When Talent, Passion Meet: Exercise Science Student Turns Local Entrepreneur
Jessica Hammer has a talent for business and a love of coaching. Now she’s combining the two loves — and getting a little bit of help from her education at KU Edwards.
Hammer, a senior majoring in exercise science, last year opened a “treadmill studio” called KC Endurance with her husband, Jeremy. The business is located in the Waldo neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri.
"It's like a spinning class, only with treadmills,” she said. “It's the first one in Kansas City."
Hammer’s ability to juggle textbooks and accounting ledgers has impressed Jordan Taylor Ph.D., one of her exercise science instructors.
“Jessica,” he said, “is an excellent example of what you get when you combine an entrepreneurial spirit with an educated mind.”
Finding her path, however, wasn’t always easy.
Hammer went to community college and ran cross country on scholarship. “But I was also working a full-time job, a really good full-time job,” she said. “And I had the opportunity to move with that job out of state. I took that opportunity and I decided at the time that I couldn't handle a new job and school. So I put school on hold."
She eventually returned to the Kansas City area and began working with an accounting firm. That created an opportunity for her to go back to school and take business classes — but Hammer found her heart wasn’t quite in it.
Her real love? Running. In 2012, she began her own business coaching clients in the sport.
"I really loved the coaching — I did that as a side thing, and I felt like it started encroaching on my professional time,” Hammer said.
Before long, a running client told her about the exercise science bachelor’s degree program at the KU Edwards Campus. Hammer investigated: The program was right and — thanks to the MetroKC Tuition Rate for Missouri residents — the price was right, too.
“I switched my major from finance over to exercise science,” she said, “and I’m very happy with it.”
Now that KC Endurance has launched, Hammer says she brings lessons from the classrooms into the treadmill studio. One big lesson? Different clients need different approaches.
“A lot of the stuff that I've learned here, as far as correct techniques, designing programs for different clients, that’s helped," she said.
That emphasis on the client’s well-being is a hallmark of the exercise science program at KU Edwards.
The bachelor's degree program helps students prepare for careers in a variety of wellness related fields — many students go on to medical school, while others prepare to become physical therapists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 36 percent growth in physical therapy through 2022.
“It’s a really great undergrad program,” Taylor said. “We have students that become personal trainers, or strength and conditioning coaches. Some of them use it to get into graduate programs like physical therapy or occupational therapy. I even just wrote a recommendation letter for a student who got accepted into a physician assistant school.”
And Hammer, of course, is using her education to become an entrepreneur. Along the way, she says, she’s learned one big lesson:
“'Gosh,” she said, “if I'm going to go to school, I need to go to school for something I'm passionate about.”