We had the good fortune of connecting with Kai O’Neil and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kai, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?

Five years ago I was convicted to start a unique box fitness studio with a mission; Stay fit to serve others while having fun. This happened in church as I listened to the Pastor talk about the early greek word for church – Ekklesia (ek-la-see-ya). I love the way Ed Silvoso describes it in his book, “Ekklesia”, in the time of Jesus, “:the Ekklesia was a building-less, mobile people movement designed to operate 24/7 in the marketplace for the purpose of having an impact on everybody and everything.” At this point, I had been teaching professionally for almost 18 years and there was something missing in the “why” I was doing it. I have always been passionate about teaching group fitness, I am also very passionate about service work in both my local and global communities and I have a strong faith in God. I wanted to bring purpose to what I was doing professionally into my spiritual life and offering fitness classes, small group training and outdoor adventures in this posture seemed like a perfect trifecta. The idea conceptualized so quickly and effortlessly. The mission and the movement. I started bringing my fitness classes to my church while continuing to teach at a gym in town. Many of the church participants were also involved in mission work requiring physical stamina. I myself have been on mission trips where physical labor was intense. This is where the mission statement was born. Stay fit. Serve Others. Have fun. As I prayed over this and talked with others about the concept, the idea of making fit an acronym came on strong. I eventually landed on Fun. Intentional. Together. It is in this way, I, and those who participate, experience holistically, physical fitness and well being. As Ekklesia F.I.T. was forming into its brand, COVID-19 happened and the gym I had been teaching at closed. When classes resumed, I had already formed Ekklesia F.I.T into an LLC, registered the trademarks, acquired the required licensing and insurance and purchased some equipment, I decided to take a leap of faith and brought Ekklesia F.I.T. into existence. I never returned to the gym. Zoom was Ekklesia F.I.T.s first platform and now classes are being held both in and out of the studio I currently teach in. Being mobile allowed me an opportunity to teach a group fitness class at a summer camp to foster children. This has only strengthened my resolve to keep moving forward in fitness outreach. We do not preach at Ekklesia F.I.T., nor does anyone need to even believe in God; One can just come for the Fun of it. Stay for the Together of it and maybe, be inspired to get involved in service projects that impact the marketplace in a positive and loving way. Ekklesia F.I.T. provides ways to get involved with service work, offers group fitness classes and small group training and outdoor hiking adventures for both experienced and beginner hikers. We partner with local churches and other small business owners whenever possible to support fellow entrepreneurs with their vision on how to impact the marketplace. We are more than just a place to exercise.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I always wanted to be an actress. I had some talent and willing parents to take me to and from the theatre growing up. After graduating high school, I went to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC and after graduating, did summer stock theatre in Maine, where I met the man that I would marry. I always loved performing. Moving into NYC I quickly discovered it’s not easy to be a successful working actress – so I took a very cool office job at a commercial film company in what was called the “meat district”. A year later I was fired for kind of a big screw-up. I discovered I liked the paycheck more than performing, so for many years I took various office jobs while having my kids and moving to the suburbs with my husband. I performed occasionally at a local theatre where I worked as a secretary. Soon after having my second child – I was miserable, overweight and experiencing some depression. I watched a late night infomercial – Billy Blanks Tao Bo – and I ordered the tapes. This is where my passion for fitness began. I started feeling better, looking better and had more energy than I had in a long time. I was happier and having fun. I loved going to class. I knew instantly that this was something I had to do and share with everyone – everywhere. One more kid and 2 years later, I was certified as a Group Fitness Instructor through the American Council on Exercise – to which I still hold my certification to this day. In 2003, I began teaching a kickboxing class at the YMCA in my hometown of Franklin, MA. A couple of years later, a position was created for me and I was promoted to Wellness Coordinator. Program Development for Group Fitness was part of my job description and as it turned out, I was pretty good at it. Implementing fitness into everyday life activities in a fun, playful and interactive way for both kids and adults is something I still do to this day at Ekklesia F.I.T. Keeping it FUN is the most important aspect of our 3-D Philosophy on fitness. I left the YMCA as a director of group fitness in 2011 to move to Arizona and pursue a more outdoorsy life in beautiful weather. I love to play – be playful and perform. Fitness should be and is fun at Ekklesia F.I.T. – Read about our 3-D Fitness Philosophy. It explains it all .

https://www.ekklesiafit.com/ek-f-i-t-philosophy

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We would start our week at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park – right outside of Payson, Arizona. It’s one of the world’s largest open-air natural travertine bridge, It has waterfalls, caves, emerald green pools of water and hiking trails. We would do this on the way to Sedona where we would stay for a few days at Sky Ranch Lodge to hike across Devil’s Bridge, walk along the canyon floor of West Fork, maybe ride the natural water-slide of Slide-State Park and eat pizza at Pisa’s Pizza for the best wood-fired pizza and gelato . On the way home, we stop at the Mongolian Rim to kayak the beautiful waters of Blue Ridge Reservoir before we head back to the airport.

The most fun and interesting people to me love to throw a backpack together loaded with a camping gear and be in nature with no cell reception or take a weekend to explore some of the hidden wonders of Arizona.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Ed Silvoso – author of Ekklesia F.I.T.

McDowell Mountain Coummunity Church – Scottsdale, AZ for opening up space to teach fitness clases well as providing opportunities to serve both globally and locally, -Pastor Matt who always weaves practical ways to show love to our communities with Scripture, inspiring action with love.

Daisy Austin – that friend that believes in the vision and the mission of Ekklesia F.I.T. as much as me. Spiritual support and unconditional love, hiking, fitness and outdoor enthusiast –

Lori Taylor – owner and operator of Mountain Treks for giving me the push needed to begin the journey and stay faithful to it

Bill O’Neil – my husband who encourages me to let Ekklesia F.I.T. evolve

Hollie MacIntire who believes in the mission and vision of Ekklesia F.I.T. and forwarded Shoutout to me in hopes to grow and expand our impact to those about us and to grow our membership.

Website: ekklesiafit.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ekfitwithkai/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ekfitwithKai

Image Credits
Daisy Jean Photography Compassionate Photography

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