Focus 33 Photography Series | Women Entrepreneurs
Rene’ Serrate – U First Fitness
Rene’ Serrate, owner of U First Fitness, started her journey into the fitness world as a teenager. Living in a small town, she was intrigued by the new gym that opened in her hometown, and that curiosity quickly led to her new hobby of fitness training. For over 25 years, Rene’ trained diligently and competed in women’s fitness and figure competitions while working in the insurance and real-estate industry.
Her entrepreneurial spirit was formed at a young age when she became co-owner of an insurance business with her mother, and, later as she moved on to pursue a career in real-estate. But fitness was always a part of Rene’s life. “It was a hobby, but I realized it was a passion because I would get so excited about changing people’s lives, changing their body types, or changing their mental status of how they looked at themselves,” she says.
In 2008, after 15 years of working in real-estate, Rene’ made the decision to follow her passion and pursue her goal of helping others through health and fitness education. She recalls, ” I knew I wanted to open a fitness business, but at the time I didn’t know exactly how I would do it.” She had seen how health issues like obesity, diabetes, cancer, and high-blood pressure had affected her own family and she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.
Rene’ earned her fitness certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and started U First Fitness with boot camp style workouts in 2008. She also took on a contract role as a fitness trainer at a “big box” gym during 2009. Her clientele grew steadily and she quickly outgrew the limits imposed on the personal trainers there. “We were only allowed to train so many people in a group and I wanted to reach more people,” she recalls. She felt confined and knew she had to create her own vision. “I knew I would be able to help more people with my own business,” she remembers.
Paul, Rene’s husband, encouraged her to pursue her dreams. He said to her, “We’re not getting any younger. You’ve got to do what you love,” and together they decided to move forward; relying on their faith in God. “We know we were led by God in the way everything has worked out,” Rene’ says.
In 2012, Rene’ opened the U First Fitness studio in Johns Creek, GA. “We found the location and then we just went full force,” Rene’ says. Her strong sense of responsibility to the community led her to design a fitness program that centers on education, where clients not only get a great workout, but also vital education on health and nutrition.
“I’m able to give them education that they can take anywhere,” she says. She offers a holistic approach by providing grocery store tours, nutrition workshops, individualized nutrition plans, food journals, monthly newsletters and access to fresh, prepared daily meals – all in an effort to continue to educate her clients and the community. “It’s about learning what to put in your body to make it more productive. I’m all about providing a health and fitness lifestyle change.”
U First Fitness has grown quickly since opening, with many of Rene’s original gym clients continuing with her at her new location. She now has four trainers on staff to oversee the group classes, and earlier this year, her husband Paul joined the staff to help with the business operations. As busy as she is, she still makes herself completely accessible to clients. “They can reach out to me anytime they need anything,” she notes.
And, unlike the 30,000 square foot “big box” gyms, Rene’ has managed to create an atmosphere of family at U First Fitness. With small group classes, true camaraderie is formed in the studio among clients and staff. She explains, “We all have a common goal here. We care about each other.”
Rene’s passion, positive attitude, and enthusiasm are contagious. “I think her success has everything to do with her mentality,” says her husband, Paul. It’s obvious to everyone that knows her that she has definitely found her calling – helping others through health and fitness. She has set a lofty goal for herself, aiming to reach 15,000 people by 2015 through her community education efforts. There’s no doubt she will get there.
To learn more about Rene’s fitness studio, visit: UFirstFitness.com
Slideshow: A Look Inside U First Fitness
* A Big “Thank-You” to the U First Fitness Staff and the 8:30 and 9:30 am classes pictured above!