The current global trend for fitness is now being seen in Africa, and in Kenya, one athlete turned entrepreneur, Saloni Kantaria, founder of Reform Cycling and Strength Studio in Nairobi, is bringing something fresh to the exercise scene.
LoA had the pleasure of finding out more about this great entrepreneurial venture this month on a visit to Nairobi.
What does your company do?
Reform Cycling and Strength Studio is East Africa's first boutique class focused studio integrating technology with fitness. Reform's offering consists of a cycling studio and strength studio offering a variety of cardio and strength focused classes (such as indoor cycling / BOSU / Barre / Pilates and hybrid classes) aimed at targeting healthy young men and women, pregnant women, aspiring athletes and elite athletes of all ages and fitness levels. We opened in January 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya and have attracted over 400 clients in a short space of time.
"Reform Cycling and Strength Studio is East Africa's first boutique class focused studio integrating technology with fitness."
What inspired you to start your company?
I was born and raised in Nairobi. I played tennis for Kenya in the 1990s and was the top ranked female tennis player in Kenya until 1999 and had a junior world ranking. I then went on to play tennis for Cornell University where I pursued my undergraduate degree. Although I moved on to become an international arbitration lawyer, I always had a passion for fitness and had noticed in Sydney, Dubai and Chicago (cities I lived and worked in) that there were specialised focused fitness studios popping up which were attracting a lot of people. Nairobi is an upcoming city and in the last 5 years has significantly grown and a lot of investment has started to pour in. I felt it was the right time to introduce a boutique fitness studio which was focused on certain classes and integrated the technology component into Nairobi as the market was ready for a concept like this. I therefore took a break from the legal world and decided to set up Reform Cycling and Strength Studio. It took me approximately 2 years from the idea to implementation phase.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Exercise has become a necessity in people's lives as there is strong scientific evidence that a sedentary lifestyle can expose one to obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Reform aims to provide technically focused classes aimed at all age groups and fitness levels. Our youngest client is an aspiring runner who is 14 years old and we also have two ladies who are in their mid 70s. Other than providing workouts, Reform is also a community for fitness enthusiasts and allows people who have the same passion to interact and mingle.
"Although I moved on to become an international arbitration lawyer, I always had a passion for fitness and had noticed in Sydney, Dubai and Chicago (cities I lived and worked in) that there were specialised focused fitness studios popping up which were attracting a lot of people."
Tell us a little about your team
I have 4 full time instructors, 2 ladies who manage the front desk and 2 ladies who keep the studio clean and hygienic. All team members are Kenyan. Our team of instructors received training from master instructors from London and Paris who flew to Nairobi to provide specific training.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I come from a business family which has been doing business for more than 100 years and therefore entrepreneurship runs in our family blood. Despite this, it was still nerve wrecking making the decision to leave my legal career which I had been doing for over 8 years and take a leap of faith into the entrepreneurial world. However, I felt that if I didn't give my fitness studio concept a try, I would always be left wondering if it would work. My attitude was if my concept failed, I could always go back to being a lawyer. In March 2015, I quit my law firm and fully focused on implementing my concept. It required a lot of hard work as I had to procure all the fitness equipment and construction material from the US and get it sent to Kenya; manage the construction of the fitness studio; train my team and figure out the operations of the studio. However, my goal was to open Reform by January 2016 and make it fully functional. Fortunately, I managed to achieve this goal. We're now in the 8th month of operation. I now focus on ensuring the quality of classes remains high and consistent by focusing on training our instructors and coming up with new ideas and concepts. In addition, customer service is very important to me and therefore ensuring on a day-to-day basis our customers are happy is where my focus also lies.
"I felt it was the right time to introduce a boutique fitness studio which was focused on certain classes and integrated the technology component into Nairobi as the market was ready for a concept like this."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I would love to open more Reform Cycling and Strength Studio branches in Nairobi as well as East Africa and make Reform the pioneer in fitness in this region.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I love the challenge of growing a business and seeing how it grows. It's like watching a baby grow into an infant and then a child. I also like testing different concepts and watching the reaction of the market to the concept. For example, we introduced a Saturday concept which involves a workout at a restaurant outdoors followed by a healthy brunch so clients can meet other and mingle. This has taken off very well and we've been sold out both times we've had such an event. Currently, we have an indoor cycling race called "Le Tour de Reform" going on which mimics the Tour de France and clients are loving having to compete in this race.
"I come from a business family which has been doing business for more than 100 years and therefore entrepreneurship runs in our family blood."
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Do your due diligence and see if your idea is actually something the market needs or whether its only you who thinks the market needs it. Speak to people you trust about your concept and get their feedback. If you've decided to go ahead and implement your concept then stick to your guns and don't lose confidence. We all have sleepless nights during this phase and its perfectly natural. Be realistic about how much money you need to implement your concept and ensure you've got the money needed. Don't start it and then realize you've run out of money half way. This means do your due diligence on all the costs you may incur to implement your concept early on before you decide to press the "go" button.
Contact or follow Reform Cycling and Strength Studio
Why LoA loves it….
At Lionesses of Africa, we meet many women entrepreneurs who have done the ultimate career pivot in starting their businesses, finding their passion along the way. In the case of Saloni Kantaria, she moved from a career in law to introducing a new concept in fitness in Kenya. Today, she is riding the crest of a fitness wave, providing an inspirational environment in her home country for health and fitness enthusiasts to realise their goals. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa