The Interview

Lindsey Rainwater of WIFA talks to CEO, Chinwe Onyeagoro, about why she started the Women in Fitness Association and opportunities for the PocketSuite community to get involved.

I have been so looking forward to this conversation. I’m going to set the stage right now. Hey everyone! You are listening in on Chinwe Onyeagoro and Lindsey Rainwater. You have two working moms, two female entrepreneurs, who really love small business, really love solo-preneurs, and want to see you win. So you’re going to hear a conversation about Lindsey, her story, and WIFA, as well as about what PocketSuite and WIFA are doing together.

We have a huge health and wellness and fitness community that we know is listening in.

Lindsey, we talk a lot with entrepreneurs about where they started. With partners, we like to do the same. You’re running this association. You’re an entrepreneur. So everybody here can know what your story is, what led you down this path?

Yeah, absolutely! It’s wonderful to be here today. Thanks for having me. I see a couple of WIFA members that have popped on, “Hi, Marissa, it’s so wonderful to see everyone this afternoon.” Gosh, I’ve been an entrepreneur by nature since I was a little girl. I have this really cute picture of me when I was three years old. I remember seeing it and going, oh my gosh,  there I am. Cause I had all of my Teddy bears and dollies all in a circle and I was hosting a big event. So everybody had a piece of fake food in front of them. I had grabbed a bunch of my parents’ coffee filters and made matching hats. Boy, does that not look like a networking event or getting somebody together for a seminar? And at three years old, I was playing that.

I love that. I had a lemonade stand. So naturally, I wrote a business plan for the lemonade stand. That’s my story, when I was younger.

Yeah, so I wasn’t out there hustling lemons, but I was definitely doling out the advice and engaging “How are you doing today teddy bear?” So long story short, whenever I’m mentoring women or I get the opportunity to pay really close attention to what you played as a kid, there’s a lot of essential qualities to that. Those come through in the work when you are working on purpose and you’re working from a place of love. Oftentimes there are a lot of synergies from when you were a little kid, right? So fast forward to being an adult. I really got my start in health and wellness as an athlete growing up. I figure skated full time and was on the ice all day long as an athlete from age seven to twelve.

I was tutored and homeschooled.  I was a contract skater and I was training off ice, on ice, all of the above. I developed a really strong muscle memory for discipline and a love for sport and the love for fitness at a really young age. Then in high school, I worked in health clubs. I worked in YMCAs through college. Then I ended up actually working in corporate America, Starbucks for a while, got some incredibly meaningful experiences. Graduated with my undergrad and found my way back into fitness. I started networking with the gentleman that hired me at the YMCA when I was like 17. He’s like, oh my gosh, you’ve got to meet this woman who’s selling Pilates equipment. I think you two would really hit it off. Long story short, I started selling Pilates equipment and then Pilates education.

Then the next thing you know, I was working for Les Mills International. I was selling programs like BODYPUMP and BODYCOMBAT to health clubs all over the south central region of the U.S.. Then in 2015, I started my own consulting firm. In 2015, 16, 17, 18, 19 20, you do the math. I’ve been consulting with businesses on mostly internal strategy, a lot to do with business development. A lot to do with how they’re supporting their teams internally. In 2017, the idea of WIFA came to me. Really where it was coming from was that I was at a conference networking for my own consulting work. I was about as pregnant as I am right now. I’m seven months pregnant right now with my daughter. She’ll be here soon.

I was definitely as pregnant with Oliver, who’s my first born. I was at a conference. All of my mentors at the time were men. I really wanted to talk to a woman about what it was like to run a business and have a baby because I had this idea in my head. I was obsessed with the word integration. I didn’t want to create balance. I knew that was never going to happen. So how do I create integration? How do I pause? How do I create a schedule where I can go breastfeed my son and then leave the conference call right after that? And not have this big commute disruption and all this stuff? So long story short, I was really craving a place where women could get together and talk about all those things in one place. You know, a lot of women choose to not be moms.

