Veronica and Marilin: Sisters, Mothers & Founders of Fiesta Fit Sisters
By Ally Jokl
Sisters and long-time business partners Veronica Legarreta and Marilin Karst found a business model that works better for them and for their clients during the pandemic. Branding themselves the Fiesta Fit Sisters, the pair have worked as health and fitness professionals for two decades. They have taught fitness classes, worked as personal trainers, and owned a fitness studio for several years. Their latest venture is the Fiesta Fit Virtual Studio. The virtual concept arose because of the pandemic but the pair plan to continue long-term.
Veronica and Marilin were born and raised in Lima, Peru. The sisters pursued careers in fitness when they graduated high school and continued their education to become personal trainers and fitness instructors.
Veronica moved to Maryland to study English in 2001 and Marilin followed shortly after. They began their careers in the US and decided to stay in the DMV Their parents and brother have immigrated later and the whole family now is in the States.
Today, the sisters live in Rockville with their families. Veronica describes their lives, “It’s a lot of noise and fun.” She lives with her husband, their three children, her mother, and the family dog. Marilin, her husband, and their two children live nearby.
“We always have fiestas, we always have parties in our community and family. We get together and it’s always very warm. I think we transfer that in our classes, so we call our classes ‘fiesta’. We try to make our classes like a party.”
Veronica and Marilin opened their physical fitness studio when the sisters were both single. They offered Zumba and other workout classes. Classes were fun and clients felt a connection to each other. The business name came from this lighthearted approach to fitness. Veronica shares, “We always have fiestas, we always have parties in our community and family. We get together and it’s always very warm. I think we transfer that in our classes, so we call our classes ‘fiesta’. We try to make our classes like a party.”
The sisters married and had children; life is busy with five school-aged children between them. As their children grew the sisters felt the demands of the studio crowded out family too much and they closed the studio.
They missed the Fiesta Fit Sisters community, so they continued to teach some classes. Family life filled most of their time and although Veronica and Marilin are career fitness and health professionals, they struggled to maintain their fitness routines after closing their studio doors.
Fiesta Fit Sisters livestreamed their first video class in March 2020. They wanted to have fun and dance with their community while people had to stay home. They did not realize how well virtual classes would work for them.
The classes are 30-minutes instead of the full hour workout they offered before. Both the instructors and clients can log on right before class and are done immediately after – no commute, little preparation time and no need for parents to arrange childcare. Veronica and Marilin teach as their kids play in the other room.
Virtual classes fit their schedule and helped improve their own fitness and wellness. “This was the same for our clients, who used to sign up for memberships but actually made it once or twice a month,” Marilin says.
“We have clients that don’t live in the area anymore and we haven’t seen them for years. Now that we are open online, they’re back and we are happy to reconnect. We never though that they would be dancing with us anymore because they moved and we’re glad that now we’re dancing together and we see each other. It’s great.”
A few months of livestreaming classes and the positive feedback they received convinced Veronica and Marilin to keep the Fiesta Fit Virtual Studio for the long term. The model has other benefits. Veronica explains, “We have clients that don’t live in the area anymore and we haven’t seen them for years. Now that we are open online, they’re back and we are happy to reconnect. We never though that they would be dancing with us anymore because they moved and we’re glad that now we’re dancing together and we see each other. It’s great.”
Running a virtual studio differs from having a physical location. Veronica and Marilin wanted to replicate the sense of community online. Fiesta Fit members join interactive livestreamed classes and they can access class recordings and a private Facebook group. The sisters heard about Empowered Women International’s Entrepreneur Training for Success course through an email from the Latino Economic Development Center. Veronica participated in the Spring 2020 cohort. Only Veronica participated, but Marilin learned second-hand from Veronica and the sisters worked on assignments together.
The program curriculum jumped out at Veronica, “We did a lot of things because we love what we do. We are more like the performers and fitness instructors and sometimes we didn’t really think so much about money. We didn’t think about the management part.” She wanted to learn more about the business and finance as Fiesta Fit Sisters jumped into their new business format.
Fiesta Fit Sisters had a business plan for the physical studio, but nothing like that for online classes. At the end of the program, Veronica and Marilin had a complete business plan for Fiesta Fit Virtual Studio. Beyond developing the new business plan, Veronica learned completely new entrepreneurial skills.
“We changed the colors for our business because I learned about colors and how colors can communicate. We had just picked colors that we liked. It was good to learn what colors can tell about a business. I learned about branding a lot. That’s what I didn’t really know much about.”
Empowered Women International gave the sisters another community. The ETS classes were held on Zoom, but Veronica developed great relationships with her cohort, and they plan to meet in person one day. They did manage to visit one fellow ETS student’s business, Churros, Inc. . Marilin says, “Sometimes [the ETS alumnae] will do ‘Business Friday’ and they will tag each other on their posts. So, they’ll help people get their brand out there. It’s nice.”
Veronica and Marilin continue to face hurdles. Some clients are hesitant to attend virtual classes or may have poor internet. They encourage clients to try a class and people are becoming more accustomed to online classes.
Fiesta Fit Virtual Studios currently focuses on the Zumba and dance cardio classes. The most immediate goal is to promote and grow the virtual studio. Marilin and Veronica hope to offer more one-on-one and small group health coaching