’re gone.” Right. And so I knew that would happen, and it was a really tough decision. So I tried to think about what it was that I wanted to do. And so I thought, “Gosh, I can’t imagine not teaching martial arts ’cause that’s what I loved. I love teaching.” That’s probably the thing I liked the most. So I was like, you know, “Well, all right, I’m gonna leave and I’m gonna do this on my own. If you’re not gonna let me help you build your school, I’ll build my own.” So I actually put my house up for sale in, I think it was May that year and by September, so about three or four months later, I had a space and I had enrolled enough kids to basically break even. I started off with an after-school program , and martial arts in the evening. So that was really super successful and I loved it, but as I was doing it more and more, I started to realize that I was doing what I was good at and what I knew and I didn’t take the time to say, “What do I really wanna do? “And that’s kind of how I built sort of the next phase, which was KUMA , the women’s kickboxing. Actually my other school was called KUMA as well. But this one was called KUMA Fit. So that’s how I built the next studio and that’s how I realized it takes, I mean, I’m sure most people know that there’s a million times where you feel like you’ve found what it is you wanna do and then you change and then you change. So I think a lot of entrepreneurs feel that way too. It’s taken me a while to get here, but I always still use all the skills from being a martial artist, being a martial-arts school owner. Certainly being a designer and owning a business where I was doing marketing and design. I do that every single day. It’s what helps me continually get leads, helps me produce branding materials that are consistent and, you know, branding is all about messaging. So that certainly helps me along the way.Tiffy Thompson: 33:16

Mm-hmm <affirmative> In developing KUMA, what aspect had the steepest learning curve for you? Like, what didn’t come so naturally?Stacy Kim: 33:28

Oh, that’s a good question. I think one of the hardest things that I had in the beginning was teaching everything. I have a high level of control , a high level of quality. And so that made it really difficult to pass on to somebody else. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to that. And so I was doing everything right and I was teaching every single class and I realized, I’m really good at coaching. So if I had to coach a class, I could give you an excellent class right off the bat with no class plan, nothing in mind and I can make it look like I’ve had a plan all along. Right. But that takes years and thousands of classes. So what I did is I actually developed a very specific curriculum. So we have right now, it’s kind of come through many, many iterations, but right now we have a 12-week cycling program. Each week has a different focus. And there is a unique class plan every single day that sort of serves this focus that helps keep my coaches from getting bored, ’cause I realized if I coached the same class every day, I would get bored with it. And that then if you’re bored with coaching, then that’s gonna come through to your members. So, you know, developing that system, developing all the systems, gave me the ability to train new coaches. So now I have a program, too, where people go through an online training to become a coach. All of my coaches in my studio were members at one point. So I don’t hire people from the outside because I want people who believe in the mission. Yeah . So I’ve also chosen a very specific business model where all of my coaches are part time. There’s nobody full time. These are people who are doing it because they love it and they wanna inspire other women just like they’ve been inspired. Awesome. So creating systems, I think, was something that was difficult in the beginning, and the more I did it the more freedom I got to be able to do more things like, you know, get more clear on the mission, create more impact in that way and to start to build things like the Feel Strong Movement.Tiffy Thompson: 35:46

For sure. It opens up your time by getting it out of your head and onto the <laugh> paper.Stacy Kim: 35:51

Yeah. Absolutely. And the other thing too, is it like really empowers, it gives my members a place to go to if they want to. So I basically hand-pick people. So I invite people to go through my coach training because I can see that they love it and they are, you know, a lot of times those are the people that are sort of natural leaders or every time new people come in, they’re always welcoming them and helping them out. So then that gives them something new to do. And now I’ve given that to them. If I had just done that all on my own, these people wouldn’t have that opportunity.Tiffy Thompson: 36:25

Yeah. It’s a much different approach from some gym owners who just hire for credentials. It could have disastrous implications after if the person isn’t bought into your vision and they’re doing their own sort of thing.Stacy Kim: 36:42

Yep . Exactly.Tiffy Thompson: 36:44

So what would you say is your entrepreneurial superpower?Stacy Kim: 36:49

I think my, I love this question. I like that you asked this in the podcast. It’s an awesome one. I think that my superpower is the ability to read people and connect with them in a really authentic way. My therapist calls this my “antenna.” She says that I have this antenna. So it’s like this. Yeah. I was like that visual. I do really think that the best thing that you can do for people is listen, especially in the fitness world. So, and especially for women, like a lot of times women are the givers, we’re the people nurturing, we’re the people taking care of everybody else. So when I ask the right questions and I listen, that creates a connection. And not only that, but I remember too, so I know all of my members’ names. I could tell you something about all of them . And I could probably tell you what I would coach them in a one-on-one because I know how they move. So I know everything about them . And I take that time and I actually encourage my coaches to do the same because you have to really build those real relationships. And that’s helped me, my antenna not only helps me one on one. It helps me when I’m coaching to be able to read the room, be able to read the vibe. So it’s super important that, you know, there might be a day when you can tell everyone’s down or everyone’s not feeling good and you have to create a moment that can change that. You have to create an opportunity to give them an empowering moment so that when they leave, they feel amazing. And I also utilize that when I am communicating with people through email or text and all that type of thing. So I constantly think about what people are concerned about or how they might be feeling. And when I communicate to them, I’m talking, I’m speaking to all those things before they bring them up.Tiffy Thompson: 38:55

Right. Very smart. So what’s next for your studio and for your mission? Where do you see the future?Stacy Kim: 39:04

I’d love to open a second location. I think that any entrepreneur would love that sort of challenge. I wanna see if the systems that I created can be implemented and replicated quickly in a new space. So that’s definitely something on the horizon for us. I’ve also taken my kickboxing program and created a system for it that I’d love to be able to offer to other , either gyms or spaces that are offering kickboxing classes. Because I know when that’s one of the problems that I started off with before was just sort of this, you know, “on a napkin” class-plan type thing. Right . And I wanna be able to help people skip that and just say, “Hey, if you’re coaching every class, you can just use this program and free up your time and create better classes.” So that’s one thing. And then of course , the Feel Strong Movement, it’s definitely a mission and it’s a passion for me. I think it’s gonna take a little bit more time, but I want to be able to connect like-minded people. My goal is to sort of have this resource be known to people as something that is available, if you’re looking for a different experience in a gym. And I also wanna be able to create some type of change in the way that we’re marketing fitness to people. I wanna create a change. I wanna start to shift how we’re doing that so that we can see fitness for all the intrinsic benefits instead of these external things that we’ve been focusing on, because that’s what helps keep people moving. That’s what keeps us. Or, you asked me earlier, what keeps people staying for the long haul? And I think that’s one of them is how it helps you internally. What are those intrinsic benefits? And that statistic I gave earlier, the 75 percent of women who hate the gym, if we could , as an industry, if we can move the needle on that just a little bit, bring it down. I think that would be incredible. And I would love to help make that happen.Tiffy Thompson: 41:13

Mm-hmm <affirmative> and if people wanna find you , where should they go?Stacy Kim: 41:19

The best place is probably the Feel Strong Movement website. So FeelStrongMovement.com. OK. I also have my own website, which is just Stacy . Kim. S-T-A-C-Y. I have a pretty cool domain name , ’cause it’s just very cool .Tiffy Thompson: 41:36

Awesome. Well, you’ve given us lot to think about. Really good information. Thank you so much for joining me today .Stacy Kim: 41:43

Absolutely! Thank you so much for the opportunity.Tiffy Thompson: 41:46

That’s it for women in fitness business . Thanks for listening.