So it’s not just that. It’s like, how do you run a home and run a business? There are so many little things that make or break our primary relationships and our ability to have purpose with our work, if our households aren’t together. Because our brains just tick through it all anyway. So why not talk about it? So long story short, there was not a networking group for women in fitness. There was not like a woman of fitness. So I started it, grabbed the .org, got it started, got a nonprofit board lined up, taught myself a bunch of stuff really quick. I’m simplifying it obviously. Four years later, here we are. This last year, I got a chance to actually step into the role of CEO completely instead of doing this while also consulting. So I feel incredibly blessed that right now I’m getting to do this full-time and really grow the association.

Anyone who knows Lindsey, knows there’s like 10X more to that story. We’re grateful to her and also know that she’s just a badass. One of the things that really excites me most about you shepherding and stewarding this organization, is that you have touched so many aspects of the fitness and health and wellness industry. You were at the YMCA very early on, you were in Pilates, you sold equipment to gyms and other health clubs. You understand the value chain. There are so many different types of organizations that operate in this space. You understand the kind of cultures that they currently create for women. So you’re in a really good position to help improve the ecosystem.

Thank you for saying that. I think one of the things I feel really excited about is the potential for cross-pollination within the industry. Because a lot of people think of the fitness industry as having to do with literal physical spaces, whether it’s a health club or a boutique. Just challenging that thinking, it has to do with the Fitness Pros, a lot of whom PocketSuite serves – the individual business owners who are making their own living and then also the opportunity to see where there are really important career development aspirations.

So for instance, if you love sales and you’re a personal trainer, you could potentially work for an equipment company and have a territory and be a territory manager. Still be a personal trainer and train maybe three clients a week and then have a salary selling equipment. A lot of folks who work in a health club or who don’t understand all the other different ways to be in fitness. One of my favorite things to do is enlighten the Pros to the vendor side and vice versa. For people to understand all the different aspects of this industry.

So if anyone’s listening closely, you should be scratching your head right now saying, wait, this is an association and an association leader talking in this way about different income streams for me. This is why we’re all blown away by WIFA. Lindsey, when we met, you told me two stories that had me listening very closely. One was around creating a collaboration between folks who don’t know about their respective industries and have an opportunity to potentially earn more by expanding their field of vision. Then the other was something new that WIFA is doing – helping folks who have been around the block and have a story to tell, tell their story and make money while they’re doing it. So I’d love to hear a bit about the why? Why you are playing in this way to bring people together? 

Yeah, absolutely! So the whole purpose of WIFA – WIFA stands for the Women in Fitness Association. We really exist for one woman to champion another woman, to use collaboration as the vehicle to help accelerate your career and then create an incredibly diverse industry while we’re doing that. What I’ve known of the fitness industry, for the last 22 years I’ve professionally been in it, is that the majority of the industry has C-suite and ownership positions held by men and then a lot of women working in those environments. I have a really big heart to see women who want to be in those leadership roles get those opportunities. So that’s one thing, the other thing is that historically women have not been known for helping each other. They have not historically been known for partnering with one another in a way that isn’t caddy or ill intent.

One of the things I’m hell bent on is making sure that women help women period. If you’ve been there for five minutes longer than her, teach her how to do it and hold the door open until five more women come along with you. Because the reason our wage gap is stuck at 16%, the reason that nationally, 22% women make up C-suite roles and not the 80%+, is because there aren’t enough women occupying those seats to influence those environments. So, if we want women to hire women, we need to get women in those seats. We need to make sure that women of color are in those seats. We need to create opportunities where there were not opportunities before. My heart is that a lot of that is going to be led by women.

So my belief is that if a woman wants to succeed, it’s not as simple as just climbing the chain of command wherever you work. I believe that women have to work on purpose, from a place of purpose. Meaning, I’m not going to use the word passion because I think that gets a little blurry like, oh, I’m just so blissfully happy all the time. It’s like, no, you’re not, okay. Like I just spent the last three hours in spreadsheets. Do I look blissfully happy? No, but am I clear on the facts? Yes. So it’s not all going to be roses and butterflies and sunshine. Everything I just talked about is deeply embedded in the purpose of why I’m doing what I’m doing. As long as the big picture is pointing towards my purpose, the daily actions become less relevant because I know what I’m working for. Women who are working on purpose are forces, right?

