Mich Kuehn moved to the Middle East with her family in 1995 and has lived here since. More than four years ago, Kuehn started boxing because she was dissatisfied with her media career and her life in general. She was also recently separated from a long-time boyfriend. After the boxing had changed her life, she decided to open her gym. She found an investor after a lot of struggle. Now, she’s running a small gym at Al Quoz.
Here are few excerpts from our talk with Mich about boxing, her life and mental health.
How did you get into boxing and what motivated you to launch your studio?I started boxing about five years ago, I had my own media company in DMCC and was out many evenings for work, I had recently separated from long-time boyfriend of 7 years and was searching for a more fulfilling life. The media industry was demanding, long hours, late-night events, and meant I was eating and drinking out most evenings. Although my background was media, I was not finding satisfaction in that career – when I started boxing, I found new inner strength.
Boxing had turned my life around, I was healthier than I had ever been, I was excelling at work as I was more focused, I was driven and all of sudden had a newfound confidence in myself. Plus I had vision and aspirations for my life, something I had never experienced before – I had never had a dream for myself, I was never really encouraged to be anything. No one had any expectations for me, all of sudden I was taking risks, and putting myself out there – looking to achieve more than even I ever thought I could – that is how I got hooked on fighting too.
Because it forces you outside of yourself. I decided that I had spent so long doing what other’s expected me to do and that it was time to do what I wanted to do. I wanted to be in the gym every day, my heart and mind were not the offices anymore and I wanted to share with others my story of transformation – that you can be more than you think and everyone should know that. So I decided I was going to open a gym.
Is it east for a young entrepreneur like yourself to make an opportunity in a new venture?
I would say no, nothing worth having is easy… you better you want it so bad that you will do the hard growth to get it. The first reason, I do not look my age, I do not possess the skill to sell my skills either and I wasn’t very savvy at building relationships with people (I am an introvert). I pitched my idea to the investor – and was muscled out by someone else who was my friend – who tried to steal my plan.
They hired a woman from the UK, who had no experience here in the UAE or this industry – and flew her in to do what I had planned. Luckily, destiny always finds you and fate teaches you things when you need to learn them. I spent that time preparing myself to get my foot back in the door, and kept my cool, teaching myself to learn to ask for what I deserved and I prepared a presentation that was so flawless – that when I was called back, I would be ready… and I was asked back – as she failed miserably(it wasn’t her dream, so not her fault).
The hardest part is learning to fight for what you want no matter what you fear, what you feel, and what others think of you, boxing taught me that. I got my meeting with the investor and my preparation, persistence paid off. The rest is history, the investor is my biggest ally, my business partner, and a close friend of mine now. All things happen for a reason.
You talk a lot on the social media about mental health and bullying. What makes you so curious about the subject?
I think everyone should be passionate about a subject that impacts so many people. I am especially keen on my industry taking a stance on it:
1. Boxers do struggle with mental health and there is a stigma that boxers are tough and shouldn’t have those problems which are such a wrong approach. Especially men face harsh criticism as there is a stereotype that man can’t have a weakness, or cry or struggle…We are all human, you are not less of a man/woman or less of an athlete by facing struggles. It is those who rise from a struggle, a knockdown, and get back up – who are the winners in life. It is much harder to lose and come back than to keep winning without feeling the pain of loss. Don’t get me wrong, undefeated athletes are great – but doesn’t mean they don’t face different internal demons.
2. Bullying is so hard, it is hard for children to understand, it is hard for adults to admit that it hurts and it is hard for a bully to find solace. I believe that boxing helps with all of that – I also know that some of the toughest men/women in the ring are the kindest people outside the ring. That boxing teaches respect and that you need to respect everyone from all walks of life – that it takes brave individuals to help change the world, stand up for others and make a stance against bullying and open the conversation of mental health.
How do people react to your boxing studio?
I think everyone is looking for a place to belong, a place where you can be yourself and so much more – so the response has been more than I ever dreamed. I am so humbled to learn that I can share my story of weakness, struggle, and feeling that I never felt good enough for anything or anyone – and that people will be drawn to that story, to the community we have built around ‘boxing is for everyone’ – not the most athletic, or the fittest or the fastest or the best – no it is for everyone and you will be your best self every day if you keep respecting yourself, others will respect you too. We are a family and that family is growing daily, way beyond my wildest dreams.
Was your company impacted by the Corona lockdown?
Yes, everyone’s life changed – especially in fitness studios. We were closed for 2 months plus – that had a huge impact on the business and we are still trying to reconcile that but when life has you up against the ropes you an either stay there or you can fight back – and that is exactly what we are doing. And we are winning!
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