Eastern Mennonite University graduate Kristy King owns a FIT4MOM franchise in Olympia, Washington, and is one of this year’s “40 Under Forty” honorees recognized by the Tacoma, Washington-based Business Examiner. (Photo by Jake Kiehl)

FIT4MOM franchise owner and ‘40 Under Forty’ honoree helps moms find their voices, community

An Eastern Mennonite University graduate is one of this year’s “40 Under Forty” honorees recognized by the Tacoma, Washington-based Business Examiner.

Kristy King, who owns a FIT4MOM franchise in Olympia, Washington, was named to the list of business and community leaders under age 40 who “have made great accomplishments and significant contributions to their businesses, industries and communities,” according to an Examiner press release.

The 2017 honorees were celebrated at the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum in Tacoma on Oct. 11.

King describes her experiences leading to business ownership as “a little bit random.”

At EMU she earned a degree in environmental science, completed an independent study alongside a botanist at Shenandoah National Park, and spent a month on cross-cultural in Mexico with the School for Field Studies. She also invested herself heavily in theater, and, immediately after graduating in 2002, interned at the Washington (DC) Shakespeare Theater Company.

Still later she earned a master’s degree in environmental studies at Evergreen State College, along the way working for a science education franchise. She currently has a part-time administrative job at a software development company and mothers her two young children — and runs her business.

An ‘alluring’ offer

When her first child was three months old, King became a beneficiary of FIT4MOM’s mission of helping moms “make strides in fitness, motherhood, and life.” As a new mother in search of community — and in spite of feeling “pretty uncoordinated” and lacking confidence — she attended a Stroller Strides class at the franchise.

She quickly realized that the class name is a misnomer.

“Stroller Strides is a full-body, intense workout that you work fun for baby into, but while you’re singing them a song, you’re probably doing a standing oblique crunch or some other thing. It’s not a walk in the park, which is what many, many people think it is.”

Nevertheless, she said, “I fell in love with it, got my butt kicked, and quickly figured out it wasn’t just a workout program.” Instead, FIT4MOM is also a way to connect with other moms, and build confidence and strength.

Eventually King acquired FIT4MOM Olympia, at its previous owner’s invitation. It was “very, very alluring,” she said, although “there was some definite wrestling with timing.” She was, after all, in the third trimester of pregnancy with her second child.

“But I did it, and I’m still alive, and my kids are still alive and thriving,” she said.

King also leads her own class at FIT4MOM Olympia — Body Back, a “high-intensity workout” that moms come to without their babies.

The work is a way to give to others what she has received, both from FIT4MOM and elsewhere including at EMU, where professors pushed her, supported her, helped her problem solve — and cultivated her belief in herself.

That’s what she hopes to do for others.

A ‘behind-the-scenes leader’

King calls herself an “off-the-charts introvert,” a “behind the scenes leader.” That’s something she began realizing about herself and developing when she was a student involved in theater.

At EMU, King said, she spent most of her waking hours doing theater. She stage managed black box theater performances and MainStage and senior shows, and began to realize that she could contribute, could “run these things, without having to be in front of a whole group of people, on stage, without having to be front and center.”

Her appreciation for that growth process crystallized, she reflected recently, when she returned to campus a decade after graduating to stage manage Sarah and the Dinosaur, a play written by Ingrid DeSanctis and the late Sarah Pharis Dwyer.

“All of a sudden I came back in, and I’d say I kind of had this moment of ‘Wow, this is where this came from,’” she said. “It was a way of coming back to my roots that also helped me to see how far my roots had taken me.”

King also credits DeSanctis, a professor of theater at EMU during King’s years there, with challenging her to move beyond her comfort zone. “She really helped me figure out the strengths that I didn’t know I had, and become more confident, and find my voice a little more,” she said. “That’s what college is all about.”

It’s a gift she sees herself extending to others through FIT4MOM Olympia, she said. There, she can “push with love, pull with compassion, and know when to trust and step back,” she said — so that moms can find their own voices and a place in a community that is “waiting and ready to embrace them.”