Women in Business Spotlight: Rincon Fitness Center

Women in athletics are often underrepresented, but the owners of Rincon Fitness Center have been succeeding since 2016, overcoming multiple challenges. 

Women in athletics are often underrepresented, but the owners of Rincon Fitness Center have been succeeding since 2016, overcoming multiple challenges. 

Most CrossFit “box” owners and instructors are male. According to CrossFit, 35% of instructors are female whereas 65% are male. A study by the Women’s Sports Foundation found that 87% of NCAA schools offer disproportionately higher athletic opportunities to men. CrossFit has from the beginning looked to equalize the gender gap. In the CrossFit games the same number of women compete as men. The prize money is the same for women as it is men, which is unheard of in the competition arena. CrossFit has become a field women can participate in after college and continue their love of competitive sports. 

Given the statistics, it is rare to come across a box owned by a couple of ladies. Rincon Fitness Center and CrossFit Affiliate is owned by CrossFit level 2 coaches Cherese “Reese” Mathews and Valentina Sollo. 

Humble Beginnings

Rincon Fitness Center started in November 2016, with classes taught on the beach using minimal and even borrowed equipment. It taught them to be creative with every workout in order to deliver results for their clients. Being out in the elements had the unexpected benefit of gaining exposure in the community as they were visible and seen exercising at the beach, on the sidewalks and around town.  

In December, they were able to upgrade to a 400 square foot shipping container, parking lot and tent. During the rain, classes would get wet unless you happened to be standing dead center under the tent. In March, they upgraded again, this time to a 1200 square foot facility in Rincon Shopping Center. Just after signing their lease on the larger facility, Hurricane Maria hit. 

Challenges Along the Way

Rincon Fitness Center had to shut down for 6 weeks while the community pitched in and helped each other get back on their feet. If someone was an electrician they would come and help with electrical work. If there was something that needed to be done there was often a connection that could facilitate and help with a solution. 

Due to the support of their community and growing enrollment they doubled the size of their facility. In November of 2017 they moved to a 2400 square foot space. In March 2018, they became a CrossFit Affiliate. In March 2019 they were busting at the seams once again, so they took down a wall and added an additional 1200 square feet to their space. March 2020 as we all know, Covid-19 hit. The business was shut down for 6 months.

Their resiliency and tenacity means that today they are stronger than ever and the facility is a beautiful space for their members to connect and come together for their health, fitness and wellbeing.

The facility has updated equipment, rigs, ropes for climbing, rowing machines, assault bikes, barbells, wall balls, dumbbells and more. They offer CrossFit classes, Krav Maga, kickboxing, personal training and nutritional counseling. 

In the process of this business they have had to face numerous challenges. In addition to Maria and Covid, being gym owners as women in a male dominated field has its unique set of obstacles. It can be difficult for men to take them seriously, particularly in a culture of machismo. When it comes to issues of personal safety in the gym men are less likely to listen. For example, if they shouldn’t be lifting heavy and one of the coaches lets them know it's better to be safe they don’t always listen. Women tend to be easier to coach as they follow instructions better and respect the coaches.

In the beginning vendors and suppliers didn’t take them seriously as gym owners when they were purchasing equipment, leasing property and obtaining funding. They saw them as the ladies who train on the beach. 

As women in business, being resilient serves them well in establishing themselves amongst the community. They gained respect by showing commitment to goals, business and clients. Their strong sense of community sets them apart from other gyms. They built trust in the community and with clients with their consistency. They showed their clients that they could be relied upon to be open when they say they will. If they say they will be open at 5:00 AM, rest assured they will be. Wouldn’t it be terrible to wake up at 4:30 AM and get to the gym to find it closed? 

They constantly look for ways to improve their business. When they aren’t at the gym coaching or training clients, they are working on the website, marketing, planning workouts, making nutrition plans and finding ways to continue to be better. 

As Reese states, some great advice she received was, “Find something that you would do for free, then do that and find a way to get paid for it.” When you are passionate and love what you do, it isn’t work. Reese and Valentina exude a love for what they do and have a passion for health and fitness. 

They would love for others to know that CrossFit isn’t scary. No matter what age you are, young or old you can benefit from CrossFit. It is functional fitness so when you are older you can still get up and down off a chair, climb the stairs, live independently or even surf well into your advanced age. It allows you to live life with vitality. Their mission is to help others be healthier and provide a safe space to achieve their goals no matter their current abilities. 

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