In addition to owning and running two companies -House of Chemicals and Solid Link International -, Jillian Usagi is a certified Zumba fitness trainer.
She shared her journey with Saturday Magazine.
“Zumba is my happy place. It takes all the stress out of my mind.
It’s the first thing I do when I wake up at 5 am and the last thing I do in the evenings, after a long workday before I head home.
If there is anything Zumba has taught me about life, it is that it’s never that serious.
Just three short years ago, my life was fast-paced. I was a serious, busy woman at the helm of two companies.
I had been running my first company, House of Chemicals, which supplies industrial chemicals, for seven years and had just founded Solid Link International – which organises international trade fairs.
My job entailed long hours in meetings, at the office and a lot of travelling.
Being a vision bearer for two companies also meant that I had a lot on my mind all day long.
I was constantly worn out, irritable and had put on quite a bit of weight. Then one day in mid-2016, while in search of a gym where I could sign up for aerobics, I stumbled onto a Zumba class at a fitness centre in Valley Arcade.
The Latino music playing sounded good and once I stepped in and began dancing, I was hooked.
I quickly learnt that with one session, I burnt just as much calories as I would running for a similar period of time.
The difference is that with Zumba, I was having fun at it. I also learnt that Zumba is a combination of resistant training and aerobics, meaning that unlike most forms of dance, I was having a full body workout.
I discovered Zumba at a time when I thought that my life had come full circle.
I had a job that I loved; I was mentoring by passing on my entrepreneurial skills through a women’s group I helped set up in Siaya, and I had a dedicated staff and a comfortable life.
My interest in Zumba was unexpected. In the weeks that followed that first class, I noticed that I was happier; I looked good and felt even better.
The weight started falling off. I made Zumba part of my daily routine.
Then in 2018, after about two years of attending Zumba classes, I heard of an international convention that was happening in Orlando in the US.
I wanted to go but there was a slight problem. I needed to be a certified Zumba trainer to get in.
In November, I signed up for training through LLC, a Miami-based company that sends specialists to Kenya twice a year to train.
I sailed through the course after which I travelled to Orlando for the conference.
Orlando was like a dream. It was a convention of more than 6,000 other trainers from all over the world.
People from all walks of life, some of them physically impaired and still somehow leading fulfilling lives as Zumba fitness trainers.
I noticed that there were not very many Kenyans there and even fewer Ugandans and Tanzanians.
I know how hard it is to keep performing in the corporate world. I have lived it. Sometimes it gets so busy that one doesn’t think they can get time off to exercise.
What if I could take Zumba to the offices? When we came back home, I promised myself that if the corporates couldn’t find time to come to Zumba class, I was going to find a way to take Zumba to the offices.
I am an entrepreneur. My life is about looking for ways to turn passions into profits. To pass on this passion and the happiness that it gives me, I have partnered with Liz Kabeu, also a Zumba enthusiast and certified fitness trainer.
I met Liz in a Zumba class – me just having found a new passion and her rediscovering her love for dance. Our Zumba venture, The Running Room, consists of seven Zumba instructors and two support staff.
In this new venture, our strengths complement each other. I am the marketer; I have always been great at making a sale.
Liz has a rich experience in the corporate world where she works by day and is great with customer experience.
We are already working with a few corporates. Each session is an hour long, usually early in the mornings or late in the evenings when employees would otherwise be seated in traffic.
I see this as a fresh avenue for me to create more jobs. We are working at retraining other Zumba fitness instructors on interpersonal relations and then get them aboard; this way, we can spread the Zumba love while creating jobs.
Before Zumba, I wanted to do all the heavy tasks for my company myself. These past few years, I have learnt that it is okay to delegate, to empower my employees by sharing with them my vision.
I no longer try to do everything myself. I work six hours a day. Some days, I work from home. I am also travelling more for leisure, not just for work.
This December, we will be celebrating 10 years since Zumba was brought to Kenya by veteran Zumba fitness trainer Liz Baregu.