Kōrero with Heather Reed, Co-Founder of Knoxfit-Hauora

October 26, 2023
If you've been seeking a Māori-owned fitness and wellbeing facility, let us introduce you to Knoxfit-Hauora, the next iteration of co-founder Heather Reed's first pakihi, Hauora Wellbeing Studio. We had a kōrero with Heather about how the merger came to be, balancing working in your pakihi versus on it, and prioritising your hauora as a business owner. Whakarongo mai.

Kia ora Heather, thank you for taking the time to kōrero with us. Ko wai koe nō hea koe? Can you tell us a little about who you are and where you’re from?

Kia ora e hoa, thanks for your interest in my mahi! Ko Heather ahau, Ko Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa tōku iwi.

Despite our whānau’s whakapapa, my siblings and I were born and raised in the UK. We were always told we were “Māori", but we didn’t really know what that meant (outside of our darker-than-usual skin tone). Growing up I struggled to fit in, and after a stint of bullying in high-school and the passing of my koro, withdrew inwards completely. I found refuge in the tales of my kuia as we grew closer together, and stumbled upon exercise as a means of processing the thoughts inside my head. These two curiosities acted as my guiding lights as I transitioned into adulthood.

Fast track to 20-years-old, I ditched the corporate position and booked a one-way flight to Aotearoa to study the Bachelor of Sport & Recreation at AUT with the hopes of finding my place in this familiar but foreign country. Six years later, and I’m still following those guiding lights of Te Ao Māori and physical movement.

You’re the co-founder of Knoxfit-Hauora, previously Hauora Wellbeing Studio. Can you tell us about your pakihi?

Āe, Knoxfit-Hauora is the lovechild of Knoxfit and Hauora Wellbeing Studio. We’re a fitness and wellbeing facility in the heart of Grey Lynn — 562 Richmond Rd, to be precise! We offer group movement classes, encompassing a range of modalities including; strength and conditioning, olympic lifting, vinyasa & yin yoga, handstands, calisthenics, mobility and flexibility.

Kerry (Knoxfit founder) and I made the decision to amalgamate our pakihi in March this year, in order to channel our energies together into one collective kaupapa - to support our local community and pave the way for positive change within the industry. Our focus at Knoxfit-Hauora is to equip our community with the tools, accountability and support they need to make lasting and sustainable changes in their life, and the lives of their whānau. We aim to inspire, and nurture movement across all stages of life through varying modalities.

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So how did this new iteration of the business come to be and what can people expect to see next from you?

I’m a strong believer that coincidences are a gift, or sign sent to guide you in a decision. Our lease was up for renewal in early 2023 and after a turbulent year prior, I had to weigh up whether I had the mental (and financial) capacity to continue running Hauora Wellbeing Studio.

Knoxfit and Hauora had aligned via a business collaboration over the lockdown period, and since then, Kerry and I had our monthly call to yarn about our pakihi’s challenges and successes, and bounce ideas off each other. Early 2022, the studio's co-founder made the decision to part with her shares and exit the pakihi. It was an incredibly tough time for both the health of the business and my own hauora - without Kerry’s support, we would have closed up with our lease in March.

What to expect? More change to come! Over the years, I've learnt to accept the inevitability or change and embrace it with open arms. We’re still harnessing the energies of both pakihi, and figuring out our new groove as one united front. We’ll be ‘hard launching’ our new pakihi next month at our launch event, and we cannot be more excited!

If you don’t mind sharing, how did you raise the pūtea to start your pakihi initially?

My previous business partner and I were lucky enough to have a small amount of capital to invest each to cover some of the start-up costs (from savings and familial support). We set an expenditure limit and took each day as it came. We thought about seeking investors once funds dwindledb ut recognised by that point it was probably too late.

We were running on empty for months with no personal income; it felt like we had no time, nor space to dream about investors, grants or funding. We had to keep showing up, commit to learning and trust that one day it would get easier. Spoiler alert: it did get easier, but only 'part-time minimum wage' easier.

My *unpopular* advice to any entrepreneur would be to seek out a grant or funding source prior to launching, and make sure to have a minimum of six months of personal savings, and three months of business savings to fall-back on if needed. Successful entrepreneurs are visionaries, but in order to express creativity you need the mental freedom to explore it… which is a little hard when you’re sleep deprived from stressing over how to pay next month's rent.

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Joining forces with Knoxfit must have required lots of transparency and honesty around finances, accounting and pūtea. With this in mind, what advice do you have for other business owners who are considering merging with another pakihi or bringing on a co-owner?

Speak in facts and figures, only. There’s room for emotion in all other areas of a merger, bar finances. The stigma around talking pūtea means we naturally want to inflate our position, but when you compare books it’s best to have been transparent from the get-go and begin a potential new venture on a foundation of trust.

