Being a thought leader allows you access to speak on TV, radio and on social media to large audiences filled with people interested in listening to what you say. I have been fortunate enough to have multiple opportunities to partake on young professional panels, TV segments, and to be featured in multiple print publications to talk about my business and attract more attention for my company. I have also been asked to be an Ambassador for Athleta, an all-women’s clothing store, which was a great honor and allowed me to reach yet another large group of women to spread the Jabz word and also to connect with other young professionals in my field.
I had the pleasure to interview Kimberlee White. Kimberlee is the co-founder and CEO of Jabz Boxing, which is a Phoenix-based female-only boxing studio franchise that features circuit–style workouts using boxing inspired exercises. White, along with co-founder and president, Len Hayko, opened the first studio in 2012 in Scottsdale and began franchising the following year. Jabz Boxing currently has about 20 franchised studios.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Thank you! I moved out to Arizona from Philadelphia in 2004 to pursue my degree in Special Education. It was very scary leaving my big family back East and moving 2,500 miles West, but my mom always told me I was a risk taker. My whole life, I have loved sports for many reasons, but there are two main reasons. One, I like to work out as a stress reliever, and second, I have met some amazing people and made so many memories while being involved in sports my whole life. After high school and college, I missed being a part of a larger group of fitness minded, high spirited women who liked to work together as a “team.” A few years into teaching, I was approached by a friend, now business partner Len Hayko, to come try out a boxing workout. He knows how passionate I am about fitness and wanted to push me through a workout designed with boxing inspired exercise. That day changed my life forever. After my very first boxing workout, I knew that I wanted more women to feel empowered while getting a full-body workout like I did with Len. I also knew that boxing can sound intimidating to many people and I didn’t want to discourage any woman from trying out our new workout. Len and I discussed and decided that we needed to find a space where we could have a women’s only boxing studio, as there was nothing like this in the market. After taking out all my student loan money offered to me when going back for my Master’s degree at Arizona State University, Len and I founded Jabz Boxing fitness for women in the back of a warehouse in Scottsdale Airpark. There was no air conditioning, minimal equipment, and we didn’t have any members. What we did have was a vision and fire inside of our hearts about what we wanted to accomplish to build Jabz. I invited a few of my teacher friends to our “Jabz” warehouse where we put the ladies through a boxing inspired circuit. I was so proud of our small, simple studio in the back of this warehouse. It became my new happy place. Fortunately, women continued to seek out Jabz and bring their friends from all over the valley. Soon, we had enough reoccurring revenue to move into our first retail location in Scottsdale. Our community was growing and thriving with women of all different shapes, ages, and skill levels. It was a dream come true. Fast forward seven years later, and we now have four corporate locations and 20+ signed franchises. Our Jabz community is stronger than ever and I am so grateful to be a leader in the Jabz Family.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
Jabz Boxing was the first all-women’s boxing inspired fitness studio in the country when opening in 2012. Since then, Jabz has continued to dominate the women’s only industry by constantly improving and enhancing our member experience as well as increasing our level of support for our franchisees. I am proud to say I am the Co-founder and co-owner of Jabz Franchising. I am extremely passionate about the Jabz brand and mission and continue to seek out opportunities to help grow the company. In 7 short years, we have grown to over 20 locations in 4 different states and we are just getting started.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Whenever someone asks for an interesting fact about myself, I always mention my piglet Hamlet. I have had Hamlet for five years now. He was originally the Jabz mascot, however, he quickly decided he liked to stay at home snuggled up under his heated blanket while getting belly rubs throughout the day. I also think it’s funny that during one of the first interviews that I had on TV, I was super nervous. I had no idea what the interviewer was going to ask me. About two minutes before going live, the reporter noticed I was wearing pig socks and mentioned she loved pigs. I then had to tell her about Hammy in which she was so interested in learning more! Her opening question included, “Tell me about Hamlet!”. It helped ease my nerves for sure.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I remember being extremely terrified to teach/lead a class. I was 25 years old and worked daily with first and second grade students, but working with women that were older than me was definitely intimidating. I would beg my business partner Len to stay in the studio while I taught the class because I was so nervous something would happen and I wouldn’t know what to do. Now, I rarely get the opportunity to teach and when I do I love it! I definitely can relate to my new studio owners and trainers that have “stage freight” when first starting to lead classes.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
A thought leader is a person with drive and ambition that have a vision and make it happen. Thought leaders want to change the world in positive ways and inspire others to do the same. I am honored to be viewed as a thought leader. Creating a new concept from scratch on a very low budget was not easy. There were many hurdles and barriers that delayed my progress, however, I was resilient. Because of this, I was able, with the help of the love and support of my family and friends, to continue to move forward. I have learned a lot about business and franchising. I have spent years, and will continue to do so, improving every component of Jabz, including the member experience as well as the franchisee experience. In order for my dream of Jabz to continue to expand, it is important that processes and a high level of support is offered to my studio owners/franchisees. I work diligently every day, with a small, strong, driven team, to make sure what we are doing within the company is enhancing the Jabz experience, meanwhile, creating processes, procedures, and blueprints for those that come after me to follow. I am very grateful for my franchisee family. They believed in Jabz so much that they wanted to open their very own studio. They wanted to share Jabz with their community. How amazing is that? A true thought leader makes a difference during their lifetime that will be remembered for many years and decades to come.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
Thought leadership leads to exposure for your ideas both inside and outside your company. Journalists, analysts, event organizers and conference hosts will be drawn to you. It will give you access to people who can help you make things happen — leaders in your organization or community; and innovators in your profession or industry. Being a thought leader can give you the power and platform to really make things happen, to make a difference.
Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
Sure. Being a thought leader allows you access to speak on TV, radio and on social media to large audiences filled with people interested in listening to what you say. I have been fortunate enough to have multiple opportunities to partake on young professional panels, TV segments, and to be featured in multiple print publications to talk about my business and attract more attention for my company. I have also been asked to be an Ambassador for Athleta, an all-women’s clothing store, which was a great honor and allowed me to reach yet another large group of women to spread the Jabz word and also to connect with other young professionals in my field.
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
There are many things people can to do become a thought leader. The first step in becoming a thought leader is to identify your area of passion and expertise, and focus on that, as I did with empowering women through fitness. Staying consistent with your message is key.
However, consistency in messaging is only one place you need to practice it when becoming a thought leader. Followers and readers need someone to rely on, so in order to gain their trust, it is crucial that you regularly put out content and have an active presence. Slipping in and out can damage your credibility as a resource.
One strategy to get started is to be an accessible resource to your audience through content. For example, creating blog content on your area of expertise is a great way to showcase your knowledge. If you want to take this a step further, share the posts on social media or enable a comments section on the blog to engage with your audience.
Another way to become a successful thought leader is to take things a step further than creating your own written content. This can include speaking at events, publishing content in publications followed by your audience, interviewing on podcasts and creating videos or other multimedia.
Engaging on social media platforms is also a key strategy to become known as a thought leader. This goes past engaging with your followers people. By engaging with other industry leaders and sharing smart content that gets passed around, you can increase your visibility and credibility in the space. While this can be done on any social media platform, LinkedIn and Twitter are very effective in showcasing thought leadership.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.
Ellen DeGeneres is a thought leader. She is constantly looking for ways to improve the world around us and has an army of support and a huge fan club behind her. She never stops giving. Ellen is authentic and people trust her. She attracts other individuals who want to be a part of Ellen’s mission, which has allowed her to give back in so many ways to the community not only nationwide but worldwide. Ellen’s footprint in the world will last forever; she will always be remembered for her high energy and hige heart.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
While there is a bit of controversy over the term, I don’t believe it should be avoided. There is so much talk on how the title of “thought leader” is something that should be earned. Which isn’t entirely far-fetched. Becoming a thought leader doesn’t happen overnight and takes lots of work. That being said anyone can practice thought leadership tactics and be one, whether they reach millions or just a small audience. Thought leadership can take many forms, and people who practice the tactics should be able to use the term.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Other leaders should remember it’s ok not to be “on” every day. Self-care is extremely important and taking a moment to have some quiet time is necessary to the soul. If you feel like your internal battery is running low, it probably is, and it’s important to not only recognize that but to also take action.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
This is a big question to which I have many answers to! I often tell my friends that when Jabz allows, I want to open up an animal sanctuary, a homeless shelter, a rehab center, and a crisis center for women. I am constantly thinking of what I can do next that will have an impact on those around me.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Keep Moving Forward- these three simple words say it all. You don’t always have to be moving at full speed, and truthfully, you may only be slightly moving at all towards your goal, but the important thing is to KEEP moving forward and to never give up. There were many times when I thought that maybe I wasn’t built to be an entrepreneur, maybe I was better off staying in the classroom with a daily routine that was predictable and a salary was guaranteed. During those times, I really had to understand that in order to obtain my dream, there would be push back and failure along the way. Despite the challenges, I always remembered to continue to move forward and to never look back as I wasn’t going that way.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
I am a huge Lady Gaga fan! I appreciate how honest she is about her life and how willing she is to share her life experiences with others to let them know they are not alone. She is an extremely talented artist and has a huge following of people who love her for so many different reasons. She goes above and beyond to promote acceptance for all. I would love to meet her and tell her how much I admire her attitude and talent.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.