A dream comes true for a Charlotte fitness entrepreneur

Over the years I’ve taught aerobics classes at the YMCA, churches, rec centers, conferences and health fairs, but I’d never had the pleasure of christening a new fitness facility.

Until now.

The day seemed perfect. On a crisp but beautiful Saturday in February, about 25 women joined me for the dedication of Charlotte’s newest health club — Red Bow Fitness Studio, which opened in the University area. Owner Jeannine Sargent could hardly contain her glee as she led a tour, welcomed guests and shared her passionate and amazing story of winning $50,000 to see this vision fulfilled.

In 2007, Mirassou Winery, a California company that supports women-owned businesses, informed Sargent that she had won the company’s “Make Your Dream Come True with Mirassou” contest. In addition to cold, hard cash, she also received business counseling, a marketing plan, graphic design services, financial planning and legal advice. And to help further ensure her success, she also received mentoring from the National Association of Women Business Owners.

Sargent said she read about the contest while searching online for potential grants to start a business. Her winning concept was selected from more than 350 entrants who wrote an essay that described their business concept and its consumer appeal, and then outlined an implementation plan. Twenty semi-finalists were chosen to submit formal business plans, and then four finalists were interviewed. Sargent’s concept was selected.

“I was very surprised,” she said. “I kept saying, is this for real? Is it a gimmick? And my husband was like, ‘As long as it’s free, keep going.’”

Sargent soon learned that it was for real — in fact, it was a dream come true. She had worked as a human resources for more than 20 years but had nursed aspirations to be an entrepreneur, which seemed to run in her family. He mother had owned a beauty salon and her father owned a dry cleaning business.

She said she wanted to design a fitness studio uniquely targeted to women. She had long fought to control her weight and had watched other women in her family wage the same fight.

Each quarter she received a cash allotment toward completion of the facility. Despite a recession, tight market and slumping economy, Sargent never faltered and kept working toward her goal.

Her perseverance paid off.

The state-of-the-art facility is beautifully designed and inviting. During the Zumba class I taught, I could take in the outdoor view through the large windows of the second-floor facility.

“People like the ambiance, especially compared to the area’s large gyms,” Sargent said. “It’s not overcrowded, over-stimulating or overdone. It’s a social setting and a fitness studio.”

In Charlotte’s crowded field of workout facilities, Sargent said she believes Red Bow will fill a niche. She said her business model will focus on what she calls a “E3” strategy – evaluate, educate and empower – all to help women make permanent lifestyle changes.

From where I sit, that sounds like a prescription for success.

Until the next time, I wish you good health and wellness!

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