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For years, Rene Marquez dreamed of owning his own gym. He longed for a big garage or any sort of space where he could exercise and run a boxing program. With 20 years of fighting experience and a work history at fitness centers and of teaching boxing classes to kids, he was ready to have a place on his own.
Then, when he was least expecting it, the opportunity to buy a space presented itself as the perfect option. Warehouse Fitness & Training Center in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, had been open for a few decades, but it had changed owners several times during that period.
“When it ended up on the market again, my wife and I weren’t actively looking for a place, but we thought it might be the right time to take a chance and give it a shot,” Rene said.
Due to lack of down payment funds, Rene and his wife, Maricia, were unable to get financial assistance from a traditional bank. So, with a recommendation from their realtor, the couple reached out to the Center for Rural Affairs.
The Center approved a loan for Rene and Maricia, a loan made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP). Created in the 2008 farm bill, the program has enabled numerous small rural businesses to access much-needed loan capital and technical assistance. RMAP makes grants to organizations, like the Center, that provide training and technical assistance and make small loans to new and existing rural small businesses.
With RMAP up for renewal in the farm bill being crafted in Washington D.C., the Center is advocating to see this important program continued and improved.
To qualify for assistance from an organization, a business must be unable to access loan capital or financial assistance from other sources. They must be either a sole proprietorship, or have 10 or fewer employees, and be located in a rural area.
Kim Preston, Lending Services director with the Center, helped guide the couple through the loan application process, and they were able to take ownership of the gym in November 2022.
“Maricia and Rene are determined business owners, they are willing to make any and all sacrifices necessary for the growth of their business,” Kim said. “They are making smart decisions and putting their business on a path for success.”
Not only do Rene and Maricia have good business sense, they are also running their business in a way that helps their community.
“They see the gym as an opportunity to provide positive outlets for youth and an opportunity to help uplift their community and promote healthy lifestyles, discipline, and life skills that will benefit youth for the rest of their lives,” said Kim. “Rene and Maricia have been athletes their entire lives and know the positive influence that sports, competition, and fitness can have in a person's life.”
The couple used their loan to buy the existing business and commercial building, as well as do repairs including replacing the failing geothermal units in the floors. The building is home to additional businesses including a barber shop, salon, and Airbnb units on the upper level, so Rene and Maricia are landlords to these tenants.
Through the purchase of Warehouse Fitness & Training Center, Rene was able to realize his dream and find a home for RPM Boxing Club. Initially, the group had 6 kids, and now 50 people take part in his club. Beginners range in age from 4 to 12; professional level, 13 and older.
He also trains professional fighters, soccer players, and cross country runners. Rene takes his professional fighters to compete every month in places like Atlanta and Orlando, and his amateur fighters have gone to competitions in Colorado and Nebraska.
Although he’s living his best life every day, Rene says there are ups and downs to being a business owner.
“Having hard conversations that most people don't want to have about rent being due and repairs isn’t always easy,” he said. “There can be long days, but I don't see it as work; I enjoy it.”
Maricia said the gym gives her a chance to connect with her community.
“When people are lost in life and looking for a way to get back on track, they come to the gym and I get to see their progress,” she said. “I enjoy talking to them. I see people on their journeys, and to watch them succeed and grow is great.”
The couple puts in long hours running the gym, and they work outside jobs as well. Occasionally, their family helps with cleaning or small jobs around the building. Local youth also do community service work at the gym.
When time allows, Maricia hopes to take advantage of the Center’s online training sessions and workshops designed to assist business owners, including marketing, bookkeeping, and more.
“The Center has been super helpful to us,” she said. “I think for most people, without the Center, a lot of their business ventures would not be possible. We’ve learned a lot during this process and we’re better financial managers because of it.”
Rene and Maricia hope to continue updating parts of their building such as windows and to upgrade gym equipment in the near future.
“We want to make sure our members are happy,” said Maricia. “Money isn’t a huge priority right now; we’re just making sure people are happy and giving a good product, and we know the money will come.”
Need financing to start your own business or make repairs to an existing business? Contact your regional loan specialist. Find yours at cfra.org/lending-staff.
At a glance
Warehouse Fitness & Training Center
Rene and Maricia Marquez
422 Avenue B
Hours: always open