We had a chat with the co-founder of Rubberduck and Clubaloha in the spirit of International Women’s Day to highlight on the achievements that has made an impact to the community in Kuala Lumpur.

It’s hard not to spot Katrina among a sea of people when you visit the Rubberduck cafe in Hartamas. With her eclectic energy, free-spirited personality and warm smile, Katrina Taib is one of the few founders who made the dynamics work behind Rubberduck and Clubaloha. However, that’s not the only thing that makes her stand out as she wears many hats as an interior designer, entrepreneur and indoor cycling instructor – not forgetting that she’s an ambassador for Lululemon as well.

Image credit: Instagram/Katrina Taib

It sure does sound like a lot to handle, but to her, she finds solitude in her roles, as she finds them rewarding to fulfil her day. When she’s teaching on the bike, it’s obvious how her riders respect and look up to her by showing up to her classes every single week releasing every ounce of energy. To be honest, it’s pretty hard to stay away once you’ve had a dose of Katrina’s energy if you haven’t tried her classes yet.

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we wanted to highlight on the success behind these renowned businesses and we’re kicking off our series with Katrina. If you’re curious to find out on what we’ve chatted about, keep scrolling below to learn more.

(Hero image credit: Unsplash/Jeremy Bishop; Featured image credit: Instagram/@ktaib)

How did you begin your fitness journey?

I spent the early part of my childhood living in Honolulu with my mother and brother. In Hawaii, a lot of my time was spent outdoors, especially on the beach and in the water. When I returned to Malaysia, at the age of 7, I kept active by playing sports with my older brother and his friends. I also picked up horse riding which became a huge passion of mine and eventually evolved into participating in showjumping competitions. But that routine was cut short by my moving back to the Big Island, Hawaii for boarding school in Waimea. I loved my experience there! The school was located on hundreds of acres of land and it was just absolutely stunning. All of my friends were athletes which naturally became a huge influence on my life. I participated in varsity sports from soccer, volleyball, basketball and track & field.

All of these life experiences created a solid foundation for my general awareness of health and wellness. I ate nutritious food to fuel my body and mind, I worked out in the gym to gain strength on the field or on the court and most importantly, I understood the power of community through playing team sports. That transcended into habits that I maintained throughout my university days in Los Angeles and my current work life.

What pushed you to open your own indoor cycling studio and what do you love most about it?

I found indoor cycling to be more than just exercise or a good sweat. It was in a sense my version of therapy. Indoor cycling is an individual experience but a collective one as well. It’s unique in that way. The music, the instructor leading the class, the people in the class vibing off of each other all come into play. When every facet of the class is in sync it becomes a full body-mind-blowing experience. A true testament to its rise in popularity as a workout of choice for so many people now all over the world. It started in the ’80s and it is still going strong today.

I was determined and so sure that I was going to open an indoor cycling studio in Malaysia. So while I was living in NYC, I went and got Spinning certified (a spin certification course) and took as many classes with top instructors as I could. A few months after that I moved back to Malaysia.

Can you tell us more about your journey starting both Clubaloha and Rubberduck? How long has it been since you started the business?

My father piqued my interest in F&B as he owned and run a handful of establishments. Growing up, I always wanted to be involved in F&B in some way and I never shied away from that type of work. I loved the instant gratification of serving people. He actually encouraged my business partner, Lin and I to open Rubberduck in 2015. He was the one who found the empty lot for us to rent out. It was located right across from his warong. It was convenient as well, as comforting for us having him there as we were just starting off and were babies in the industry at the time.

Image credit: Katrina Taib

Lin and I own Rubberduck together. We’ve known each other for over 25 years. We stayed close throughout the years when we were living abroad. She’s a trained chef and has worked in amazing restaurants in Perth and Melbourne. We both wanted to pursue a project together and we thought a cafe would be appropriate. She had the food experience whereas I had the design experience – it was a perfect match.

Our first shop was a hole-in-wall, 230 sq ft space. A year passed and we decided that we wanted to relocate our cafe into a bigger space. We found a space a few doors down and that was 10 times bigger. It was a little too big for just Rubberduck and so we decided that this was our opportunity to open something fresh like an indoor cycling studio.

It was in October 2016, that my Clubaloha business partners and I had placed our first order of bikes – it was so exciting. However, the months following that were gruelling. We had to recruit and train people who had no idea of what indoor cycling or rhythm riding was. We really had to paint every detail of that picture to potential instructors. When my partners and I started Aloha Cycle Club (now renamed Clubaloha), there was not a big pool of instructors to choose from, and our intention was to help develop instructor talent from scratch. The process was laborious at times but we managed to persevere…largely because helping develop people and seeing them find their own voice on the instructor bike is super rewarding.

What makes you get up in the morning every single day?

My ambition, my community, my team, my loved ones.

Who inspires you the most?

I find inspiration in almost every person I interact with. I’ve gone through a lot of painful but eye-opening experiences that have led me to greater self-awareness. Therefore the empathy I have for myself spills over to the people around me. I make an effort to understand people and I believe everyone has a story to tell and is inspiring in their own right.

How do you stay motivated to workout every day?

I’m not going to lie, some days are hard. When I feel lethargic, I remind myself that I always feel better after I move. Every day I spend time with my body, it usually ranges between 20 minutes to sometimes an hour and a half – I don’t work out hard all the time. Half of the week I spend recovering, a lot of stretching and am focused now on having better mobility.

How do you balance your day job as an interior designer and Clubaloha?

I dedicate specific days to interior design and for Clubaloha. I also have Rubberduck to focus on, so I squeeze that in throughout the week as it’s not as intense for me. Of course, some days I might have to work on all three businesses, but that’s what makes my days dynamic and interesting.

What is really important is that I anchor my days with my morning routine, which includes stretching, rolling, meditation and journaling. I love this time of day, it’s usually very early, around 5:30-6 am. My routine in the mornings is self-reflective and it helps power the rest of my day.

Besides indoor cycling, what other sports do you do?

I love playing Gaelic football. I’m part Irish through my maternal grandmother. She passed away in 2009 and I was very close to her. So I’d like to think that she would have gotten a kick out of me playing this very traditional Irish game in Malaysia.

Where do you find inspiration to reset your mind and body?

Pre-pandemic days, I found inspiration from travelling abroad. Now, I can find inspiration in the simplest things like going for a walk outside, being present in a conversation and not being distracted by my phone.

Lastly, what does International Women's Day mean to you and what does it mean to be a woman in today’s society?

International Women’s Day is about bringing awareness to the inequality that so many women still endure to this day. To be a woman is to be many things at the same time: kind and assertive, powerful and vulnerable, and confident and compassionate. A woman is resilient and is capable of turning adversity into opportunity.

Amalina Anuar
Senior Writer
A writer by day and spin instructor by night. Amalina fuels her day with anything that’s covered in chocolate and breaking a sweat in the spin studio. With fashion and music as inspiration, you can find her obsessing over her favourite artist's music videos or swaying to funky tunes at live gigs.