Love Running? Start a Running Business with Misa, Katie, and Jeff

Katie Ownby, Misa Dugally, Jeff Stokes – run with STRIDE

How many of us love running so much that we would LOVE to quit our day jobs and start running for work and play? It’s not simple and certainly not easy, but many people, including our own Jeff Gaudette at Runners Connect, take their passion and build it into a viable business. 

Today we have three guests joining us who will share their thoughts and experiences on the running business they have developed. Misa Dugally, Jeff Stokes, and Katie Ownbey will talk about their business called STRIDE, the first Indoor Running Franchise, and a “one of a kind, indoor workout studio geared specifically to runners.” STRIDE’s treadmill-based cardio and strength classes are perfect for any level of walker, jogger or runner

They will share their personal stories that helped to formulate this dream business as well as the life paths and determination that brought enough pieces together to make it a reality.

Katie Ownbey – co-founder of STRIDE

Katie’s business savvy started when she was in fifth grade selling avocados on Sierra Madre Boulevard in San Marino, California. No one could beat her price of 4 for $1 and that taste of success stuck with her. After high school she went to Boulder to pursue a degree in Business and Marketing and eventually spent almost 15 years as an executive for a Fortune 500 Company. However, Katie decided that she needed something different.  

Katie had been a top athlete in high school, but her career and life had gotten in the way of exercising regularly. She began walking at 5am every morning, running stairs with Misa at Lacy Park, hired a personal trainer and noticed that activity made her feel great.  

Misa and Katie started working on a shared dream called STRIDE. Early on, it became clear that their skills and life experiences were a perfect match. Katie’s corporate background was the ideal match to Misa’s experience with education, design, and retail.

Misa Dugally – co-founder of STRIDE

Misa had always been active, but when it came to running she had stopped trying years ago. She defined herself as a consummate walker. But after a lot of encouragement (and a little nagging) from her friend Katie, she agreed to try again. Katie and Misa began hitting the stairs and looking for indoor running classes around town. They created their own treadmill workouts and took their hand-written sheets of paper to the nearest treadmills.

Soon Katie and Misa developed their dream which became the current business called STRIDE – Their goal was to build a safe, welcoming, and motivating community, and one that combines the power of music with the challenge of treadmills. STRIDE allows Misa to share the gifts that running has given her with the rest of the world. 

Jeff Stokes – president of STRIDE

Jeff has more than 25 years of experience managing, consulting and owning health clubs. Jeff has distinguished himself as a leading authority in the fields of healthy living and fitness entrepreneurship. In addition to extensive business experience He holds certificates as a Spin instructor, TRX instructor and HYPOXI-Coach. 

During his career Jeff also co-founded Arizona in ACTION, a non-profit organization developed to promote, educate and motivate Arizona citizens to live healthier lives, with a primary focus on childhood obesity and prevention. 

Questions our guests are asked:

5:25 What exactly is STRIDE?

6:54 Are all the workouts and studios indoors?

7:06 Was there a turning point in your life that got you thinking about starting a business?

10:56 What made you think you could succeed in starting a business?

12:02 Jeff, when and why did you get onboard with STRIDE?

13:29 What makes STRIDE different from other running plans and businesses?

16:29 Can people work at their own levels in STRIDE sessions?

17:36 Who picks the music and what does it add to the experience?

19:11 What advantages are there to indoor running?

19:54 What type of business structure did you select and why?

22:51 What do you offer for more advanced runners who are still looking to improve?

24:28 When and how did you decide to offer franchising?

26:55 What other models did you consider, or should others consider?

29:42 How many hours per day do you work and what are your current roles in the business?

33:32 Do you get to run and workout outside of STRIDE or run for pleasure?

35:18 What are some potential risks people may face when starting a running business?

36:14 How can entrepreneurs make sure they are able to ‘stay in the game’?

38:35 Katie, what potential downsides would you share?

39:36 What could people starting a running business benefit from?

42:53 Any final thoughts?

47:02 Final Kick Round


“Follow your passion. If you are truly passionate about something, you’ll get through those tough times, whatever business you choose. Do something you are truly passionate about.” -Jeff

“Running is my form of meditation, it is how I clear my mind, and it’s everything I need.” -Misa

“Music is a really emotional experience for a lot of people. You can get transported anywhere just by hearing one song and so it’s really powerful to be in there kinda dying, it’s hot, whatever, and then suddenly you hear Dancing Queen by ABBA; people go bananas over that.” -Misa

“One of our tag lines is: ‘Everyone starts together; everyone finishes together.’ There’s been plenty of times I’ve been out in some running groups and I’m faster than the group I’m with or slower than the faster group. Our youngest runner is 10 years old and our oldest is 90. So everybody can be in the same room working out together.”

“We were able to take that were ‘not able to run’ and made them become runners. We got involved with multiple running clubs locally and really tried to create events that would make them excited about running indoors.” -Katie

“I didn’t know that Run/Walking was a concept; that you could run 4 minutes and walk 1 minute. I didn’t know that there were all these ways to call yourself a runner.” -Misa


Take a Listen on Your Next Run


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Mentioned in this podcast: 

Run To The Top Winners Circle Facebook Community

RunnersConnect Facebook page

Carbona Homepage

RunnersConnect Injury Free Running Program

STRIDE homepage

Rose Bowl Loop Trail

Book: Sweat Equity by Jason Kelly

Xponential Fitness Franchising


Follow our guests on:

STRIDE Facebook page

STRIDE Instagram page

STRIDE Spotify Playlists

Email Jeff

Email Misa

Email Katie


We really hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Run to the Top. 

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