Claudia Fitzwater from Project: Body ATL shares how she built a thriving business fueled by love for the community.
When Claudia Fitzwater moved from Colombia to spearhead a Spanish language program at Atlanta public schools, she never expected she would turn into one of the most sought-after fitness instructors in the city.
Claudia has always loved fitness. Fitness has kept her sane and thriving through all the stages of her life. She started working out as soon as she arrived in Atlanta and eventually started teaching at the gym she attended.
“Exercising helped me cope with the cultural shock, trying to fit in and learning the new ways of this culture.”
Claudia Fitzwater, Founder and owner of Project Body ATL
This was when Claudia realized that she had a following. Her community shared that they loved her classes and that maybe she could venture into starting her fitness studio to create a welcoming place for all of those who identify as women – a place where she did not have to prove herself at every corner and instead focus on creating a fitness program for their community to love their body.
“Most of the places felt the same, I was usually the only Hispanic person there. Sometimes people were shocked that I was their trainer.”
With help from her colleagues and friends, Claudia started developing her fitness program: Aspirations Full Body, a fusion of yoga, barre, and strength training with music that will make you move. They would gather after school, and for a year, this beautiful community gave Claudia all the feedback and support she needed to open her fitness space.
“Find your tribe and find within your communities the places that welcome you and that can help you grow.”
And so, Project: Body ATL was born. A place where all bodies are welcome, where you can take it at your own pace, where you can be a part of a loving and caring community, and where you will learn to love your body. A passion project dream came true.
“We are going to be welcoming, we are not pushing diet culture. We are celebrating the foods that we eat, we are celebrating our bodies.”
But soon after they opened, the pandemic hit. Claudia and her team had to scramble to migrate the classes online, and within a week, the online courses were up and running. But this took a toll on her projections and the growth of the business. Now, Claudia needed help to get it back to where it was going.
“I follow every organization in Atlanta that supports small businesses.”
Enter Comcast RISE. Like many other women of color who venture into business, Claudia knew that a great way to find help is to look for local government entities, subscribe to their newsletters, and, more importantly, read them. That’s how she learned about the grants that Comcast RISE offered for small businesses of people of color.
The application was fairly easy, and within little time Claudia received a technology makeover grant that gave them the equipment and tools they needed to reach women all around the country, and the world.
The tech makeover allowed her to have better equipment to live stream the classes and to have better internet bandwidth to reach her clients, no matter where they were. Now, although there is still some way to go to recover fully from the pandemic, Claudia is confident that the future is bright as she plans to apply again to Comcast RISE to keep fueling her business.
Claudia is a full-time Spanish teacher, translator, wife, mom, friend, and boss fitness instructor. She acknowledges that none of these would run smoothly without her husband, family, and friends. The lesson here – find your tribe, don’t be shy to ask to look for help, and trust your power.
Sometimes, as Latinas, we feel that our little passion projects or side hustles are just a hobby to keep our creative minds alive. But, the truth is those side hustles can grow into successful businesses if we know how to look for resources, ask for help, and take the time to apply for the grants and resources that are out there for us.
As the two-year Comcast RISE program comes to its close, Comcast celebrates having provided over $110 million in monetary, marketing, and technology grants to strengthen and empower 13,000 small businesses owned by people of color and women who faced the most difficult challenge during the pandemic.
RISE has partnered with Philadelphia-area tech education and training nonprofit Hopeworks Camden to develop and release an interactive map of the Comcast RISE awardee locations. We invite you to search for a Comcast RISE small businesses in your community here and support them this holiday season and beyond!
Learn more at www.ComcastRISE.com.
Sign up for an online class with Project: Body ATL and get to love Claudia as much as all of her community does.
Follow Project: Body ATL on Instagram @projectbodyatl