The year in review countdown continues with a blog featuring two entrepreneurs who have worked to open an exercise center with the help of a Center loan.
Coming in at number four is a blog on Megan and Will Zoucha who own Fired Up Fitness in Fullerton, Nebraska. The piece is written by Liz Stewart and was posted in July.
Living in a larger community meant Megan Zoucha and her husband, Will, were used to having certain amenities nearby. While they appreciated the convenience, they opted to move to Fullerton, Nebraska, to enjoy the slow pace of rural living.
Megan wanted to continue to lead a healthy, active lifestyle, and she did what she could in her new home. But a lack of access to equipment and proper facilities made it difficult to get the workout she wanted.
So, she decided to open her own fitness center.
“As we got to know our community and its people, I found there were others like me who were forced to purchase their own equipment, or were making do with little space,” she said. “But so many who would be willing to make the time for fitness (were) without the proper ways/options to do so.”
Megan contacted Nance County Economic Development more than five years ago and asked them to keep her in mind if a building became available in downtown Fullerton.
“I knew I would have plenty of time to weigh the pros, the cons, and all the gray areas in between on whether we could do this and whether it would work where we live,” she said.
A building opened up, and Fired Up Fitness started business in March 2020.
Megan took part in QuickBooks training and got help writing a business plan through the Center for Rural Affairs, so when it was time to find financing for the fitness center she figured that was the place to go.
“The interest rate was several points lower than what my bank could offer, and the Center has been there for me the entire journey, from a tiny idea to a downtown business front,” she said.
With the financial assistance, Megan purchased all of the cardio and strength training machines and equipment used in her business.
Allen Chlopek, lending partnership manager with the Center, has known Megan for many years, and helped her through the process.
“Megan opened up a gym in the middle of the pandemic and has managed to stay open and successful throughout,” he said. “As a business owner, she has been smart and tactful, and she has remained just as involved in her community as she was before while now owning and operating her business.”
Megan and her husband are not only the owners of Fired Up Fitness, they are also the only employees. They clean and maintain the equipment on top of working full-time jobs outside the gym, so having it run efficiently on its own has always been key. Gym members pay a fee to have access to the building 24 hours a day with the use of a personal key fob.
Megan is pleased with the operation and success of the business and is grateful to her community for its warm welcome.
“The support from our town has been humbling,” she said. “We have now lived in the Fullerton area for over 10 years, and this is home. We’ve started a family here, become active members of our church, chamber, county, and in community fundraising. And, now, we also own a thriving business.”
She thanked the Center for its assistance in making the journey easier.
“Working with the Center has been great,” she said. “They’re available whenever I have needed them, offering advice, feedback, new contacts, trainings, and further opportunities. The loan application process was as simple as it could be, and Center staff was with me every single step of the way. I never felt embarrassed about asking a question or needing assistance.”
Without the Center’s help, Megan said, she’d probably still be in the beginning stages of opening the business.
“It's clear the Center wants the best for their clients and businesses,” she said. “I could not have started Fired Up Fitness without their guidance and loan assistance, so I will always push for anyone I know looking to start a business to contact them. From start to finish, the information and assistance offered was priceless.”