This week’s Women Warrior Wednesday highlight is Kathryn Gawrych, owner of Freeport Ninja Academy and Smithtown Ninja Academy.
The Freeport & Smithtown Ninja Academies explore fitness through American Ninja Warrior style obstacles instructed by professional ninjas in a safe, controlled, yet super fun environment. The classes offered are appropriate for participants at all levels of fitness. Weekly sessions or personalized parties are available for kids and adults alike!
Where it all began…
From a young age, Kathryn knew that she wanted to be an entrepreneur. Her father owns his own CPA firm and her mother was the controller for her dad (her grandfather) who owned his own printing company. “Business has been in my bones since I was a little girl. I used to go around on sales pitches with my grandfather and I think I learned a lot about client relations from a very young age.”
Being that both her parents were CPAs, Kathryn went in the direction of accounting. She graduated with her Masters in Accounting and Taxation from the University of Hartford in 2016.
Throughout college, Kathryn played D1 Volleyball. Once she graduated, she went on to work for PwC, one of the big 4 accounting firms in Manhattan. Kathryn went from 5 hours of athletic training a day to sitting behind a desk for 12 hours a day, over 80 hours a week. Needless to say, the culture shock was intense. This path, not her ideal one, was her strategy on her journey of becoming an entrepreneur.
Being that fitness is so important to Kathryn and her well-being, she needed to fulfill that void. She started going to a place called I Love Kickboxing before work. Long story short, that led her to a franchise expo at the Jacob Javits Center where she came across this franchise that I she is now a part of.
Her most recent accomplishment – being named Business Person of the Year by the Freeport Chamber of Commerce in 2022.
Who inspires you?
“My parents on a daily basis. I have witnessed everything that they went through to get our family to where it is today and they are there [with me] through all of the many daily struggles I go through to keep my businesses running now. I would be nowhere without them.”
“My life’s theme song is Tubthumping by Chumbawamba the song that goes “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down.”
Kathryn was a natural born athlete. If you had asked her what she was going to be when she grew up, she would say a WNBA basketball player. Fast forward to Freshman year in high school. Kathryn was being recruited by Geno Auriemma for UConn women’s basketball program. Head onto Junior year – she was sidelined from her three main sports Basketball, Lacrosse and Soccer due to head injuries from sustained from Basketball. After being told she could never play a contact sport again, Kathryn ended up playing D1 Volleyball instead.
Kathryn, as many did, faced challenges with the onset of the pandemic. Having opened her first gym just 9 weeks prior to the shut down, Kathryn faced the obstacle of how to keep her newly established business afloat. Being that her business was brand new, the assistance afforded to some businesses wasn’t eligible for her.
“What keeps me pushing through is my trust in God to lead me in everything that I do and our motto: Together, we will overcome all obstacles. If I’m teaching youth that not everyone should get a trophy and that in our gym and in life things need to be earned than how can I give up when life throws challenges my way. I need to lead by example and every time there’s a obstacle thrown my way I need to find a way to overcome that obstacle no matter how much work it may require. If I wasn’t able to survive the pandemic I would’ve had lots of unhappy children and parents knocking at my door, so I didn’t really have much of a choice. But I will tell you that when those kids come into the facility and I see their faces light up, everything that I go through behind closed doors becomes so worth it!!!!! I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
“I, of course, always have my future goals but I really do try to live in the present and appreciate the here and now. I love what I do right now and I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and create the ninjas of tomorrow! Wherever God leads me is where I’m meant to go next.”
“Life is but a dream.” It’s actually something that my grandfather who was also an entrepreneur used to say all the time and something that I like to keep in the back of my mind when I get stressed or down on myself.”
Advice for Other Women…
“Most people will say life is short so you should live every day like it’s your last but very few people actually live this way. My best advice to anyone is to make time to do the things that you want to do and don’t let money dictate your decisions. Of course we all need money to survive but most people let money rule everything in their life. Do the things that you want to do, not the things that you need to do and don’t always make those decisions with money in mind. You can’t take money to the grave and if you’re doing what makes you and others around you happy it’ll be a much much much more fulfilling life.”