Entrepreneur carves out niche in online wellness

Jillian Usagi, founder of My Running Room
Jillian Usagi, founder of My Running Room. PHOTO | COURTESY 

It was after attending a convention in the US that Jillian Usagi decided to turn her passion into profit. She founded My Running Room, an online fitness and wellness company.

She realised that there was a huge gap in the market for onsite corporate dance fitness and strength training.

Most employees in major cities, she says, hardly finds time to go to the gym due to the heavy traffic. And even for those who were able to make it to the gyms, she says it is no longer possible due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Virtual classes are here to stay because Covid 19 has completely changed the consumer behaviour with some of our clientele preferring to continue with the online classes even after this pandemic subsides. The idea of taking the fitness right at their workplace was welcome by most organisations whom we approached,” Ms Usagi says

“My Running Room was born in Boston Massachusetts when I attended an entrepreneurial and leadership training at Babson College (Launch and Grow). My take away from this training was the need to get out of the comfort zone and venture into new business spaces. ‘Jump and the net will appear’. The deal was sealed later on in Orlando Florida when I attended Zumba convention, just for fun, since I love Zumba dance fitness.”


In 2019 she registered the company, injected about Sh700,000 in capital.

My Running Room dance fitness and strength training company caters for the young, middle aged and the elderly.

“Most fitness companies mainly focus on the middle aged clientele but we gathered that there is a niche market for children and the elderly that equally need to stay in shape. We also offer international boot camps which is key for corporate team building activities,” she notes.

The activities are done through online classes most of which are recorded and can be accessed through a website by a client. However, they also have live session curated for very early in the morning.

“At the moment we are having virtual classes due to the current challenging situation of social distancing. The virtual classes still bring the staff of different organisations together on the screen and they get to interact from different locations before, during and after the sessions thus creating the bond that is so much needed during this time of social distancing,” Ms Usagi says.

At the moment seven corporates have signed up with My Running Room with more than 1,000 clients attending classes at different times, including international clients.

“For Zumba dance fitness and strength training, we charge between Sh30,000 and Sh 50,000 per one hour session. This rate is for the large corporates of over 100 employees,” the entrepreneur says.

“For those smaller companies who prefer to come to our studio, we charge 600 shillings per person per one hour session. For the international boot camps, the rates depends on the destination and number of days.”

Her new products include strength training, international boot camps, natural supplements, skin care products and active wear.

“The idea of international boot camps came as a result of my love for international travel. I have been to 46 countries so far and the fact that most of the local companies focus on local boot camps. We saw a gap in the international wellness travel,” says Ms Usagi.

“Our trips combine fun, fitness and tourism. We have two trips annually with a maximum number of 12 people only per trip. We partner with professional trainers both locally and internationally for the boot camps.”

The sessions are tailor-made to fit different age groups in regards to the choice of music and trainings required. For example there is Zumba for children, adults and Zumba gold for the elderly.

Ms Usagi’s business partner Elizabeth Kabeu, a licensed Zumba fitness instructor and a certified senior fitness coach, says that Zumba can be use by anyone as for fitness as it incorporates the benefits of cardio and resistance training.

Zuma, she adds, is also very simple and everyone regardless of age, body size or fitness level can learn.

“Zumba is extremely effective. Participants in a Zumba class burn between 400 and 1,000 calories in an hour depending on the intensity,” Ms Kabeu says.

“Home workouts are very convenient, fun and a perfect way of bringing members of the family together on the same fitness floor. It’s also very cost effective to those who wish to save on the regular gym subscriptions and requires a very small space to work out.”

Most of the online classes, Ms Usagi says, are subsidised and “we also do offer some of the classes for free as our contribution towards mental wellness during this season. One however needs to be very disciplined in order to achieve the required results.”