If WIFA can teach women to work on purpose, if we can teach them what their why is, why did they get out of bed? What’s their self-esteem coming from? Is someone else defining how you’re running your life? Or are you? Are you just saying, oh gosh, I guess I have to go in from nine to five versus actually I just had a baby, so I’d like to work a split schedule. I promise my productivity is going to be magical. Just let me pilot this schedule, so that I can be there for my family and for you. If those kinds of conversations became the norm, I know that more women would thrive instead of trying to fit into a circumstance, a patriarchy that was made for men by men. I think work cultures have to be revolutionized to represent the way women work. That starts with us having the capacity to ask for those things. It just so happens to be that I’m trying to make these changes in the fitness and wellness space, but these are global issues.

Right? You know and I know that there’s not a whole big place for the warm and fuzzies, but your passion comes through. I think it’s real. I think it’s why people are in some ways attracted to this vision that you’ve created. Can you just share some examples of collaborations you’ve helped make happen at WIFA and share what’s on the horizon? In terms of future collaborations, future income generating opportunities for people in fitness, and women in fitness.

Yeah, absolutely. So I think I’m going to start with the income opportunity. One of the things that WIFA has started piloting this year, that I’m really proud of, is we’ve launched an academy program. We’ve launched the speaker academy and the writer academy this month. We are pulling facilitators in and training facilitators from our network. So by doing so we’re creating a revenue sharing opportunity and also training women in the industry. We’re creating job opportunities while also creating magical content. Also, if you’ve ever tried to put together a speaking reel or a video, it’s really hard. Having a think tank to do that in a short period of time, that’s incredibly reasonably priced, is unheard of. That would be an example of an opportunity where WIFA is creating an opportunity for someone to make money.

Same thing with our lead program. We have a 13 week lead program, which is a hybrid of personal development, career development, get down to the nitty-gritty on why you’re on the planet and then go live out your purpose. That program we’ve created as an organization and we’re starting to train other facilitators to scale the work, but in doing that, we’re also creating jobs. That’s one of our long-term strategies as an association because we are a non-profit. One of the things for me as our leader over the last four years is constantly looking at opportunities where we’re not reliant on corporate donations to fund our operations. Right now, we are because of the dynamic of our membership being in a growth stage. Programs like this can help sustain our economic model while also creating opportunities for women in fitness.

A couple of non-paid opportunities that are also really cool are that you can speak on our podcast and share your story. You can publish anything that you’ve authored on our blog, so we can give you a larger platform. There are stories that still give me goosebumps. What I’ve come to realize is that there are women who understand the opportunity. They understand that if they raise their hand and say, “Hey, I have this career goal in sight? How do I get there?” They let someone tell them. I’m thinking of one woman in particular that’s like, I really want to speak at an event. Great. Here’s how that works. It’s probably going to be a couple of years before anybody recognizes your name on a speaker application. I’m speaking three times at the next conference, why don’t you grab 15 minutes of my time slot?


Brought her up on stage, prepped her on all the things, we got her photo taken. So she was there, we could prove it. Put it on her resume. She wrote a blog about the experience. You should see what’s going on with this girl now. She got recruited to another company, got a massive raise. I have completely lost track of how many speaking events that she’s done and that was only a year and a half ago. Her career went from like this to that. This is a woman in her mid twenties who just listened to a couple of cues and then just ran with it. My experience has been the women who do that, they take a couple cues, and then they run with it.

Another one of the gals who works with us, she came out of a college with a kinesiology degree. Applied for her first job at a facility, put down on her resume that she’s affiliated with WIFA. The woman interviewing her happens to have worked with me 10 years ago. There was this automatic network affiliation, right? Then all of a sudden the interview climate totally changed. Oh, tell her, I said, hi, blah, blah, blah, all that stuff. She gets the job, she gets the referral letter. If you can have people set you up like that, it’s women helping women.

It’s exponential what happens and it’s quick.

So two things. One is, we talk a lot about the difference between mentorship and sponsorship. What you did by cutting 15 minutes of your time and sharing it with her and creating that space, that’s sponsorship! That’s giving her the visibility. That is amplified – as we saw happen. So creating those opportunities for folks to be sponsored, it’s game changing. The other thing that’s really exciting is, as I think about the PocketSuite community, and I think about these bad-ass women in fitness, they are already creating content every day on Instagram, on Facebook, and they’re writing blogs. I think about ways in which they can connect to WIFA and generate income from their existing social content. Because running your own business requires a whole other level of expertise, you have opportunities to share, sponsor and be sponsored, and generate additional income and IP.