In our preliminary merger meetings, we had an independent accountant present to help us unpack each other’s financial position and determine if a merger was a viable option - don’t skip this part!

There’s a real difference between working in your pakihi versus on your pakihi — and we know from your class schedule that you do both! How do you balance the two?

It’s an endless pursuit, sis. They are two very different jobs, and I’m incredibly lucky to have this variety in the mahi I do! Coaching is a breathe of fresh air, but it also requires a large time and energy commitment… which are two resources any small pakihi owner often lacks.

I used to think I had to be coaching or visible to clients everyday to show my commitment to my pakihi and our community… but when I realised this came from a place of insecurity and underlying imposter syndrome, I dropped a few coaching hours and adjusted my schedule to ensure I had at least one full day at home each week. It’s a give and take, and there are times I pick up extra coaching hours or have in-person hui on my working-from-home day, but I recognise I need to enforce these boundaries to protect my mental health and keep my finger on the pulse of our business.

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Your choosing of the name ‘Hauora’ derives from the Māori holistic health model, Te Whare Tapa Whā developed by Sir Mason Durie. How do the pillars of that model come into play for you personally, as a business owner needing to take care of her own hauora too?

He pātai pai tēnā… Although Te Whare Tapa Whā was originally developed within the medical space, I think it’s a rawe tool for reflection that can be adapted and applied across many areas of our personal and professional lives.

Small business owners wear the many hats of senior leadership, client support, operations, human resources, marketing, accounting, and legal… 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You need a myriad of tools and coping mechanisms to help you avoid burnout and create a sustainable life amongst the chaos.

As someone who’s sensitive to small changes and picks up on energetic shifts, I’ve used Durie’s model for years as a tool for assessing and understanding imbalances within my state of being. I use it as a health-check criteria to pinpoint a sore spot, to gauge which area/s of my life need enriching, and as a visual reminder to give equal value to all pou amidst the adversity of running a pakihi.

Te Whare Tapa Whā has helped me set firm boundaries both personally and professionally, these are some examples of actionables I take to promote balance as a business owner:

  • Taha tinana - move my body daily i te ata, before any mahi
  • Taha hinengaro - listen to a podcast, waiata, call a hoa en-route to mahi (no work calls)
  • Taha wairua - daily reflection and karakia
  • Taha whānau - always set aside a surplus of time for hoa, whānau or kaimahi (no rushed kōrerorero).

What is a challenge you are currently facing in your pakihi and how are you working through it?

There’s naturally a few but a big focus at the moment is internal and systemic upgrades prior to our launch week (renovations, equipment upgrades, website and CRM updates etc). Needless to say, there’s a monstrous 'To-Do' list and Kerry and I tackle these very differently.

I like to see a bird's-eye view of all tasks, so I can prioritise by importance and feel motivated by the growing ‘completed’ list. Kerry prefers small, succinct lists and finds fulfilment in the slate being wiped clean at the end of the day. I find small lists anxiety-inducing because I like to see the bigger picture, whilst Kerry finds big lists overwhelming and demotivating. Neither right nor wrong, just different!

After running businesses individually, we’ve both had to challenge our lone-ranger mentality and learn to consider another person’s perspective and embrace alternative ways of doing things.

It was important for us to nurture a safe space for open communication to discuss what works for us, what doesn’t, our expectations from one another and delegate clear roles and responsibilities to ensure we can perform as effectively as possible within the partnership. These difficult conversations have enabled us to work more cohesively and also play to our individual strengths.

Don’t get me wrong, we still face periods of conflict and opposing opinions! But we’re able to understand one another’s perspective, avoid emotional triggers (where possible) and move forward with a successful compromise.

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Celebrating the day-to-day wins is important. What do you (and your team or whānau) do to celebrate the wins at Knoxfit-Hauora?

Between Kerry and I, our reward to one another is often uninterrupted peace! Yes, we celebrate small wins together and make sure to praise each other’s efforts regularly, but it’s important for us to acknowledge the sacrifices our partners and whānau make by supporting us in the mahi we do. We celebrate by providing the opportunity for the other to take a morning, night, or day-off to be with their family.

We’re not big on fireworks, but love to recognise the small successes in our team through sharing praise, little koha’s and lots of catch-ups over kawhe!

Where can our Whāriki whānau find Knoxfit-Hauora to stay up to date with your latest offerings?

We’ve finally updated our domains, so you can find us online at our website, Instagram, and Facebook. Or you can always come in for a kōrero kanohi-ki-te-kanohi at 562 Richmond Road, Grey Lynn!

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