In February, Mekela Martin, 26, and Ajani Burgess, 25, launched BK Sweat, a fitness company in Brooklyn, and added to the growing list of Black owned businesses that are developing and changing the face of entrepreneurship.
“It’s 2016 and [completely] Black owned business are slim to none, and we wanted to do is show that there are African Americans who can do everything from the ground up by themselves,” said Martin.
Burgess added that the decision to keep it Black owned didn’t need a second thought. “We wanted the brand to definitely reflect its owners, and we are always very conscious about the social issues that are present in the Black community,” he said.
With the fitness market becoming more and more saturated with “professionals”—just take a stroll through social media—it can be confusing and send people, who are searching for ways to get their best bodies, down an unhealthy slippery slope. BK Sweat stands among the very few companies that are ran by certified personal trainers and nutritional coaches, who hold, between the both of them, several different certifications, which include—but is not limited to—pre and postnatal, atrophy, corrective postural, precision nutrition, young adult, TRX, and kettlebell.
“Between the two of us, I don’t think that there is a scope of people that we could not reach out to,” said Martin.
Even with all their knowledge in training, they are still pushing to learn more. Martin said that she is currently working on her Pilates certification, and Burgess is working on getting his in yoga to bring even more qualified variety to their growing clientele.
“We’re providing the boutique personal training experience where it’s all customized directly to what the clients’ needs are, which completely deviates from Instagram trainers, where a lot of their programs are cookie cutter,” said Martin.
Although you can purchase exercise programs and meal plans from BK Sweat, that’s where the similarities end. All prospective clients are required to talk to one of the trainers first, so that both client and trainer can properly assess where the client is and can then form a fitness and nutrition plan that is healthy and achievable.
“We’re trying to keep it very community, we’re not here trying to be a celebrity trainer, we’re here to be your trainer,” said Martin.
Aside from working with clients, Martin and Burgess are working towards getting BK Sweat into inner city schools, where children—primarily of color—don’t necessarily have the resources to maintain a healthier daily life. Studies have shown that eating and exercise habits, good or bad, formed in childhood do carry over into adulthood.
“The lifestyle that we want our clients to have, is one that we’ve experienced from a young age,” said Burgess.
In a generation where emphasis is placed on looks and some teenagers can have an unhealthy body image and expectation, Martin said that “it has nothing to do with the aesthetics of it, because you should always be happy within yourself, it’s more so about the longevity of your life and being healthy.”
“It’s about being able to go outside and play and not feel winded, and carry those heavy book bags and having good posture—knowing the proper stretches to do so that they don’t maintain the kyphosis (hunchback) from holding a heavy bag,” Martin added.
The importance of activity, how to move properly and the benefits that come with it are not emphasized in communities of color. Many health issues that correlate with improper eating (diabetes, obesity, strokes, heart disease, and cancer) are prevalent in those same communities. BK Sweat wants to organize a community event, where they can donate food and teach people how to use the resources in their neighborhood to make better decisions.
“With our experience and knowledge of the industry, we know that a lot of it is just about the information that is present. Information about the body, health, and fitness has changed so much, however, that information, we feel hasn’t trickled down to the inner city,” said Burgess.
Balancing all the moving parts behind the scenes of a company while providing the services that clients need, comes down to divvying up responsibilities based on the strengths and weaknesses of Martin and Burgess. Burgess said that he has a bit more experience on the fitness and training aspect, so he keeps up to date on the latest information on equipment and tracks the progress of clients, while Mekela has a better background in computers and handles all the technical details of keeping the business running.
Martin said that she visits about four different gyms a day to promote BK Sweat’s services.
“Someone that goes to a $300 to $400 a month gym, might not be the same person who goes to a $20 or $30 a month gym, so we want to make sure that we’re reaching out to all of those people,” she said.
A testament of their dedication to bringing a complete and quality service to the public is their ability to separate their romantic relationship from their business mindset. Yes, they are together, but when it comes to their business, they are both committed to not blurring the lines.
“We’ve both gotten better at communication, so that work stuff stays work stuff and personal stuff stays personal stuff,” said Burgess. “It’s a process and though it can be tough, I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else.”
For more information on BK Sweat, please visit bksweat.com and follow them on Instagram and Twitter @BK_Sweat.