Absolutely! For instance, if I could give an example of how we help those folks who are part of PocketSuite. If a woman is on the PocketSuite app platform, you’re already creating content. You’ve already got it going. Tag WIFA, give us the opportunity to share about what you’re doing. If you feel like our audience is relevant for you, join the association, and publish that to our blog. We’ll send it out to our subscriber list.

Put it in our community page, our closed community page. There’s so many different ways to cross pollinate what it is that you have going on and share it with the community. There’s also a free Facebook page, too.

I hope everyone heard that. You need to tag WIFA Association. You have a distribution channel for your great content, right there. Lindsey, looking ahead, we’ve heard a lot about the pressure that has been put on women during COVID. Everyone’s hesitant to say if COVID is still a thing or if it’s the new normal? What are you seeing in terms of shifts and trends? Ways in which women are kind of reinventing themselves in terms of entrepreneurship and in terms of their careers. Your insights could give some folks who are listening some ideas about what else they might explore.

Absolutely! Well, in the past 12 months, in our membership base, we’ve seen an increase in those who are self-employed – the split is 70/30. So 70% of our members are now identifying as self-employed.

That’s amazing.

It’s amazing. Personally, I’m a big fan. Kind of my archetype. I’m like, yay, go you! But what is also being made really apparent, really quickly, is that the women who are in fitness. They’re really good at their craft. They need support on the business side. That’s why the PocketSuite app exists. Right? So that’s totally cool, that’s to be expected. You’re brilliant at what you do, let us help you with the rest. So WIFA is really studying and looking at, okay, is it branding? Is it social media support? Is it networking support? What are the skills that you want support with? That we can help you round out, so that you can be successful delivering the brilliant content that you do. And so, some of the things that I’ve seen when COVID first happened, we saw everybody get on Live, everybody was promoting their workouts for free. We’ve started to see that kind of scale back. There’s a more sophisticated way to deliver programs and services.

I think what works is a hybrid series of face-to-face virtually, combined with do it yourself work. It’s a really magical combination. I think if you leave people 100% on their own, they don’t necessarily get it done. But if you can create a hybrid where you’re meeting with someone even once a week to check in, and then they’re out there doing the workout on their own, there’s so many cool virtual ways to connect with people. Let’s say you have them sync their data with their health app and then they’re sending you recaps for accountability to really leverage technology and to get creative about how you’re meeting people where they’re at. Then also realizing how many business resources you have as a Fitness Pro to help people get moving.

Lindsey, last week, we just had a conversation with Barbara Rogers from the National Association of Nutrition Professionals. We thought about this idea of bringing nutrition professionals together with fitness professionals. To say, “Hey, how do we work together? How do we expose folks to our respective domains?”

The wheels are already turning in terms of folks to connect you with, in terms of expanding the WIFA family. So one more question and then we’re going to go into the lightning round. As you think about the PocketSuite community that’s listening in, what are those things that you’re working on that we can lean into and provide support on?

The first word that comes to mind, and this is with any movement, is the groundswell. It takes a certain number of people all moving in the same direction to really make a change. Right? One of our employees recommended the LFG documentary on HBO Max with the soccer players. If you haven’t watched it, go watch it. The women’s national team sued their employer for the wage gaps that they saw between them, and the disparity between the men’s and the women’s teams. Here’s the bottom line: there’s a massive wage gap in America. It’s global, but we’re talking about America right now. It’s just going to take women, supporting women en masse to really make a difference. So if we want to see personal trainers and group fitness instructors paid more, then we have to have a groundswell of women all moving in the same direction.

I like to think that WIFA is a really good place to get them all together. Right now, we have about 1,000 women activated in our network who are moving in that direction. So join us. You can join monthly, you can join annually. The cost of your membership – we’re a non-profit – it’s going straight back into keeping our website up and making sure that our team is serving you. We have four of us who work for WIFA.

Let me jump in here. PocketSuite create a WIFA scholarship. We’re sponsoring anyone in the PocketSuite community who wants to join WIFA. So, reach out. This is an income generating, networking, mind-expanding, inspirational opportunity. PocketSuite wants to be a part of helping you get connected to this awesome network.

