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Meet Gene Hicks and Kate Ryan of Hip Hop Fit with Gene Hicks in Woodridge

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gene Hicks and Kate Ryan.

Gene and Kate, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My story really starts in my hometown, Champaign, IL. That is where I cultivated my passion for hip hop–breakdancing and MC’ing–and martial arts. I toured with Twin City Breakers as a teen and found a love for performing and dancing.

When my wife Kate and I moved to the Chicagoland area, a friend introduced me to the idea of teaching breakdance to kids. After teaching at a few studios, I was looking to expand and asked a couple of big box gyms if they needed any instructors. While they didn’t offer kids classes, they did ask me to audition for an adult hip-hop group fitness instructor position. Both gyms hired me on the spot, in the same day-I was blown away! From that point on, I put my dance skills and rap/MC skills together to develop my own unique workout, Hip Hop Fit with Gene Hicks. People had such great success doing my workout, some dropping over 100 pounds, that I wanted to expand access to my workout and take it to the community. And so after talking with my wife, we decided to team up, take the leap, and start up our own fitness studio.

To open our business, we utilized guidance and help from the Small Business Development Center and ACCION Chicago. Both of these organizations were vital to our success. They encouraged us to try crowdsourcing not only as a way to finance some of the start-up costs but also as a way to vet our idea and see if there was really a viable market for Hip Hop Fit. Our community was so incredibly supportive in our Go Fund Me Campaign, they gave us the confidence that there was a demand for Hip Hop Fit. We opened our doors in 2016 and have just been blown away by the level of commitment and support our members continue to give Hip Hop Fit.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We have hit some rough patches along the journey. Our first location turned out not to be the right fit for us, and we unexpectedly had to relocate in fall of 2017. It was definitely a difficult challenge and was like starting all over again. But, in the end, it led us to our current location which is a much better fit for us and for our members. Like most challenges, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Being a small fitness studio means competing with big box gyms and their huge marketing budgets. We’ve found creative ways to get our name out there and have definitely utilized social media, but creating a brand awareness has been and will continue to be our biggest challenge.

Please tell us about Hip Hop Fit with Gene Hicks.
Hip Hop Fit with Gene Hicks is a group fitness studio. While we offer different types of classes, Hip Hop Fit is definitely our specialty. People drive in from all over the Chicagoland area–even as far as Decatur, IL-to experience Hip Hop Fit. Our clientele tells us that they love the excitement of the class and that they forget they are working out. Since the dance moves are not complicated, anyone can do it and have success right away. Modifications of the moves make the workout an excellent challenge for those who are more advanced-so really everyone can get a great workout, no matter their ability level. People who don’t live close by can join us from anywhere by live streaming the workout. If the times of classes don’t match with theirs, they can access hundreds of classes of Hip Hop Fit OnDemand too.

Another thing that sets Hip Hop Fit apart is our members. We have such a diverse, beautiful group of people that includes all walks of life. Because of them, Hip Hop Fit is a welcoming and supportive community. They really lift each other up when they are down and celebrate each other’s successes.

The community that we have built through dance and fitness is what we are most proud of. Hearing positive feedback about how Hip Hop Fit has impacted our members’ lives, whether it is pounds and inches lost, a healthier report at the doctor’s office, or a new supportive network of friends, it makes all the sacrifice and hard work worth it.

What role has luck played in your success?
That’s an interesting question. We were both lucky enough to be born in this country. That’s a big one. We were lucky to have supportive families that raised us up right. And we were lucky to find each other.

However, beyond that, we believe that sheer hard work, grit, and persistence have been the reasons for our success. When the opportunities weren’t there, we created them. When things didn’t go the way we wanted them to, we adapted and found new solutions. We’ve developed a wide, wide skill set between the two of us and that versatility as well as our teamwork has led us to where we are now. We aren’t afraid to learn a new skill or take a risk and see if an idea works.


  • Drop In 10$/class
  • Yearly Unlimited Membership is $50/month
  • 30 Day Unlimited Pass is $60
  • Livestreaming/OnDemand Subscription $14.95/month

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Michelle Kaffko Ebner, Organic Headshots (Headshot only)

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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