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Tanecia Newman - NewMan Fitness Foundation

By Glenda Lassiter

Tanecia Newman had a serious struggle with weight. For years, she dragged from the immensity of a heaviness that covered so much territory. Long-term depression. Toxic relationships. Battles with self-esteem. A miscarriage. Teenage motherhood. Shaky finances. No tools to process traumatic experiences. But, day to day, she coped.

Before the hurt could twist and harden into something more life-altering, an exhausted Newman devised a plan to wrestle the decades-old battle. The newer version of herself who emerged was spirited, unwavering, and set on balancing the scales.

Newman finally made emotional, mental and physical health a priority, incorporated exercise, made better life and food choices. Excessive weight began to dissolve, literally and figuratively. Both "inner" and physical fitness became her passion. In 2016, Newman shaped the idea and poured herself full-time into her company, NewMan Fitness, LLC, concentrating on "nutrition, exercise and wellness" - hence the "new". She began transitioning from employment as an insurance agent and into her own wellness business. Her transformation had become too good not to share.

As Newman developed her business, she learned of DreamBuilder, a nine-week entrepreneurial training program for women business proprietors at all levels of ownership. DreamBuilder is sponsored by Old Dominion University's Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (IIE) - Women's Business Center (WBC). IIE partners with Hampton University's Virginia Workforce Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (VWIEC) for tuition, childcare stipends, and other support services to remove barriers for DreamBuilder students. Through DreamBuilder, the entrepreneurs are introduced to valuable information, programs and professionals throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.

For Newman, DreamBuilder was a game changer. The plethora of business knowledge and connections shined hope into her business plan. "DreamBuilder was a great class that introduced me to the fundamentals of starting my business," the 2018 graduate of the program said. "It definitely helped me see the bigger picture of all that's really involved with what goes into a business. It helped me understand the difference between a legitimate business and a side hustle. I came out on the other side of that class more aware of what it takes to run a business, what is required to be successful and, overall, more educated in the whole process of small business ownership." Further, Newman went on to establish NewMan Fitness Foundation, Inc., the non-profit arm of her company.

The DreamBuilder curriculum is why NewMan Fitness is Small, Women-owned, and Minority-owned Business (SWaM) certified. When COVID-19 struck and divided businesses from their clientele, Newman already had the distinction that the Small Business Administration (SBA) accepted for financial sustainment. She qualified for both the SBA disaster Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Program that were extended as financial relief for eligible businesses. "I am able to be looked at by the government as a legitimate business that can receive COVID funding," she said.

This legitimate business is designed to help people of all ages be "fit". Newman emphasizes that "in shape" is about a state of health that includes physical fitness (not the promotion of unstable self-image) and mental stability. The Virginia Beach company offers healthy habits in its work with individuals and groups. NewMan Fitness also works with a Southeastern Virginia organization for older adults. Supporting an earlier-the-better concept, Newman designed a wellness starter package for children. It is a "FitKit" that includes a Hula Hoop and jump rope - encouraging physical activity; bubbles - "We actually help them focus on how to inhale and exhale"; sidewalk chalk - hyping outdoor play; fruit and vegetable chewables that equate to a full serving of each; and sectioned portion plates - encouraging healthy eating habits groups.

"We want to encourage children to get from behind the (television and computer) screen," she said. "We promote outdoor activities. And we show parents it wouldn't cost a lot of money to help the kids play outdoors. I capitalize simple solutions. It is often neglected how simple things are therapeutic. For my own journey, exercise was the first step that I took to changing my lifestyle. Eating better came after that," she said. "Then, I decided to move on purpose. Movement is medicine." Newman also is a licensed adolescent life coach, certified to help youth live a more fulfilled life.

WBC Program Director Erika Small-Sisco said she met Newman to discuss DreamBuilder just three days shy of a new rotation of classes. Small-Sisco suggested that Newman apply for the class that would begin two months later because the application process can be extensive. "I went to see her at the beginning of the week," Small-Sisco said. "By the end of it, she was sitting in the class WIOA-approved." by Virginia Career Works. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is a federal legislation that supports employment services; DreamBuilder applicants seeking tuition grant must get their approval. "She did a process that usually takes three weeks in three days. She had energy and desire.

"We often say for DreamBuilder, you have to have the desire, interest, motivation and then action. We say if you have that, we can work with you. Tanecia had it all," she said. "I didn't think it was possible for someone to get through that process as quickly as she did, so I knew she wanted it."

Aside from achieving the improbable to get into DreamBuilder, participating to the fullest in the classes, Newman had a certain magnetism. Small-Sisco said, "As a trainer, Tanecia motivates people to move, lose weight, stay in shape, and eat right. But, I found her motivating other students who spoke negatively about themselves. She would chime in and turn that around. You could see not just her leadership ability, but the way she is able to inspire other people."

Newman is now one of the DreamBuilder class instructors. "The message I want to convey to the class is that number one, they can do it," she said. "Next, they have to be willing to put in the work because if they don't and don't take their business seriously, it will fail. Lastly, change the hustle mentality, the idea of a quick business that's just going to skyrocket.

"You need to know everything until you have the money to pay somebody who needs to know it for you. You need to be open and willing to ask for and receive the WBC's help, because the help is there. Relationships are important in business. The business relationships you can establish, nurture, and maintain will help you in the long run."