Growth & Jobs| Entrepreneur looks to wellness tourism
Co-founder and director of MonkFit Wellness Systems Mark Miller is looking to carve out a niche in the Jamaican health and wellness industry through a host of virtual and face-to-face offerings.
With a team of three other wellness experts – boxing and personal trainers Janathan ‘Mufasa’ Hanson and Shiaeine Blake; and online trainer Vontré Mendez – the company offers a holistic programme that is focused on its mission of “making the world well”.
These include boxercise classes, a monthly total body workout outdoor event called CampActiv, online and in-person training, lifestyle and nutritional coaching, and much more.
Miller said the company he founded with a colleague from Trinidad and Tobago “aims to cater to the fundamental principles of wellness for all people”.
For the 25-year-old entrepreneur, though, MonkFit Wellness is more than a business. It is the manifestation of a lifestyle transformation that was largely prompted by his mother’s death in 2014.
He was just 18 at the time and was in his first year of study in agriculture at The University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine campus in Trinidad, with hopes of becoming a veterinarian.
“Though it appeared that my ambition was clear, I was uncertain of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I knew that I loved biology, I loved animals, and that I wanted to limit my interaction with people because at that time, I was not a very social person,” he notes.
But everything changed when his mother passed away. “It was difficult losing my mom when I was 18 years old. I had to rebuild myself, and in doing so, I learned to have empathy for myself on the journey to healing,” he said.
“The process pushed me to connect with people, and I found that being part of a community is a powerful experience, and it was especially true for my healing,” he notes.
“Because of that community experience, my love for biology morphed into a love for the body, mind, spirit, and soul, ensuring that they are always well taken care of. This included an acknowledgement that a healthy being is inclusive of interaction with others. I then found myself in leadership roles and situations where I had to connect with folks. Losing my mother helped me to realise that I need to be around people and understand what makes them tick,” he continues.
It was during this time of transformation that Miller put greater effort into his physical health and well-being. He exercised more frequently and applied discipline in all aspects of his life.
The changes he made in his lifestyle were evident, and persons approached him to learn the methods he used.
“At this point, people were willing to pay me to help them get in shape and become more disciplined in their approach to life. Being a student, I took it as an opportunity to make some money, without realising that greater was in store for me,” Miller said.
While in his final year of university, Miller experienced recurring dreams with a common theme. He heard a voice telling him to continue to shave the hair from his head until he realises his purpose. He listened and has been keeping his head shaved since then.
This is how the name for the business MonkFit came to be, as persons said his shaved head made him look like a monk.
“Those dreams empowered me to live my passion. I don’t think I’ve fulfilled my purpose as yet, but until that time, I’ll continue to shave my head and maintain the discipline to stay healthy and live well. I’ve unlocked my passion, so I know the true purpose is on its way,” Miller said.
Upon graduating from St Augustine and returning to Jamaica, Miller registered MonkFit Wellness Systems as an official business name in 2019 and in 2020, the business was registered as a limited company.
He co-founded the Jamaica Powerlifting Federation in 2019 and is certified as a basic life support for healthcare provider (BLS) with the American Heart Association; and a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Through the business, Miller wants to help Jamaicans to adopt a lifestyle of wellness, starting with promoting physical health through regular exercise, rest, drinking lots of water, and eating healthy and balanced meals daily. He says that adopting a healthy lifestyle will stave off illnesses and non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
“Generally, a healthy, highly functional human body means that things like the endocrine system, cardiovascular system, neuromuscular system, the respiratory system and all other systems of the body are in tip-top shape. If everything functions as they are intended to, your body will be better able to fight off viral infections, as well as to repair and recover from physical injury or any other potentially debilitating disease,” he said.
“In order to do this, you have to be disciplined and willing to remove the unhealthy aspects of your life. That is one of the best ways to increase our chances of fighting colds, infections, and reducing the occurrence of non-communicable diseases,” he notes.
Miller says that physical activity is essential in ensuring wellness and is encouraging persons to get outdoors, get active, reduce stress levels and “follow the MonkFit lifestyle”.
As he looks to the future, Miller’s vision is to include counselling services and add a financial arm.
“My vision for MonkFit Wellness Systems also includes us embarking on wellness tourism. I hope to partner with organisations such as the Jamaica Tourist Board and other agencies and departments of the Ministry of Tourism to expand on the theme of rediscovering Jamaica for locals and foreigners alike,” he said.