We had the good fortune of connecting with Ja Kya Sheppard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ja Kya, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
The simply answer is pain. Seeing the women that I love the most deal with health threatening issues when I was young.
My grandmother had her leg amputated from a severe case of diabetes while I was in grade school. At the time, I never understood why no one had any effective lifestyle practices? or nutritional alternative that would still keep her satisfied but heal the chronic life threatening issues.
In addition, I was personal affected with personal health struggles. Diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in my 20’s, I was gaining weight and facial hair was growing crazy, and I had no idea what was going on what my ‘health fit body’. One of my member at the time suggested to get tested for PCOS.
Struggling to get ahold of my weight, I went to a women’s health clinic and they told me a had 3 of 5 symptoms and run my blood work to prove that I did in fact have the hormone and reproductive disorder, PCOS.
I was more determined than over to help and educated women especially women who have a hormone or weight loss deficiency who how to overcome weight loss challenge even when you’re faced other chronic health issues/disease.
Like myself, I have forced to identify with the struggling, frustrated, overweight and confused women that I so desperately wanted to help.
I am proof that you can beat any statistic, stigma or doctors report if you believe that you can beat the odds if you believe in yourself more.
My personal battles quickly became my purpose and much needed women’s movement.
What should our readers know about your business?
The Fitness Empire is a female focus fitness and wellness studio. We pride ourselves with assisting our members with weight loss with exercise, losing inches with non-invasive laser and coaching clients to heal holistically through nutritional lifestyle practices.
How did you get to where you are today business-wise. Was it easy?
I (Ja’ Kya) realized working in a franchise gym that the fitness training was a one size fit all approach. Prior knowledge from my Sports and Exercise science degree, being a former collegiate athlete and Track and Cross Country coach, I immediately knew the member I was responsible where not being properly serviced with this standard weight loss solution.
I couldn’t leave them underserved so I begun working around the clock to build my own weight loss system tailored just for my ideal client, women.
I wanted to make something the solution effective, easy to implement and add an element of community to be an accountability and additional resource.
If not, how did you overcome the challenges?
Effective workout regiments with a daily element of surprise (no boring workouts here), personalized nutritional plans and providing a safe place for members to share their pitfalls and share their accomplishments and advice with others.
Quickly, my results were getting attention of other members at the gym, my peers and staff started to notice.
Even though I was happy and passionate, I was not being compensated for my performance which caused me to be drowned and irritated.
I saw this as a sign to take a shot at being my own boss so that I can be proper compensated and reignite my passion for serving my members.
What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Here’s the biggest lesson I learned. Never settle and charge your worth. Over 25 certification, degree and several years of experience I wish I would have charged my worth sooner. You may have to pass up some bottom feeder to get to your ideal client but I found my loyal member through filtering out the spectators.
I wouldn’t be in the position I am in today without my founding members. Over 5 years later, I still have them here with me.
What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
The Fitness Empire, the regal experience for boosting body confidence!
We are a lifestyle fitness community that exists for people who are frustrated with unwanted fat, failed fad diets and ineffective weight loss practices. Our thriving fit club challenges traditional weight loss methods, and merge movement and technology to produce long term noticeable results!
Wellness is not one size fits all. You deserve a customized transformation.
We have a global mission which is to help women heal holistically, live health and be happy with themselves (physically and emotionally) and share that others.
The Fitness Empire is more than a gym, we our the standard for women empowerment and life-changing transformation in more ways than physical.
In executing our mission, we want to continue to add fun fitness based classes, offer more wellness practices and cultivate our community so we can grow and launch community outreach partnerships through Houston and surrounding areas.
I have a calling to transform the lives of women, specifically single mothers who do not always have the financial needs to provide for their families or the time and/or opportunity to make themselves a priority.
Now that I have a location and a solid group of women who can push the mission forward, I’m excited about the impact we can make on our community. It’s overdue to be the hands and feet of the true change we want to see.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The Breakfast Club – Breakfast Turkey Leg Hut – Lunch
Taste Bar and Kitchen – Lunch
Kiss – Dinner
Thirteen – Dinner
The Funnel Bar (food truck) – Dessert
Present Company – Happy Hour
Southern Q – bbg
Truck Yard – hangout
Petes Duo Piano Bar – Hangout
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to give a huge Shoutout to The Fitness Empire’s (TFE) operations manager, Terence. He never questions the vision but challenges the steps it takes to reach the company’s objectives by asking questions, helping organize creative ideas and investing countless time and energy to make sure things get done. You are so selfless, kind, charismatic and all the members brag on how much you contribute to TFE awesome fit fam.
It’s so good to know there is someone you can trust that 110% believes in TFE and the mission to make movement memorable, enjoying eating and cultivating community.
Being you is the greatest gift to us. I can’t thank you enough.
Last but not least. Founding members, Lesli and Samantha.
Thank you for believing in the vision when I only had a blueprint to show for it. You stay through the good, bad, and the most toughest seasons of life.
Thank you for giving me grace when I am an imperfect leader and celebrating me when you see me and other win. If I never told, I have two prototype customer name after you because you two embody the brand so effortlessly. The Fitness Empire would be what is it today (and will be) without you ladies.
If fitness had a Diana Ross and the Supremes.. you know where I’m going with this :). Love ya’ll