Thank you, it’s so sweet. Yes, you’ve already scholarshipped. We’ve got some women who I was emailing the other day. Please take Chinwe up on her offer and get a membership from PocketSuite and start to get active. It really can accelerate your career. That’s one thing – exposure. If you know of any organizations championing women’s issues who want to support WIFA, send them our way. We’re always fundraising for the next academy so that we can create more tools and services. Then to not just join, but be active.

I’ve heard a couple of murmurings. It’s like, I’m in my fifties and I’m at a certain point in my career. What am I going to get out of it? Give back! If you’re at that place in your career, a hundred dollars a year is no big deal. So get to work, helping.

And here’s the deal, if you are in that place in your career, more than likely you will get something out of it. But it might not look like that on the surface. Those are a few things right out of the gate – just support us, get to work with us. Also, I think it’s really easy to pretend this doesn’t exist. I was on a podcast interview a couple of weeks ago and somebody said, well, why do women in fitness need advocating? I almost threw up. I was like, what are you talking about? What planet do you live on? Of course we still need advocating. There’s still massive opportunities to break down the barriers, just to get women working with women. But moreover, getting paid what they deserve, teaching them negotiation skills, and helping their businesses thrive.

Well said. Lindsey, we’re going to go into the lightning round. You have this third trimester glow. We’re going to ask you some questions about your lifestyle, because we want to support you. What are you currently streaming Netflix, Hulu, Amazon? What are you currently watching?

You know what I started a couple of nights ago? It’s on HBO Max – it’s a series on Obama’s campaign. I think I’m on episode two.

So like the backstory of his campaign?

Yeah. That’s exactly what it was. Because, I just finished Hacks. Which if you haven’t seen that, it’s awesome.

Hacks okay, wow. And then what’s your favorite place to visit, travel to, vacation spots?

Gosh, I live in Colorado, so I’m landlocked by way of the ocean. I love getting out to San Diego or Carlsbad or somewhere like a little beach town. I have two toddlers and I’m pregnant. I’m doing more vacationing and less traveling these days, if you know what I mean? The last two places I went, it was like, I just want a book and a beach and a virgin margarita. Leave me alone.

On Mother’s Day, I said to my husband, you know what, I would just like a day on my own.

Yeah, nobody touches me for 24 hours. The last two vacations I’ve gone on have been an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. I’ve either been pregnant or breastfeeding. So I just lay there and drink virgin daiquiris. I don’t drink anyways. I just read books that entire week.

Love it. Okay, words to live by, favorite quote.

Oh gosh. The first quote that really turned my head upside down was, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” And I live by that.

No question, and entrepreneurship, that’s a fact. Then the final question is, where can people reach out to you? Where can people follow you in order to see what’s coming next?

The channel we’re on now, the WIFA Association Instagram channel, is a great place to keep tabs on the association. The link on the page takes you to the website with all the links that you would want to experience on our website. So check that out. If you want to get in touch with me personally, it’s @Lindsey.Rainwater. That’s my handle on Instagram. Or you can find me on the WIFA website as well. Oh, can I say one more thing?


Just dawned on me. So we’re doing a virtual race in the month of October and registration is open for now. It’s called Run the World. We partnered with Myzone, which is one of the leading heart rate monitor companies globally. And so Myzone uses a term called maps, so you’re tracking movement.

It’s less about going out and running a 5k and more about how much movement you can track in October. All the movements that you track in October, we’re going to put a donation towards breast cancer research. It’s a collaboration between WIFA, Myzone, and breast cancer research. Registration just opened on Monday and it’s $20 to register. There’s a shirt, if you want to get a shirt. There’s the Myzone thing, if you want to participate in the Myzone thing. Then that’s how you end up contributing to breast cancer research. So, that’s a fun thing we have going on right now.

This is the quintessential example of experiences that Lindsey and her team put together. It’s not one thing, there are always layers to WIFA’s initiatives. Everyone benefits, every stakeholder gets something out of it, puts something into it. Keep doing what you’re doing, Lindsey. PocketSuite is really proud to be a sponsor and a partner. Anyone who wants to join WIFA that’s part of the PocketSuite community, please reach out. We’ll get you onboarded. Lindsey, we’re part of your fan club. Thanks so much for joining and sharing your story.

Absolutely, thanks for having me today. Thanks for being here, everybody!