By Kendall Black
The Seattle Medium
It’s 5:00 a.m. and LaTaunya Witherspoon’s alarm clock is going off. As she gets in her car and makes her way to the gym, she can’t help but reflect upon how her career choice is making a difference in the lives of others. The former American Ninja Warrior contestant, personal trainer and owner of Spoonfed Training in Renton, WA is one of a growing number of entrepreneurs who took a leap of faith and turned her passion into a business.
Witherspoon, who has a degree in sociology from Washington State University, started doing personal training while she was studying for her Master’s in education. By the time she received her Master’s degree, she had made the decision to become a full-time personal trainer.
“I was doing personal training as more of another side job,” said Witherspoon. “I started to develop more of a passion for it. So I decided to do personal training full time.”
Witherspoon then went on to train clients as an independent contractor with Columbia City Fitness, owned by Bull and Flo Stewart, and in December 2017, she opened the doors to her own gym — Spoonfed Training.
According to Witherspoon’s mother, Laura Witherspoon, LaTaunya has a passion for health and fitness that dates back to when she was a kid, after seeing both of her grandmothers deal with major health issues.
“She has always had a desire for health and fitness,” says Mrs. Witherspoon. “She would talk about [health and fitness] all the time and eventually her desire increased and that’s what really got her to this point [of opening her own gym].”
Focused on creating a friendly environment where men and women can reach their fitness goals through encouragement and expert guidance every step of the way, Witherspoon has truly come into her own.
“I always had a dream of having my own gym. And so I literally stepped out on faith and decided to go ahead and look into what I need to do to actually make that happen,” said Witherspoon. “I knew I just needed a space, and when I found this space [ in Renton] I was able to actually just implement everything that I wanted for Spoonfed.”
“I didn’t take out a loan, I literally used my savings to order everything [for the gym] and trusting and believing by faith that it’ll all be worth it,” she added.
Despite being mentally prepared for the challenges associated with being an entrepreneur, she quickly found that launching a business is not for the faint at heart. According to Witherspoon, at the start there were times when she arrived at the gym to lead a class and no one was there.
Though she is still growing the business, Witherspoon firmly believes that this is what she is called to do. Having developed an interest in fitness at an early age, running track since the age of 6 through high school and leading informal workout regimens with fellow students WSU, Witherspoon is undeterred.
As the daughter of a pastor, she understands the obligation that she has to her clients, who have put their faith, trust and health in her hands. So day after day, she puts her trust in God and greets her clients with a warm smile and the enthusiasm to help them achieve more than they thought possible.
“[With] my dad being a pastor I’ve seen all the things he had to go through from getting phone calls in the wee hours of the night because maybe someone had been hospitalized or they’re dealing with a family issue and you have to go tend to them,” said Witherspoon.
In many ways being a successful trainer requires the same level of dedication and care for others.
“For me this is a passion,” Witherspoon continued. “You may come in and there’s one person. Then I have to tell myself I was supposed to be here for that one person. That keeps me going because there are definitely those days that are challenging.”
Kiasha Brown has been training with Witherspoon for almost two years and says that she is very in touch with her clients. According to Brown, she has lost 15 pounds and 2 – 3 inches since she began working out with Witherspoon.
“She let’s you go at your own pace and she’s definitely encouraging,” says Brown. “She’s not intimidating. I know a lot of people get afraid to work out with people because they think personal trainers just yell at you, but she makes the workouts fun.”
“I look forward to [the workouts]. I hate when I have to miss a session,” added Brown.
With the philosophy of approaching fitness step by step and spoon feeding her clients what they need to reach their goals, Witherspoon admittedly takes great pride in witnessing their transformations.
“There are two things that excite me,” says Witherspoon. “One is when we take their measurements and they see they lost inches and/or weight and seeing them happy that they’re getting results. The second thing is being able to see them do something that they couldn’t do even a month ago. So let’s say it was a pushup they couldn’t do, but now they’re able to do it. That literally makes my day.”
When looking to the future for Spoonfed Training, Witherspoon is optimistic.
“My end goal is to have a bigger gym and have it where people literally enjoy coming to Spoonfed. They know when they come they’re going to feel great, and that when they leave they’re going to feel amazing,” said Witherspoon.
Just as she tells her clients to take it one day at a time when striving to achieve fitness goals, she recognizes that the same advice can be applied to starting a business.
“Have a plan, have a goal, be realistic with yourself and understand that there will be some days where it will be rough,” said Witherspoon.
“Definitely surround yourself with the right people and just grind, step out on faith and do it,” she says. “Time waits for no man. For me, I never want to sit and say I shoulda, coulda, woulda, without stepping out on faith and making it happen.”