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As you probably heard, Milan and the Italian region Lombardy, I live in, are in lockdown again. Many of us are back home but still want to be active.
This is why I decided to interview Kakana’s founder, Matthew Ney now!

Enjoy the read and subscribe!

White man smiling, looking at the camera. Wearing a white shirt and a dard blazer.


I always find this question interesting, as how do you describe yourself, in an honest way that is. I am someone who cannot sit still, I am always thinking, tinkering, and staying busy, either with a company, sports (I coach football (soccer) in the US), or a hobby. Probably too busy if my wife has anything to say about it. If I were to stay still for too long, I would go crazy. I love watching top class European football and thought I was always going to be a professional footballer one day. When that dream died, I took that competitive side, that doesn’t just disappear, and put it into business.


I built a company that allowed teachers to stream exercise bursts in their classroom, and as I was in classrooms watching and learning how these videos were being used, I noticed that a lot of time students were being told to do what they can. I saw that as a big FU to the students.

When you really analyze why, it wasn’t the teachers fault, it was mine. I had only created content for some of the students. So, I started asking questions about accessible and inclusive fitness. I had one conversation that dramatically changed my thinking, and from that point on, I was on a mission. My eyes were wide open, and I knew where I wanted to go. I wanted to create a company that combined engaging accessible content with a sense of togetherness. If you bring together like-minded individuals that can exercise, chat, share, and advise each other, then you have a powerful community that will do amazing things. As fate would have it, I got an offer to sell those classroom videos, which I ended up doing. And from that point on, my sole focus was on creating what is now Kakana.

White lady doing an excercise on her mat. She is standing on her hands, her bust to the front and her legs bent and lifted. She is an amputee.


We are just getting started, and yet the numbers we are hitting are incredible, the feedback is even better, and the brand awareness is off the charts. I couldn’t be happier with how we started. Now it’s about a continued push and show the world that this is a platform for everyone, everywhere. If you are in Italy, Honduras, Singapore, or the USA (conversations have been had in all of those places), it doesn’t matter, we are ready to show that accessible fitness is a place for all of us.


African American man on a wheelchari, sitting in front of his laptop following excercises for this upper body.

Challenges, where do I begin? When you are getting started, it really never stops, but especially when you are not established yet, you always ask yourself questions, unsure of everything. But my main challenges were how to make engaging, intense, and fun classes and connect with communities of individuals with disabilities. That is where Sunny Miller and Gamut Management, founded by Mindy Scheier come in. Sunny is the single best boutique fitness teacher, instructor, inspirator in the business. As a side note, if you are ever in DC and want to take her cycling class, Hustle is the way to go. We would still be on the runway if not for her knowledge about how to craft a handcycle workout and teach instructors how to run a class. I would ask the impossible and constantly worry if we could do it, and Sunny would say “calm down we got it.” And of course, she was right. Then you have Mindy and Gamut. I have a knack for hunting down people I want to talk to, and when I finally got a hold of Mindy and explained my idea, I partly walked away on cloud nine thinking I was going to produce the next big thing and partly walking away scared for my life. She has a way of giving you blunt talk with a sense of aspirational hope that I have never experienced. I love it, but it can scare you to death. Her team of Marnie Nathanson from The Social Status and Lindsey Von Busch (PR) round out a team that took all my concerns away.


The first group came from all over. Adrien Burnett was part of our beta class, so he’s been with us since day 1, when we were stumbling through the class. We were watching and thinking, this guy has got it, I wonder if he would join us on this little raft in the middle of the ocean. That brought me to individuals who have participated in the Paralympics and are now Kakana instructors, Blaze Foster and Garrison Redd. The last three to take the giant leap with us not long after, were Marsha Danzig, Kevin Herbert, and Nikki Palma. 

The way we train everyone is first in adaptive fitness then in boutique fitness. We are close to creating a relationship that would even further solidify our training program and make sure our instructors are consistently some of the best accessible fitness instructors in the world.

White woman sitting on a bench, indoor She is excercising her upper body with purple small weights, one in each hand.


This is the single best aspect so far. Feedback is our life force, and when we implemented a class review, I fully expected to get mix reviews and have to have some tough conversations. Fourteen days in, every one of instructors and classes have received perfect marks. Now, that’s just the classes, and a small sample, but it means the work Sunny did with the instructors and the quality of the instructors themselves was and is top notch. The engagement we have on social media, and the conversations we have before and after class, tell me we are resonating. That was the goal. We want to be more than fitness. We want community to be ingrained in our DNA and so far, it’s happening.


African American man on his wheel chair, showing how to excercise biceps.

I want to blow the fitness industry wide open. Why are there an infinite number of companies that cater to individuals without disabilities: Peloton, Soul Cycle, Mirror, Tonal, Tempo, P90X, Fitness On Demand, Plank, FitOn, Orange Theory, Bar Method, Crunch, Echelon, and yet, not a similar amount that focus on everyone. And those companies are the ones just off the top of my head! It’s time we start to acknowledge the huge disparity in accessible and inclusive products to products that aren’t accessible or inclusive.  Our goal is to prove it’s not only important to be inclusive in a societal sense but also as a company, it’s smart business. Once we do that, the fitness and sports industries will see they are missing out on 15% of the population and it will be a race for second. By the way, it’s not only fitness that lacks accessibility. Think of these big buckets: Fashion, Travel, Finance, Sports and whether they truly, across the board, handle accessibility well. The select few, and there are some great ones, see the impact socially and financially for their companies. But as a whole, every industry needs work.


It’s a question I have only allowed myself to think about in small moments, because in the startup phase, you are fighting every day. Short term, we want to hire more badass instructors from all over the globe, create more amazing content, and fill out the team. If I allow myself to dream, I want Kakana to be the most influential company on the planet when it comes to fighting for the rights of individuals with disabilities. That can be through our own actions in fitness or it can be through holding ourselves to the highest standards that other companies would be foolish not to follow. You watch iconic companies as they evolve and you would hope that one day you get that opportunity to build more products into other spaces, but for now, tomorrow’s goal is to show up and give our members the best fitness class in the world.

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