A few weeks ago, PM got the chance to interview Laila Munaf. The owner of Sana Studio, and the first NTC (Nike Training Club) trainer in Indonesia. Yes she’s amazingly fit, but even more amazing is, she achieved all this with maintaining full focus on her primary role as a loving mother of Alvaro (2yo), here she shares her fitspiration journey with us…

From Finance to Zumba
I lived in Boston since High School, and worked there for 3-4 years in the finance industry. I love the subject, but I don’t think the industry suits my personality. It was too serious.. After 3-4 years of work, I decided to quit my job and move in with my aunt because the living cost was too expensive.

One day, my aunt asked me to go along with her to her Zumba class. My aunt was 50 years old back then, so I thought it was exercise for ‘old people’. Turns out, it was super fun! My aunt was also certified, and she gave me the idea to bring Zumba to Jakarta. Back then, the exercise culture in Jakarta was not as passionate as it is now, especially amongst women. I personally also used to not like exercise, especially the gym, because it has too many equipment and no specific outcome (without a proper PT).

Introducing Zumba to Jakarta community
When I returned to Indonesia, my mom was quite upset with the fact that I had quit my job, and left something that was rather more promising. I guess I was dealing with a quarter life crisis (25 y.o), I was so bored with sitting in front of the computer the whole day, and super tired with the long hours. Which led to me having almost no interest in hanging out, instead I preferred just to spend time with my grandma and grandpa on the weekends.

After I gained my Zumba certification in Carlsbad (CA), it became a huge decision for me to go home for good to Jakarta. I had lived for 11 years in Boston, so I had no close friends and had to adjust with the lifestyle. When I first started, I was literally messaging my elementary school friends to try out Zumba. Every time I messaged them, I had to explain in detail about Zumba. However, I was so sure that everyone was going to love it once they tried since I used to not like exercise myself.

The first time I held a Zumba session, 6 people showed up. My Bahasa Indonesia was really bad and super formal. My personality came out once I stood in front of the class, though. Thank god my friends were very understanding, they took me out for coffee so I can loosen up a bit. They started referring me to their friends. I ended up teaching a few groups of people, mostly young moms who wanted to get back in shape. For a while, I was teaching from one house to another with ojek, on average I could teach up to 3 classes a day.

Then I decided to hire a studio in Sungai Sambas, so that I don’t have to travel around so much. There was a time where no one came at all. I was 27, and was really questioning my decision. I didn’t have a steady income, I let go of something certain and practically experimented with my life…

Sana Studio…
I got married in 2012. My husband is an architect and he was looking for an office. He finally got one in Panglima Polim but it was too big for his business alone. I thought to myself, why don’t I just rent the extra space for my studio? It was perfect timing, because we were planning to have kids, and I was super tired to have to go from one house to another especially in Jakarta’s traffic conditions. So I decided, to build this business with my husband, his brother and his wife.

I was a bit scared at first, because it involved other people and also needed some investment. What makes this different than when I hired a studio on my own? Turns out, community is the key! My husband, his brother and his wife are very social and have lots of friends. So they started inviting their friends, and it was packed. I am very thankful for that!

Community is the key
One thing that I keep repeating to my trainers is that it doesn’t matter how great you are, if you don’t have a great support system, you will not grow. I will not be where I am now, without the support of my loved ones.

I experienced it, I was literally nothing. I worked really hard going from one place to another, I practiced a lot but I will not grow and be where I am now, without the support of my family and friends.

Along the way, I also learned to socialize better. I was very straightforward, usually after I trained a class I just say thank you and left the room. Based on customer feedback, I learned to socialized, to ask more questions, and to give a warmer welcome. Nowadays, people who come to Sana Studio have become my second family.

Most of my trainers are housewives. I wanted to give them an opportunity to work, to have an income, and to be involved in something positive. At first, I hired one of my elementary school friends, another from AIMI group, and recently I started hiring younger instructors to attract the younger generation. I hired people with non-fitness background, so the classes would create a more fun and relaxed environment. I am very inspired by the younger generation nowadays, as they are very passionate about exercising. When I was young all I thought of was just how to get good grades at school.

Working with my husband
I am comfortable working with my husband because we have the same vision. I love the laid back environment, it gives us the chance to let go of the husband and wife title.

The downside is that sometimes when we get home we still talk about work. I admit that it’s usually my fault. Because I’m the one who spend most of the time in the studio, therefore, I keep having ideas popping up in my head. My husband will be like ‘can we please not talk about work?’

Competitor. Lately there is a number of similar studios opening up in Jakarta. I keep learning how to maintain and increase our customers. I don’t want SANA to be just a trend, or a phase, I want it to be an embedded lifestyle.

NTC (Nike Training Club)
NTC is a Nike Women’s program. It is functional training that involves movements meant to help us (women) perform our daily activities better.  I learned how to perform squats properly, strengthen my core, how to lift properly and so much more. It is similar to a bootcamp but more women friendly, it focuses on lower body, upper body, cardio, and correcting your posture.

Turned out, one of my Zumba students is the PR person of Nike. She approached me and set me up for a meeting. Alvaro was 2 months old back then, so I was slightly out of shape.  At the time I didn’t really know much about fitness other than Zumba, but was willing to work hard to improve. Nike loves inspirational stories, so they were willing to help me grow. I trained in Singapore, and after that I practiced by myself. Zumba itself focuses on burning calories and not so much on shaping muscles. With NTC, we can see results quite fast, it has been very visible how my body has transformed, so a lot of people were attracted and even obsessed with it. Therefore, I will introduce this class to Sana Studio very soon.

Time management with Alvaro
I bring Alvaro along to the studio. I don’t want him to hate my job, because everytime I leave him at home it will be to do ‘exercise’. Therefore I introduce him to my working environment. I show him where I work, and bring some of his toys along to play in one of the empty classes. Sometimes, when I teach a private class, I ask permission to bring him in the class so he can see what I’m doing. While I teach, he never nags, he can play by himself, pretend play pouring water for plants using a skipping-rope for instance. So whenever I can bring him along, I do it. On spare time he loves playing Lego. puzzle, and I guess because me and husband love all kind of sports, he does too. Some of his favorite is riding his bicycle, swimming, and soccer.

As I said, my bigger goal is to turn exercising into lifestyle, especially for women, not just a phase or trend. My personal goal is to open another branch of Sana Studio in the near future.


  1. I LOve ZUMBA!

    And I have to thank Laila Munaf!

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